Struttin’ his stuff

Ferko cap­tain con­tin­ues the string band’s tra­di­tion of New Year’s Day suc­cess.

Photo by Mark E. Carosi­ello Sr.

Mum­mery is in Thomas D’Amore’s blood.

His fath­er was a Mum­mer.

So were his two broth­ers.

And D’Amore, 28, has been one since he was 11 years old.

This year, he brought home a title that shows his ded­ic­a­tion to the tra­di­tion, and to the Brides­burg-based Joseph A. Ferko String Band: First Prize Cap­tain of the 2017 Mum­mers Parade String Band Di­vi­sion.

D’Amore, a South Philly nat­ive and Drexel Hill res­id­ent, beat out 15 oth­er cap­tains in the String Band Di­vi­sion for the coveted prize.

Formed in 1922, the Ferko String Band has the most suc­cess­ful re­cord of a string band at the Mum­mers Parade, ac­cord­ing to its web­site. The or­gan­iz­a­tion has placed in the top five 84 out of 90 parades.

“It meant a lot to me from a his­tor­ic­al stand­point to say I now share something with Joseph Ferko,” D’Amore said.

His first prize win uniquely con­nects him to the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s founder, Joseph A. Ferko — both D’Amore and Ferko served as cap­tain for both the Ferko and Fralinger String Bands, and they both won the first prize cap­tain award.

“It’s a good thing for the tra­di­tion, and it was also a lot of fun to do,” D’Amore said.

However, first prize isn’t a new achieve­ment for the young cap­tain. Be­fore join­ing the Ferko String Band four years ago, D’Amore en­joyed a very suc­cess­ful cap­tain stint with the Fralinger String Band, win­ning the top prize four times in 13 years.

“He has a proven track re­cord, and just a pres­ence about him that the men of the or­gan­iz­a­tion can stand be­hind,” John Si­mon, Ferko’s mu­sic dir­ect­or of 13 years, said about D’Amore’s elec­tion to cap­tain after be­ing with the Ferko or­gan­iz­a­tion for just a few years.

“He’s just a good guy, very re­spect­ful and un­der­stands the hobby, Si­mon said. “People not just in our or­gan­iz­a­tion, but all or­gan­iz­a­tions re­spect what he’s done at such a young age. It’s pretty im­press­ive.”

The 100-plus mem­bers of Ferko vote on a cap­tain every year, and at the end of Janu­ary 2016, they elec­ted D’Amore to lead the club and be what he de­scribes as the “fig­ure­head” of the or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“Hope­fully I’ll be lucky enough to hold on to this role for an­oth­er year,” D’Amore said.

Both D’Amore and Si­mon were two of four people on a com­mit­tee that planned Ferko’s per­form­ance on New Year’s Day, which paid homage to Nat­ive Amer­ic­an cul­ture with the theme “We Stand As One.”

Ferko had not per­formed a Nat­ive Amer­ic­an theme since 1971, and, ac­cord­ing to Si­mon, it is gen­er­ally a widely pop­u­lar theme for string bands.

“It was something that we thought should be honored,” Si­mon said. “With all the stuff hap­pen­ing with Stand­ing Rock, we thought it was a good time to hon­or the her­it­age in a way that we felt we could.”

The band in­volved con­sult­ants in the plan­ning pro­cess to make sure they were do­ing things in the right way without of­fend­ing any­one, as ‘cul­tur­al in­sens­it­iv­ity’ has be­come a large top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion re­gard­ing the Mum­mers Parade over the years.

“The theme has a lot of en­ergy, a lot of pas­sion. It’s a really rich cul­ture and her­it­age, and we really learned a lot about it,” Si­mon said.

In Novem­ber, the band presen­ted its en­tire per­form­ance to the City of Phil­adelphia to en­sure that, ac­cord­ing to Si­mon: “what we were do­ing, they were okay with.”

“It was ac­cur­ate and pro­fes­sion­ally done,” Si­mon said.

After their per­form­ance at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard on New Year’s Day, the mem­bers of the Ferko String Band made their way back to their club­house in Brides­burg as they awaited the judge’s scores.

Ferko’s per­form­ance came in fifth out of 16 string bands.

“The amount of time and ef­fort that goes in­to this by in­di­vidu­al mem­bers, is really noth­ing short of a full-time job,” D’Amore said.

Throughout the year, mem­bers are re­quired to at­tend 60 per­cent of events, as well as prac­tices on Sunday morn­ings and Tues­day even­ings after work hours.

And al­though the mem­bers put in enough hours to seem like they’re work­ing a full-time job, be­ing a part of the Ferko String Band is a fam­ily tra­di­tion and a hobby.

“It’s like a big broth­er­hood and we all treat each oth­er that way.” Si­mon said.

With the parade be­hind them, it’s time to start plan­ning and prac­ti­cing for next year.

“Now that it’s Janu­ary 4, we’re get­ting ready to start all over again for next year’s per­form­ance,” D’Amore said. “It’s right back to work.” SPR

To learn more about Ferko String Band, vis­it their Face­book page at “Ferko String Band.”