The Only Parade With a Blessing From the Pope.

That’s the slogan for Rome’s official New Year’s Day Parade. Every year on January 1, thousands of people from across the globe line the streets of St. Peter’s square to celebrate a new year, new life, cultural diversity and international goodwill.

In 2017, the international community will also be treated to a little piece of Almost Heaven. The Marshall University “Marching Thunder” will be one of the featured bands in the 2017 Roman New Year’s Day Parade. The parade route progresses along the grand Via della Conciliazione and ends in St. Peter’s Square, where the crowd assembles for the Pope’s annual New Year’s address and blessing, followed by musical performances by the featured artists.

Gateway Music Festivals & Tours, the parade organizers, scout talent throughout the year and extend personal invitations to select American and Canadian bands.

“One of the scouts found us, and we were extended an invitation from the Mayor of Rome and the organizers of the parade,” says Dr. Adam Dalton, director of athletic bands at Marshall. “There are nine total marching band from the United State that are going—three colleges including us and then the rest are high school groups. In addition to that, there will be community bands, flag throwers, bag pipers and various community musical acts.”

Eighty one members of the Marching Thunder will depart on Friday, December 30 from Huntington via bus to Washington D.C., where they will board a flight to London, and a second flight will take them from London to Rome. Much of the band’s equipment, including their uniforms and large instruments like tubas and drums, were shipped to Rome before Christmas.

For many West Virginia students, this will be the trip of a lifetime. After their performance, band members will have the opportunity to see the sites, including the Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Pompeii. The group will also be spending half a day in Naples to explore the southern part of Italy, where they will be having an authentic pizza dinner. The last full day is completely unscheduled, giving students time to do additional site seeing and shopping.

Dalton is the ideal tour guide for his students, as this will be his fourth time visiting the city of Rome. “For the students, there are so many of them that are getting a once in a lifetime experience to go overseas and see things that they’ve only read about in books or learned about in their history classes. It’s pretty awesome for them to have that experience,” says Dalton. “I have been all over the world thanks to marching band, so to be able to give these students the opportunity to go experience the world and get outside of our little bubble in West Virginia is pretty incredible.”

Daltons is also proud to be representing Marshall University and the state of West Virginia on the international stage.

“We perform so much in our community, and people see us in and around the area all the time. But this is a great opportunity for Marshall to be seen on an international level,” says Dalton. “They call this the Macy’s parade of Rome. There will be 150,000 people on the streets, and it will be televised all over the country. It’s a great opportunity for Marshall.”

Band members will return to the Mountain State on January 5th, just in time for the commencement of Marshall’s spring semester. While a live stream of the performance will not be available in the United States, a documentary film crew will be filming in the parade, and they will release their footage after the band’s return.

Photos by Chris Scarberry.

Video by Austin Redd:



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