Prospect Knights to march in Macy's 2016 parade

The marching band from Prospect High School in Mt Prospect, Ill., will be one of only 10 marching bands in the 2016 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, parade officials announced on April 30. The Marching Knights, directed by Chris Barnum, were selected from about 200 applicants around the world.

Santa Claus waves to the crowd during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov 27, 2014, in New York City. The annual tradition marks the start of the holiday season. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

In addition to Prospect High School, the following high schools will send their marching bands to the annual parade:

The Mountaineer Marching Band from West Virginia University, Morgantown, and the Hawaii All-State Marching Band, with students from several high schools in Hawaii, are also scheduled to participate in the parade, as of May 13. It could take Macy’s up to a month or more to announce the 10th and final band.

Several bands on the list, including Prospect, have marched in the parade prior to 2016. The Marching Knights marched in the 2002 parade, and the Hawaii All-State Marching Band was there in 2011.

We extend our congratulations to Mr Barnum, the Marching Knights, and the entire Prospect High School community on this honor. We are extremely pleased to present below a reaction to the news from Hannah Thornton, a sophomore at the high school.

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By  HANNAH  THORNTON
Drum major, Prospect High School

THE morning of the big announcement was a Thursday. Everyone was nervous, buzzing with the possibilities of what such a meeting could possibly be about, but we felt all the more confused as soon as we found a crowd of well-dressed cameramen hanging out in our band room. We immediately began to converse among ourselves, wondering what could possibly be going on that called for such an audience. Seconds progressed into minutes, and the news built up. And then it dropped as all our stomachs dropped: “You are going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

How could this be possible? Our band, the Prospect Marching Knights, the association to which hundreds of us have dedicated hours of our lives, is going to New York in 2016 for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

It truly brought tears to my eyes to receive the news, to see the pride across the room, and to hear the completely awed gasp from my friends as soon as the sentence was spoken. Details continued to be given: almost 200 bands applied, only ten made it in from the entire country, yet our band was chosen among them all to represent the state of Illinois. It was, to say the least, an incredibly exciting day—exciting to the point of my friend crying into my shoulder and screaming “NEW YORK BABY HERE WE COME” and exciting to the point of an enormous confetti hurricane within the confines of one room.

The word honored can’t even explain how I, how all of us, felt in that moment. We felt victorious. It was insane how quickly the atmosphere in the room changed, and at the same time, it is insane how suddenly our lives have all been changed.

This is the kind of experience you don’t get to live every day. The band, our beloved Prospect Marching Knights, is of course important to each and every one of its participants, as each participant is important to it. To me, that’s a beautiful thing. Everyone, from the triangle players in the front ensemble to the color guard and the winds and percussion or the drum majors and the parent supporters and the staff, is a part of something. Everyone is a part of something that is so much more than just dots and lines on a page, but is instead a family.

The band is music and performing and rehearsing, yes, but it is also a mixing bowl, in which we’ve all been joined together and had our lives changed. The music that we play every day, listen to, and spend hours practicing is not just entertainment or a hobby, but a joining force and something that people of all different kinds can bond over. It’s a passion. Now this passion is going to be shown to the world.

This opportunity that shines ahead of us in 2016 is our chance to go beyond the mixing bowl, to strive into dreams that never seemed like they could be a reality. Thanks to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, things are going to go above and beyond. It will be a time of change for our marching band, but also a time of continuity. For decades our band has been a home to students, staff, and parents, and this opportunity will only strengthen the hold this home has in our hearts. The graduates and the future members should or will feel endlessly grateful to get to be in such a group, whether they are going to the event or not.

The important thing is everyone had a place. Everyone’s actions contributed or will contribute to the association, what it is now and what it will be, and the simplicity of music will continue to create something as rare as this opportunity.

Music, what my mother sometimes refers to as “dots and lines on a page that you can somehow turn into beautiful sound,” is something that changes people. Because of our passion for music, this opportunity to perform in front of millions of people has become our future. While everything has settled in and we are looking ahead to the parade with determination rather than shrieking with uncontrollable excitement, all of us feel the same strong feeling of pride and gratitude.

Together, we worked for this achievement. It was no piece of cake for anyone—we all put in a bit of blood, sweat, and tears here and there. Along the way, it has been an adventure, and this opportunity in New York is like our trophy. It’s our recognition, proving that music really has changed our lives.

Though I’m just one small piece of the enormous jigsaw puzzle that is our band program, I think I can speak for most people when I say this is exciting. It’s like showing a part of my heart to the world, getting to perform in front of millions of people doing something I honestly love and enjoy and feel extremely passionate about. This band is like a family to me, and I can’t imagine what my high school career would feel like without it. Music is my home, all of our homes, and by some miracle, we get to take our home to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in front of millions of people.

I’ll get the privilege of leading the band with the other drum majors when the Parade Day comes, but I won’t be alone. Not only will the rest of our group be together, but the parents and the staff and the crowds of bystanders and the performers and even just the people sitting and watching on TV from their houses will get to join in our appreciation of music.

That, of course, is the most beautiful part.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.