One college band is gearing up for the performance of a lifetime; marching in the presidential inaugural parade. It’s a performance that almost didn’t happen after calls for the band to not participate. But the band decided to march on.
Talladega College is a small school in a small town. With a little over 200 members its band is relatively small ,too. But its sound is anything but. and the Marching Tornados are getting ready to share that sound on a national stage.
“Now it's like a different scale like oh my gosh I'm going to be in Washington on the parade,” says freshman band member Chasitey Wilkerson. “Excitement, yes!”
For Wilkerson it will be her first time in the nation's capitol. Marco Vera has been before but never for a moment like this.
“We're going to be in front of the whole nation and we get to play for the president of the United States,” Vera says.
Not everyone shares their excitement. An alumna of the college launched a petition on change.org asking the college to withdraw from any inaugural events for Donald Trump, saying “In view of his behavior and comments I strongly do not want Talladega College to give the appearance of supporting him.”
So far, nearly 3,000 people have signed it.
Adrian Thompson the associate director of bands and alumnus of the college says he didn’t expect the backlash.
“I just thought we were going to do the parade and go about our day just like every other day,” Thompson says. “You would think this being a small town and a smaller HBCU that we would have more support but it was the exact opposite.”
As controversy swirled outside, inside the band room, you’d never be able to tell.
“To me it really didn't affect me because I feel that's not my opinion that's not how I see it. I see it in a totally different way,” Wilkerson says. “So I'm still excited whether you don't like it or not. Still excited and I am ready to go.”
Inside the band room students say, it’s all about the music.
“We're not really into the politics about this when it comes to this parade,” Vera says. “It’s just more like that we get an opportunity to be on a big stage for the first time.”
And it’s the thought of being on that national stage that keeps this band marching forward.
“I can't wait to feel the excitement of marching down the street. Being able to perform and it’s just going to be awesome,” Vera says.
Talladega’s president Billy Hawkins said in a statement the school’s participation in the inaugural parade is not necessarily an endorsement of President-elect Trump, saying, “We feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”
The band has raised more than $600,000 for their trip on GoFundMe.