CHARLOTTE – The Charlotte Catholic marching band beat out 23 international competitors to win first place in the overall competition at the 49th Limerick International Band Championship. The competition took place March 15-18 in Limerick, Ireland, and was seen by upwards of 500,000 people.
The groundwork for the victory was set four years ago when Charlotte Catholic Band Director Timothy Cook brought his Cougar marching band to Dublin, Ireland, where they competed in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Catholic did exceptionally well that year, taking home the best international band award, the second most prestigious prize presented at the parade.
Cook had taken bands to big performances like the Macy’s Parade in New York City and the Charlotte St. Patrick’s Day Parade to prepare for the overseas parade, but the international flair and pageantry is something that stuck with him and marching band members.
“The interesting thing is that the costumes, decorations, floats and everything are all hand-done, so it’s all very eclectic,” Cook said. “It’s not like some of the prettier parades here like Macy’s or the Rose Bowl. It’s very grassroots.”
In the years since winning the top international band in Dublin, the Charlotte Catholic marching band has continued to play Macy’s and in Charlotte. They also went to the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago two years ago and performed at the Walt Disney Parade in Orlando to get ready for their next trip to Ireland.
That opportunity came for Cook and his band March 15-18 in Limerick. There, the Cougars competed with 23 other bands down the spectator-lined streets that Cook estimated held upwards of half a million people on the 2.5-kilometer long course.
“The streets are just packed the entire time,” Cook said. “I don’t know of another parade except maybe Macy’s or the Rose Bowl that even comes close to it. I mean, it’s crazy.
“It’s really exhilarating to see the way the crowds over there respond. Our crowds in the states are amazing, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a different appreciation. Unfortunately, schools over there don’t have music education in the school system. The U.S. is the only one that has music education during the day, so our students can perform at a higher level. They’re able to perform more challenging music and the crowds love that and greatly appreciate that.”
The Charlotte Catholic marching band, which consists of 76 students, spent months preparing. Cook said they performed perfectly at the event.
Judging is done two-fold. There is an emphasis on presentation, such as how straight lines are, students keeping in step, the cleanliness of uniforms and overall presentation. Then there is the musical component, which includes how well the students play the music and maintain endurance on the nearly 2-mile course the whole time in tune.
The Lord Mayor of Limerick presented Cook and the Cougars the prestigious Silver Cup in town hall.
For Cook, it was a huge honor and testament to students, who showed dedication and commitment on Ireland’s brightest stage.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids,” Cook said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Our students here in the Charlotte Catholic band juggle so many things. Not only are we practicing, but we have