If you were watching Philadelphia's 6abc Dunkin' Thanksgiving Day Parade this year, you may have noticed at least one group of New Jersey student performers braving the cold, playing their hearts out, and having a very special holiday experience.

The combined Jackson Memorial & Liberty High Schools marching band, proudly performing in Center City Philadelphia. (Scott Katona)
The combined Jackson Memorial & Liberty High Schools marching band, proudly performing in Center City Philadelphia. (Scott Katona)
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Smack right between Kool and the Gang and the Cat in the Hat balloon on the parade route was the combined ensemble of the Jackson Memorial High School and Jackson Liberty High School marching bands.

Yes, combined — a total of 161 student musicians and color guard members from both high schools made the trip to Philadelphia for the extraordinary performance.

It has been over a decade since the Jaguars and Lions performed together on such a grand scale. The parade's television commentators even remarked they were "making history by combining forces".

Jason Diaz, Director of the Jackson Memorial High School marching band said, "I wish we had more opportunities to make music with students from both high schools. Too often, we forget that we are reading and interacting with the same exact language. There is no divide in the performance of music."

Across town, Scott Katona, Director of the Jackson Liberty High School band remarked, "I really enjoyed bringing the two sides of town together. My motto has been — one town with one sound! I love the experience these kids got and hope we can do more in the future together."

As you may know, I have a special personal connection to this story, as a proud alumnus of the JMHS Jaguar marching band. (I should also point out that I grew up on the JLHS side of town, so you could say I'm a Lion at heart.) Some of my fondest memories of high school were of these once-in-a-lifetime parades and special performances.

Not only did ABC broadcast the parade festivities to a national audience, the bands also mounted a "bird's eye view" camera to capture the entire parade route. (Not to "band geek out" too much, but this is really cool to watch!)

Congratulations to the talented and dedicated students and the outstanding leadership of both Jackson high schools!

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey, and played trumpet and keyboards in the Jaguar Band many moons ago. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.

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