Marching Thunder helps put university on global map

September 22, 2018

The Marching Thunder performs as Marshall fans tailgate prior to the Herd's game against Southern Miss in November 2017 outside Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington. The band has been invited to perform in the 2020 New Year's Day parade in London.

Members of Marshall University’s marching band are proving to be excellent ambassadors for the university, as illustrated by the latest invitation for the group to travel abroad and show off their talents.

The Marching Thunder has been invited to London in December 2019 to perform in the 2020 New Year’s Day Parade in that leading global city. The parade is one of the largest of its kind, featuring marching bands from around the world as well as floats, balloons and other entries. It has been likened to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in this country and involves a parade route through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Place. It culminates in a grandstand performance that is broadcast live.

Apparently, several factors went into the decision by the London parade organizers to ask the Marching Thunder to take part. One aspect stemmed from the “continuing accolades from USA-based music educators and adjudicators,” according to an email to the university from Powell Johann, senior director of International Participation for London’s New Year’s Day Parade. Also paving the way was “the prowess” showed by the Marching Thunder when it went abroad in 2017 to perform in Rome New Year’s Day Parade, that city’s official celebration of the new year.

Prior to the parade in Rome, its organizers said scouts for the event traveled throughout the world looking for participants in the parade, and the biggest factors are their entertainment quality, their ability to perform on foot in the street and having the right number of people to navigate the narrow streets in Rome. Marshall’s band was considered a good match, and its showing in the Rome parade paved the way for the invitation to the London parade.

It also had to do with more than just the Marching Thunder’s performance in that parade, according to Johann. “I do want to add that we involved with Youth Music were so very impressed with the deportment, manners and good humor of your band members,” he wrote. “Their friendliness and cooperation were remarked on with some passion by the authorities in Frascati, Rome and the Vatican itself. ... They were marvelous ambassadors for the nation, and we expect much the same next year in London where they will receive a great welcome.”

Besides speaking well for the university, Huntington, West Virginia and the nation, these sojourns to perform in other countries are great opportunities for the students, although they must raise the bulk of the funds needed for the travel. “Events like this one are once in a lifetime,” said Adam Dalton, director of bands, regarding next year’s trip to London. “I love that I get to give that to our students at Marshall.”

Students who traveled to Rome spoke enthusiastically of that experience, and no doubt current members of the Marching Thunder — both those who made the Rome trip and those who didn’t — will be excited about next year’s journey, which will involve several days of educational experiences and sightseeing as well as the parade performance.

Congratulations to the band members and the university’s band program for making a global mark for Marshall University.

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