TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Twenty students from the only blind marching band in the world worked hard on Tuesday with other bands from across the nation before their Outback Bowl debut.
The students from the Ohio State School for the Blind will be the lead band in the New Year’s Eve parade and will be part of a mass band performance at half time during the game.
Students say their experience in Tampa has been nothing short of amazing so far.
“I think it’s really surreal. I think…playing in the competition was a way to get us out there and get us known and get us recognition,” said Autumn Radcliff, a trumpet player. “My favorite part of this whole experience is playing with a big group of bands because that’s going to be really cool hearing the wall of sound and it’s going to be really fun I think.”
These students are guided by community volunteers. In some cases, those volunteers are proud mothers.
Teresa Philbrick is a marching band assistant and mom to a cymbal player named Peggy, who has been in band for six years now.
“They are so devoted, they’re so talented. They never give up. You would never know the disabilities that half of them have, you really would not,” she said of the students. “They have so much heart, so much soul. They play, they practice. This is such a great opportunity for them to actually be here. They’re thrilled. They are still, ‘are we really doing this? Are we really going here? Are we going to be on TV? Are we going to be playing in the Outback Bowl with all these bands?’ And I say, ‘yes, and you deserve it. You all are so talented.”
In addition to their hard work practicing and perfecting the mass performance with the other bands, the students have been able to experience Florida and got the chance to visit our beaches.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Under hardly any other circumstances do I get to go to Magic Kingdom and not have to pay for it,” said another trumpet player, Caiden Hooks.
Philbrick said the students have been waiting for this moment.
“They want everybody to see what they can do. They do have some disabilities, but you can do a lot, even though you are disabled in certain scenarios,” she said. “A lot of people don’t give others a chance. And this is just a chance for us to show the world that we can do this. I mean, we are the only blind marching band in the world.”
The Outback Bowl will kick off at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 in Raymond James Stadium. For more information on the bowl game, visit outbackbowl.com.