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The Marching Leathernecks are a mainstay in Western's annual Homecoming Parade. Here, the percussion section gets ready to turn toward the Alumni House and play a few well-known Western songs, including the Fight Song and, of course, "Georgia."
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Marching Leathernecks at Wesley Village Sept. 30; "Marching for Hope" This Season

September 29, 2010

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MACOMB, IL – The celebrated Marching Leathernecks Band will entertain residents at Wesley Village Retirement Center in Macomb at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 on the front drive.

First-year Associate Band Director Matthew "Matt" Thomas leads the Marching Leathernecks, and he uses the fall season to take the band to play in parades and at various high schools across the state on recruiting tours when there is not a home Leathernecks football game.

The Marching Leathernecks have taken on a community service project this football season titled "Marching for Hope," to benefit the ALS Association, according to Thomas. This service project launched in 2009 as a pilot program with the University of Kansas and the University of Houston bands, that generated nearly $30,000 to the ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" – Association.

"Members of the Marching Leathernecks will join alongside a dozen other marching bands from major universities across the country to dedicate a halftime performance to people afflicted with ALS," Thomas said. "Band members are setting up individual donation accounts on the web and are contacting family and friends via email throughout the fall, asking for donations on behalf of their upcoming dedicated performance, which will be the halftime performance on Saturday, Nov. 20, when WIU hosts Northern Iowa in the last home game of the season." (See

At the conclusion of the fundraiser, all money will be given to the ALS Association's local chapter, ensuring the proceeds remain local. Band members hope that this will not only make a difference in the lives of those with ALS who reside in the area, but that it will also be a stepping stone for the band members, to prime them to give back into their adult lives, Thomas added.

The new associate director moved his family from Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) to Macomb this summer to begin his new job July 19. At FSU he earned his Ph.D. (2010) in music education/instrumental conducting and his Master of Music (2008) degree in instrumental conducting while serving as assistant band director for the 450-member Marching Chiefs; associate conductor of concert ensembles; chief administrator for annual band festival and conducting conference; and producer of a fundraising concert series. Thomas received his Bachelor of Music (2002) degree in music education at the University of Kentucky, after which he worked four years in the public school system in Georgia. Bands he directed gave feature performances at the University of Georgia Middle School Festival and The Midwest Clinic, and International Band and Orchestra Conference.

The Marching Leathernecks, some 140-members strong, include more than 105 musicians, a 10-member flag corps, a 17-member dance squad, sophomore baton twirler Brittney-Jade Colangelo (Winthrop Harbor, IL) and three drum majors: seniors Adam Beck (Rock Island, IL) and Stavros Makropoulos (Hickory Hills, IL) and sophomore Dana Jones (Milan, IL).

Thomas also conducts Western's Concert Band, University Band and Pep Band.

He and his wife, Ann, reside in Macomb with their four children, Emma, 7; Ben, 5; Kate, 3; and Will, 1.

Posted By: WIU News (
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