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Talladega College Marching Tornadoes
The Talladega College Marching Tornadoes band from a historically black college will perform at President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural.

College marching band scores $650k in donations after rebuffing critics to play for Trump


College marching band scores $650k in donations after rebuffing critics to play for Trump

WATCH | The hurdles one band had to overcome to march in the inaugural celebration.

Talladega College doesn't have a football team. In fact, it doesn't even have 1,000 students on its Alabama campus.

But the tiny school's Marching Tornadoes band members are set to perform in Donald Trump's inaugural parade Friday. Their journey to Washington to perform for our next president hasn't been easy for this historically black college. 

They applied to participate in the parade before the election was over, and when everyone thought Hillary Clinton was going to be the next occupant of the White House. 

But after Trump won, many opponents criticized the band for still  performing.

There were many critics out there now I tell you I've really gone through a lot I've been threatened.
Dr. Billy Hawkins, Talladega College President

Talladega President Billy Hawkins was undeterred. He told Circa in an interview Thursday after arriving in the nation's capital that he felt like the event was important to attend, regardless of the election outcome.

And the band members didn't let politics affect them, either. They wanted to march in the parade, no matter what the party of the new President.

“I’m coming for the experience," sousaphone player Corey Jackson told Circa. "And I’m pretty sure if everybody in the band feels the same way then the political side shouldn’t matter cause that’s not what we’re here for. We are here for the experience.”

Most of us haven't been to Washington DC before, yet alone an inauguration parade for the president.
Quiana Collins, Marching Tornadoes clarinetist

And that experience matters: for many of the band members this was their first trip to Washington D.C.

Politics weren't the only thing standing in the way of the band participating. 

“We needed to raise approximately $75,000 to send our band to Washington," Dr. Hawkins told Circa.

Originally the money was hard to come by. Then conservative supporters of the new president stepped up to the plate.

Armstrong Williams, a conservative businessman and the largest black owner of TV stations in the country, offered to underwrite the band's entire trip.

Then the school decided to set up a way to collect smaller donations using a  GoFundMe account. That decision paid off.

Money started pouring in after conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly and Trump team member Omarosa Manigault discussed the band’s money problems on Fox News.

As of Thursday evening, the total raised stood at $650,000 from more than 11,000 different donors.

It was like 212 thousand dollars in like less than an hour. It was, we were just shocked. Like wow people are really supporting us for this.
Cedric Wright, Marching Tornados sousaphonist

Manigault, known better by her first name after stardom on Trump's The Apprentice  TV show, stayed in constant contact.

“Omarosa has been a champion in working with us," Dr. Hawkins said. "You know I have talked to her constantly almost every other day.”

Since the band raised more than eight times what they needed to come to Washington, they now will be able to make much needed investments in the program. 

“We will be able to provide additional scholarship dollars, which our young people need scholarship dollars to stay in school," Dr. Hawkins told Circa. "The band needs new band uniforms. We will be able to do that. The band needs to replace and buy additional band instruments”

Be ready cause we ain't going to stop coming and we are going to keep marching on.
Quiana Collins, Marching Tornadoes clarinetist

So despite the all the controversy and the financial hurdles, the band members have remained focused on performing for the 45th president on Friday, and showing the world what they can do.

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