A row of drums lined up with Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade livery on them Drums
Photo Credit: Dr. Thomas L. Jones Jr. | Facebook

The Hampton University Marching Force will be bringing their spirited style to New York City in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Director of University Bands, Dr. Thomas L. Jones, Jr., has taken Hampton’s students across the globe to showcase their talents and experience new cultures over the years. 

“My mind is that we can help every student here, regardless of where they come from and what background they have, as long as they have the desire to want to do it for themselves. You know, we’re just the mentors. We’re just helping them to show them the way, but it’s our hope also that students will develop some intrinsic type of motivation and drive and determination to want better for themselves.”

Band has always been more than music for Jones. After working in Brooklyn to “take kids off the street and give them something positive to do” – music rehearsals and hopefully college – Jones eventually made his way to the university to help rebuild the band program. In just a few years, they traveled to Rome for New Year’s Eve and the drumline was in the Rose Parade.

“This is gonna be my third time doing the parade, and so in being with the band at [North Carolina] A&T and the band in Brooklyn, I really was able to not necessarily perfect the craft, but get better at it and to tailor my teaching style to what the the generations of today; these students really gravitate towards.”

This holiday season, The Marching Force is staying a bit closer to home for the parade. From a community band in Brooklyn to a college band in North Carolina, Jones is no stranger to the performance. He told Dogwood his experiences with the two bands helped him prepare students for the potentially-overwhelming and exhilarating experience.

“[Professional musicians] know that in that audience there’s somebody out there seeing them live for the first time, and they have to put on that show the same way that they did the first time, as they do the thousandth time, and so that’s what makes artists great…I try to instill in them that mentality that ‘Hey, you are a professional. You are the talent.’”