THS’ Marching Southern Sounds wows crowd at NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Published 10:49 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The streets of Manhattan were filled with the sound of Warrior pride as Thompson High School’s Marching Southern Sounds had the once in a lifetime experience of performing in the 263rd New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“It was surreal,” said Graham Bennett, director of bands at THS. “We even had people screaming ‘This is the best band here.’ They’re just having a blast and that makes the kids feel really good, and of course, I couldn’t be prouder of their performance the whole time.”

Marching Southern Sounds’ performance in the parade on March 16 was the culmination of a year-and-a-half of planning by Bennett, Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Wayne Vickers and ACS Central Office. The 14-16 plus hour field trip for 250 travelers was made possible thanks to the efforts of Vickers and a significant donation by central office for full transportation costs.

With the performance complete and the field trip over with, Bennett reflected on how the unforgettable journey went.

“I think it went about as amazing as it could have,” he said.

After a quick warmup before the parade on March 16, the band was ready to take their places and to show their talent to the crowds.

“They started and finished with the same energy, the same impeccable sound (and they) looked great,” Bennett said. “The parents were thrilled and the crowd went crazy every time we started playing. Every time, people saw Alabama on the front, so they were saying ‘Roll Tide” and they were all about the Alabama vibe. So, I thought it was really fun.”

During the midst of the parade, one of the photographers quickly ran five blocks to find Bennett to talk to him.

“He said, ‘I just want you to know, this is one of the best bands I’ve ever seen here,’” Bennett said. “He said, ‘I wouldn’t have run five blocks to tell you this if I didn’t believe it.’”

During the band’s journey down nearly 40 blocks, they entertained the crowds with multiple tunes, including “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys and Thompson’s Tomahawk chants.

“We literally had the crowd sing with us when we were playing it,” Bennett said. “It was really special too. I’ve never seen crowd engagement like that.”

Alongside their trip down the streets of Manhattan, the students were treated to an adventure around the city, complete with visits to famous sites such as the One World Trade Center, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and a performance of “Aladdin” on Broadway.

“I even had a student that teared up when we went to go to the Statue of Liberty—he even told me he never imagined he’d get to go and see that,” Bennett said. “It really kind of put it in our hearts and our minds, we really saw the fruition of what we’re going for—giving these kids a chance to do something that may truly be once in a lifetime and for our group it is.”

Bennett said he found the level of camaraderie between parents and staff amazing as they worked together to make the trip possible and he personally thanked several individuals, including the following:

  • Assistant Director of Bands Corey Hyman
  • Assistant Director of Bands Rebecca Reinhardt
  • Director of Percussion Jamiah Robbins
  • Color Guard Director Brandon Cornelison
  • Majorette Instructor Gretchen Moore
  • Dance Instructor Emily Bennett
  • JV Dance Instructor Harlie Wilson
  • ACS Superintendent Wayne Vickers
  • Pam Vickers
  • ACS Board of Education member John Myrick
  • ACS Public Relations Jason Gaston
  • THS Assistant Principal Brad Boy