- The band performs despite criticism
- The Great Tornado band was created just five years ago
Band members played a rendition of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" as they stepped in time past President Donald Trump and his family. The performance brought a smile to the President's face.
Their decision to perform
was a controversial one, drawing criticism from some alumni of the historically black college, and others. But members of the band said it was a chance to showcase their talent to the world.
"This is what we do, and this is the biggest stage," mellophone player Joseph Madison told CNN before the band departed for Washington. "Forget the politics. ... We are performers. We are musicians."
Few at the Alabama school could have dreamed, when the band was created five years ago, that it would have the opportunity. Talladega College was founded in 1867 by former slaves, and the band was an attempt to boost flagging enrollment and advertise the school.
"It's really amazing," said trumpet player Darnell Battle. "Who could've thought in this short amount of time that you could come from nothing to all of this?"
The school's participation in the parade
has now made it a darling of conservatives, who helped raise more than $667,000 -- nearly nine times the $75,000 goal on the band's page at gofundme.com -- to send the students to the nation's capital.
Said sousaphone player Alex Liddell, Jr.: "We're America's band right now."