TARPON SPRINGS — They're not your mom and dad's marching band.
The Tarpon Springs High School band doesn't just march. It brings something extra to its ambitious performances — a bit of Broadway, a little Cirque du Soleil.
And because of that, the band has been chosen to march in the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, beating out more than a hundred other bands that applied.
"We're very excited about it," band director Kevin Ford said. "Any time you can provide an opportunity for your kids to perform in front of 50 million television viewers, it's a great experience for them and something to work toward."
The Tarpon band was picked out of more than 150 applicants nationwide for one of 11 performance slots in the 2013 parade, Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras said. Aside from the television audience, roughly 3.5 million spectators line the parade route.
Band members learned the news in a surprise announcement Tuesday night at their annual spring concert. Now there's a banner hanging in the school's front windows, proclaiming the news for all to see.
Tarpon Springs High has long had a championship-level marching band. The school's magnet program, the Leadership Conservatory for the Arts, attracts student musicians from all over Pinellas County.
The band is actually called the Tarpon Springs High School Outdoor Performance Ensemble. It has a history of giving stellar halftime performances, winning awards at national band competitions across the country.
"We don't march," Tarpon High principal Clint Herbic said. "We don't go out on a football field and march in circles and squares. We perform and put on a show."
Ford, who has been the band's director for 18 years, added that the students also perform original music.
"We take a Broadway approach to the field," he said. "With the choreography, we try to incorporate elements that you'd see in a stage performance."
One reason the band is performing in the 2013 parade instead of the 2012 parade is to give students and band boosters time to raise funds for the trip. They are accustomed to raising money for travel to places like Atlanta and Indianapolis for competitions, but this trip will cost a lot more than usual.
Tarpon hopes to send 150 to 180 students on the trip at an estimated cost of $350,000.
"Our goal is to take every child," Ford said. "It'd be a shame for anyone not to have this opportunity because their family can't afford it."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.