Jackson Memorial High School Marching Band leader retiring on a high note
With Thanksgiving Day performances on "Good Morning America" and the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 26, the national spotlight continues to shine on the Jackson Memorial High School marching band as its director prepares to retire after being in charge of the program for 32 years.
After taking over the music program in 1983, Bud McCormick helped elevate the Marching Jaguars from the high school football field to national stages, including presidential inaugurations, the Rose Bowl in California, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Broadway openings and ticker-tape parades along the Canyon of Heroes.
"When I came here I switched it to more like a marching band focus and it grew because of that," McCormick said. He praised the work of his predecessor who McCormick said had more of a classical, concert-style presentation.
McCormick pointed out the desire by marching band programs to seek recognition and more responsibility has been growing along the East Coast over the past 20 to 30 years as more opportunities arise for students to be able to perform.
Requests seeking the Marching Jaguars started coming in to perform in New York City, including on the "Conan O'Brien Show" and for the opening of "42nd Street," the Broadway musical, and a handful of ticker-tape parades, according to McCormick.
"I'm one of those guys that every time when the band got an opportunity, I would go," McCormick said.
The opportunities received support from school administrators, and started to gain attention from other students and people in the community, creating a new pride in the Jackson Memorial Marching Band.
Current and former students have nothing but admiration and praise for "Mr. Bud."
"It's not as common in other schools to see such large support for the music program," noted one high school senior.
Townsquare Media Meteorologist Dan Zarrow, a former student and trumpet player, recalled how "Mr. Bud" had a "commanding presence," but treated the students as if he was one of their peers.
"He understands that the students helping the students is probably better in the long run than Bud trying to do everything and probably failing," Zarrow said.
A humble McCormick credited the band's accomplishments to a great support system and everyone being able to work as a team. McCormick noted his job is easy because he is open to incorporating ideas from students.
Zarrow shared a fond memory of himself playing the piano with "Mr. Bud" gathering with students to join in singing "American Pie."
Zarrow added friends made through the band program and travels taken are "experiences that the average high school student doesn't get to have."
McCormick's legacy of making people take notice and an interest in band will continue to inspire.
Dozens of students have followed in his footsteps to become band leaders and others said they will to.
"He's definitely a big factor as to why I'm going to be a music teacher one day," said one of McCormick's seniors, with another adding, "That will go for me to."
McCormick said he hasn't given much thought yet to his upcoming retirement plans or reflection on the past three decades.
"I'm always looking forward to what's going on tomorrow," McCormick said,joking that he hasn't taken his wife on a honeymoon since they got married in Oct. 1980.
Watch a video below of Bud's students sharing their stories about him.