By Darran Simon, CNN
Alex Liddell Jr. sang an Al Green song as he sorted through recently dry-cleaned uniforms -- deep crimson with Carolina blue accents -- for his marching band's biggest performance ever.
Liddell, the tuba section leader of The Great Tornado marching band of Talladega College, studied a notebook of names and matching uniform numbers. He was pleased at the progress.
But there was still much to do on Tuesday, the day before the band from the historically black college in Alabama would depart to perform in President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural parade in Washington: Sort room assignments. Practice parade songs. Fine-tune the arrangements and choreography.
The school's decision to have its band participate in Friday's parade has drawn criticism from some alumni and others.
But the fact that it's going to perform on a national stage is something few would have imagined when it was created in 2012 as an attempt to bolster enrollment and get the college name out there.
It's almost as if the band has been preparing for this from the start. Its members are indeed a band of survivors, many blossoming from beginners to solid musicians. The band was also a new start for some, offering them a chance to return to college after they initially didn't even envision graduating.
Talladega is now a household name -- and the darling of conservatives, who helped raise more than $626,000 (that's more than eight times the $75,000 goal listed on the band's page at gofundme.com) to send nearly 230 band members, 50 students and about 20 others to the nation's capital.
"We're America's band right now," said Liddell, 21, a senior English major from Memphis, Tennessee.
Critics: Marching is show of support for Trump
Talladega was among the 40 organizations that accepted an invitation to participate in the parade, which will follow the swearing-in of the new president. One of the songs the band will perform is patriotic: James Brown's "Living in America." Another is the popular "Happy," by Pharrell Williams. One tune, "Sweet Talk," will be performed in memory of a band member and graduate who died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve; he had arranged the band's music to the song.
"I don't think we would've ever thought we were going to be on a platform this big," said 21-year-old Dylan Brown, a snare drummer from Opelousas, Louisiana. "But with the grace of God, that's how stuff happens."
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Wednesday, February 1st 2017 at 10:56AM
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