Magnificent Troopers making strides, changing lives
Ruddy Mathison, Gleaner Writer
The sounds of cymbals, drums, bugles, and trumpets coming from a marching band always capture the attention of everyone within earshot. Focusing on its existence and its relevance to the community might not be the inclination of many listening to the musical sounds and watching the accompanying dancers performing.
The Spanish Town-based Magnificent Troopers Marching Band has been around for 32 years, performing at parades, civic functions, community events, funerals, and other happenings.
Apart from such functions, the band is playing an important role pulling young people in Spanish Town and its environs together in a meaningful way.
The Magnificent Troopers Marching Band tries to hold young people together, instilling in them discipline, changing their way of life and thinking, giving them a sense of purpose, said Lloyd Thomas, retired drill instructor at the Police Academy, who founded the band.
Thomas recounted for Rural Xpress how his love for the youth led him to conceptualise the idea of a marching band as a means of getting youth from restive St Catherine communities to do something meaningful with their lives.
He said he started on a street corner in Spanish Town in 1982 while he was the drill instructor at the police academy with two snare drums and a bass borrowed from the police academy. These few instruments, he stated, were supplemented by the clapping of hands and humming to make musical sounds.
I was determined for this marching band to reach somewhere. Not having the proper accompanying instruments, I decided to enter a marching-band festival competition that I heard was taking place, the founder of the band disclosed, amusingly adding that he became the laughing stock, with everyone asking how he was going to enter a festival without instruments.
Thomas revealed that he approached the British High Commission for help he never thought he would receive. Two weeks before the competition, he said he got a call from the British Embassy directing him to pick up some instruments at the airport.
To my surprise, we were given all the major instruments we needed to make the marching band achieve its true potential. We were able to perform in the festival and were placed second.
According to Thomas, the band is totally self-sufficient, financing itself through fundraising and kind donations from Jamaicans overseas who were once members. He said the band has dedicated itself to reaching out to youths by helping them with lunch, books and uniforms for school.
He said many youths who started out with the band went on to become members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force ( JDF). The present band leader of the police band, Superintendent Winston Woolcock, was a member of the Magnificent Troopers.
Well-known entertainer Ricky Trooper also evolved from the marching band, where he gets the name Trooper added to his first name, the former drill instructor stated, revealing that the band also performed at the September 1 Labour Day Parade in New York, USA.
Janet Bowen, who has been with the band for all of its 32 years, told Rural Xpress that joining the band was the greatest thing she could ever do with her life, disclosing that she even acquired her US visa because of being a band member.
Thomas, in the meantime, said he wants the band to move towards skills training for members, as well as professionally teaching them the rudiments of music.