Talladega marching band performs at inaugural parade

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Despite backlash, band plays inaugural parade 01:09

Story highlights

  • The band performs despite criticism
  • The Great Tornado band was created just five years ago

(CNN)It was the moment they said they never imagined: The nearly 230 members of the Great Tornado marching band from Talladega College, dressed in crimson and blue, performing in the inaugural parade in front of the President.

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.
The President smiled as the band marched by.
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.
Nearly 230 band members performed.
"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."