Beyond The Classroom: What It’s Like Being A Mummer

Rowan student TJ Ferry and members of his Mummers band

Meet TJ Ferry, a senior Computing and Informatics major and Rowan University Social Media team member from Gloucester County. Here, TJ shares how being part of the iconic Mummers tradition has changed his life for the better. 

Most people ring in the New Year at midnight with a few choruses of “Auld Lang Syne” and toasting the promise of new beginnings and a new year. That is, unless you are a Mummer. We ring in the New Year with hundreds of thousands of plumes, feathers and instruments.

The Philadelphia Mummers Parade is a culmination of a year’s worth of imagination, hard work and practice that dates back to 1901. No one in the parade is a professional musician, but all take their craft very seriously. Participants in the parade range from eight years old up to 98.

It is a spectacle that entertains many, but to my family and me, it is much more; it represents tradition. The Mummers are so much more than what happens on New Year’s Day.

Rowan student TJ Ferry in Mummers costumeI was born into this unique hobby thanks to my grandfather. He was not only a musician, but for 32 years he served the needs of the Ferko String Band in a multitude of various positions including President, member of the Board of Directors, and as Ferko’s Delegate to the String Band Association. The String Band Judging Booth has been named in his honor since 2016.

As a tribute to him, I decided that it was my calling to play the banjo as he did. Fast forward to today and I am currently a member of the Quaker City String Band, where my grandfather began his Mummer career.

Early on Jan. 2, 2019, my cousin Joe Ferry was one of the three killed in an automobile accident. This tragic event shook the Mummers community to the core; however, it also showed that we are truly a community. In the honor of the individuals who passed away in this tragic event, a foundation was created to provide scholarships and funds to help those who are suffering in the Mummers community. The Mummers helped the Palandro, Ferry and Wiesley families cope with this event and make it through the tough times.

The Thomas J. Ferry Memorial Judging Booth honors TJ's late grandfather.
The Thomas J. Ferry Memorial Judging Booth honors TJ’s late grandfather.

In Joe’s honor, the Joe Ferry Christmas String Band was created. This band is comprised of members from the Quaker City, Fralinger, Polish American and South Philadelphia String Bands. I was honored to be a part of this band on Dec. 14, 2019, when we spent the day bringing holiday cheer to various hospitals in Philadelphia. To me, this is what Mummery is truly about — spreading cheer and entertaining people, seeing people on the sidelines smiling while you are in a parade or someone dancing and clapping along in their seats while you are playing a concert makes it all worth it.

When I started this hobby, I truly did not expect to take it where it has taken me. Sure, it has educated me musically, but it has taught me social skills, public speaking, social media skills, marketing, you name it.

I continue to learn more every day from the leaders of the hobby. Mummery has brought me out of my shell. I went from being a shy 16-year-old to when I started this hobby to a well-rounded 22-year-old soon-to-be Rowan University graduate at the time of writing this article. I have met my best friends from this hobby, and no matter what, we are all family. Like a family, we don’t always agree on things, we fight sometimes, even drama goes on. We also laugh like family and kid like brothers and sisters.

For almost my entire college career, I have been a part of Rowan University’s Social Media team. This would have never happened without this hobby. I started working for the Ferko String Band social media department in a hand-me-down situation and was not really sure where to begin. Two years later, I created a successful YouTube channel and drove engagement to the band’s social media higher than it ever was before. This helped me land my job at Rowan.

Rowan student TJ Ferry (third from left) with members of his Mummers team.
TJ Ferry (top row, third from left) with fellow members of the Quaker City String Band

I have also worked on web projects in different capacities for string bands due to my skills through my studies at Rowan. For the past few years, I have been co-operating a database that provides the history of the String Band division. This has taught me to work in a team and helped ease into my courses Applied Database Technologies and Intro To Web Development. Just recently, I was honored to receive Quaker City’s Class – Pride – Commitment award in 2019.

Story by:
TJ Ferry, Computing and Informatics major
Rowan University Social Media student team member

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