The Marching Force, Hampton University's marching band, will be taking its talents to Rome in 2020 as a part of the city's New Year's Day parade.

According to WVBT, the band will not only march in the parade but will perform in St. Peter's Square both before and after Pope Francis offers his yearly New Year's Day blessing. Hampton is the first HBCU ever invited to take part in the massive parade; according to the event's website, "over 100,000 people from all over the world" come out each year.

Dr. Thomas Jones, the band director, called the opportunity “wonderful.”

In a press release sent to ABC 13, Jones wrote, “This trip validates what we’re doing. The strength of the program is growing. Traveling is a great incentive for new and current students, and we are really looking forward to this exciting journey.”

Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey praised the band, calling it “'an elite group of talented, young musicians who are also academically accomplished.”

The president added, “This opportunity shows that our band is being recognized internationally. They continue to uphold the standard of excellence as being one of the best marching bands in the nation.”

The invitation was also celebrated on Instagram, where the band called it a "once-in-a-lifetime moment for our students."

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….AND NOW, the huge announcement. We are honored to be selected to represent Hampton University, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States in the 2020 New Year’s Day Parade in Rome, Italy! This is the event at which the Pope gives his blessing for the New Year, and the Parade Route will take us through Rome and around Vatican City. This will be a memorable once-in-a-lifetime moment for our students, and it will be a great piece of national publicity for Hampton University. With that said, we will be launching our HUMF Band Foundation, as well as our “Marching to a Million” campaign, so that we can not only raise funds for this trip and other endeavors, but also to raise money for scholarships, instruments, uniforms, staffing, and recruitment travel. We will need all the help we can get, and we have already had several donors pledge $1,000 each to aid our cause. If we can get 1,000 supporters to raise $1,000 in the next 10 months, we will reach our goals. Please consider a donation today at Your donations are tax-deductible, and for HU Alumni, you will get class credit for your gift. More campaign info will follow in the upcoming days and weeks, but for now, let’s get those wallets out and start raising this money to get our students to Rome! ••• @theofficialebonyfireofhu @hu_tubas @hu_flagline_silky @hu_majorettes_sse @hamptonudrumline ••• #HUMFnRome #HamptonU #HUMF

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While the band's leaders are happy about the opportunity, they have also begun to express some concern. WVBT notes the invitation does not include any travel, lodging or meal arrangements, so the band has launched a fundraising drive.

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