Tournament of Bands All-Stars

Photo courtesy of the Tournament of Bands

Thanksgiving: a time for family gatherings, turkey with all the trimmings … and marching bands!

Along with the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, many other Thanksgiving parades take place across the country. Tournament of Bands (TOB), a competitive marching band circuit in the northeastern United States, celebrates each year by creating an All-Star Band to perform in the ABC6/ IKEA Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Students at TOB participating schools submit their applications along with approval signatures from their band directors and principals, signifying that they are the best candidates to represent their band, school and community. After they pay a $100 application fee, they can download the music and begin practicing. The four Atlantic Coast Championship drum majors will lead the group.

“I wanted it to be the kids who really wanted to participate,” says Tom Beebe, director of the All-Star Band. “Like a day of college, where everybody in the room can really play in the band. We’ve had kids blown away by the amount of good players in the room. The fellowship is what they seem to be walking away with.”

With the group now in its third year, 2011’s band is 200 members strong and growing. “For the first time, these kids can come together and are not competing; they come to make music and have fun and entertain,” Beebe says. “Entertainment is a really important thing to teach kids. They need to be entertaining the audience. When there’s no competition, that’s when the entertainment really does shine through.”

TOB partnered with several sponsors to create the look and instrumentation of the band: DeMoulin Brothers, Beck Design, A Wish Come True, Progressive Music and Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps. And due to the heavy snowstorms in 2011, the National Judges Association has stepped up to provide travel stipends to students in need of assistance.

“There are so many great moments for all of us who work hard to make this happen,” Beebe says. “There’s a moment when we’re among the skyscrapers, and the band’s playing, and you just can’t believe how loud and full it is—and then they pass their families who are so proud of them, and you see them march an inch taller, and that’s beautiful for kids and families to share.”

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