Congratulations to Paducah Tilghman's "Band of Blue", whose members did the community proud by winning the Grand National Champion trophy at last week's Gator Bowl. The 76-member ensemble came out on top of the Class 1A to 4A divisions, which included several larger bands from larger high schools.
"A tornado hit Jacksonville and wiped out all the trophies," said the band's exuberant director, Patrick Saddler, in an interview with the Sun. Indeed, the Tilghman contingent brought back 12 awards, including the Grand National Champion title, three first place flags, and $10,000 in award money, more than enough to cover the unfunded portion of the expenses for their trip.
The honor earned the band a spot as the only band from Kentucky to perform - along with seven other bands from across the nation - in a choreographed 5 minute routine during halftime of the nationally televised bowl game.
We all know such success does not come without a lot of hard work, on and off the field. Obviously there are many hours of individual and collective practice involved, for months on end.
But being good enough to compete is one thing. Coming up with the money to do it is quite another, particularly in the current economy.
So the group from Tilghman not only deserves credit for the hard work put in during after-school rehearsals that began in late-summer heat and continued into winter. Band members also deserve credit for the additional time they volunteered to do the hard work of raising the money through a variety of events, charitable solicitations and door to door sales efforts.
In a time when needs are great and charitable dollars are stretched, raising 95 percent of the $80,000 cost of the trip in advance is itself a singular accomplishment.
Tilghman principal Art Davis is correct when he says that while the title is important, the trip itself, and what it took to make it, will have a positive impact on the students for years to come.
"This is an experience that these kids will cherish for the rest of their lives," he said. "To go down there, win, see the game, and meet other high school and college bands â ¦ it's a life-changing experience."
That it is, and it teaches the right lesson. Band members learned that with ambition, sacrifice, hard work and dedication, they can make it to the top even when competing with people from bigger cities with greater resources.
There is a world of things high school students can do with their free time these days, many of them not desirable. So our community finds itself grateful for the character displayed by this group of students, who worked so hard and represented us so well on a national stage. They deserve to be proud, and should know their community is proud of them.