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Marching Band Struts Its Stuff

January 23, 2008

Alicia Duplessis

Mardi Gras in New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without the signature green of Tulane University splashed among the purple and gold of the season. With polished horns and a dynamic drumbeat, the Tulane marching band showcases its colors in four Carnival parades this year.

Tulane Marching Band

The Tulane marching band parades through the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Barry Spanier, marching band director, receives dozens of parade invitations each year, but can only select a few.

"Although we get dozens of invitations to participate in parades, we don't want to overdo it," says Spanier. "Most of these krewes have strong Tulane ties, but we also want to make sure that the band gets to enjoy other parades as viewers instead of as participants."

Spanier says that this Mardi Gras, parade-goers can expect to see a bigger Tulane band with a longer list of toe-tapping tunes including "Iko Iko" and a jazzy rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"No matter who is on the route they'll hear something that they like," says Spanier. "When we're playing second-line music or party music, we really loosen up and get the crowd involved."

The band's ability to pump up the crowd is what Spanier says the students enjoy most about parade participation.

"You can tell by how involved they get that they really love to do this," says Spanier. "Very few bands in the country get to be a part of Mardi Gras every year and we love being able to."

With a total of 44 performers, including a team of color guards and a baton twirler, the 2008 marching band is the largest size it has been since the 2006 Carnival season.

"This new band program captures the energy and excitement of the student body," says Spanier. "Our aim is to carry the banner for the university both literally and figuratively speaking."

Spectators can look for collectible band doubloons that band volunteers will throw along the parade routes. 

To kick off the season, the marching band heads to Covington, La., for a pre-parade party sponsored by the Tulane Associates on Saturday (Jan. 26). Following the party the band will participate in the Mystic Krewe of Olympia parade.

Other parade appearances include the Krewe d'Etat (Feb. 1), Krewe of Thoth (Feb. 3) and Krewe of Rex (Feb. 5).

Joining the TU Marching Band on parade this year are Tulane alumni Pat McGuire and Gregory Thurner, each driving their customized Green Wave vehicles. Special guest of honor Ben Abadie, past coach of Green Wave baseball and current coach of the Tulane "Field of Dreams" team, will be riding along in the uptown parades.

Carnival 2008 marks the marching band's third Mardi Gras since being reassembled after Hurricane Katrina.

Reservations are required for the Olympia pre-parade party and may be made by calling 1-866-440-0334 or by sending an e-mail message.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000