Alabama now has the 2nd blind marching band in the country

Alabama School For The Blind Marching Band
Alabama School for the Blind (Pat Byington / The Bama Buzz)

Last night, Alabama School for the Blind’s 30-member marching band made history with a performance at their sister school, Alabama School for the Deaf’s season-opening football game vs. Tennessee School for the Deaf. We spoke with Chad Bell, the school’s Band and Choral Director, to learn more. 

Last night’s performance

The band marched around the track before the game, then stopped to play the national anthem. At halftime, they marched out onto the field from the visitors side to play three songs in formation. 

“Watching the students from the School for the Blind march onto the field and then play was inspirational. This had never been done. Being there to witness it and capture it for The Bama Buzz was special moment for me.”

Pat Byington, The Bama Buzz

Fun fact: To our knowledge, Ohio State School for the Blind’s Marching Band is the country’s only full marching band. In 2009, they made headlines by marching in the Rose Bowl Parade.

Preparing the band for marching in 2022

This summer, the school hosted its first-ever band camp, with students up and running three miles at 5:30AM each morning. Throughout the day, students practiced marching on a track and playing their instruments at Alabama School for the Deaf. 

While most of the students don’t own their own instruments, Bell explained that the program has tremendous resources:

“This program is truly a musician’s wonderland. When kids come, they’re able to explore instruments that fit whatever musical appetite they have. We have wind instruments, string instruments, brass, woodwinds, single reeds, double reeds and percussion instruments galore, including orchestral timpani and marching percussion. The opportunity here is limited only by the amount of time we can spend. We also have a professional recording studio that students have access to and can learn how to use.” 

Marching adds a new element to the music program’s usual conservatory-style approach. For now, according to Bell, the band is concentrating on parade marching, which is a different ball game from performance field marching. 

Deaf. Blind. Limitless.

Alabama School For The Blind Marching Band
Marching off the field (Pat Byington / The Bama Buzz)

The motto of Alabama Institute for Deaf Blind (AIDB), which comprises both Alabama School for the Blind and Alabama School for the Deaf; plus Helen Keller School of Alabama, Alabama Industries for the Blind, E. H. Gentry Facility and a statewide network of regional centers is “Deaf. Blind. Limitless.”

Bell considers it an honor to be working with his group to do something that most people think is impossible. 

“We want to give our students the best opportunities that are available. In the music program, where students have ability, we want to foster and encourage that. The significance of this is fostering courage in students to attempt something that they’ve never done before. I’m going to do whatever I can to help them be there and do it and so be limitless.”

Next up: Veterans’s Day Parade in Birmingham and Lions Club International Convention in Boston

The Alabama Lions Club has chosen the band to represent them in the parade at the 2023 Lions Clubs International Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. This is scheduled for July 7, 2023. 

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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