Prospect leads Santa into Herald Square

Tony Bennett, who celebrates his 90th birthday this year, entertained millions of people at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York this morning, right before the band from Prospect High School in Mt Prospect, Illinois, entered Herald Square, led by drum majors including Hannah Thornton, a senior at the high school and this year’s winner of the Bob and Delores Hope Scholarship.

Ms Thornton, who wrote an essay for this blog, said she would put the $10,000 she’ll receive toward a college education, as she plans to major in English, The Associated Press reports. (Her essay for Voxitatis didn’t get her any money, though.) The school will also receive $10,000.

After the students from Prospect participated in the pre-parade show for the grandstand and NBC’s cameras, the following high schools sent their marching bands into Herald Square in front of Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street from 77th Street uptown:

In this season of infinite fact checking, we note that Matt Lauer, one of the announcers for NBC during the parade, credited the Harrison High School band with two national championships on the Bands of America circuit. For the record, they won first place in their enrollment class (AAA) at the BOA Grand National Championships in 2013 and 2015 and were finalists in 2007, 2013, and 2015.

The band from Greendale was mentioned as a 13-time Wisconsin state champion, and that is accurate, according to the Wisconsin School Music Association, which lists championships for Greendale in Class AA. More impressively, though, the band includes 270 of the 926 students enrolled at the high school, nearly a 30-percent participation rate in just the band. At the parade, they performed “A Step in Time.”

Also marching in the parade were 250 marchers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as part of the Macy’s All-American Marching Band. The group was led by a charismatic 11-year-old drum major in this 90th annual celebration of the official start of the holiday shopping season.

Finally, the Na Koa Ali’i Hawai’i All-State Marching Band, made up of 600 of the best musicians and dancers from 44 high schools on every island in Hawai’i, made the trans-oceanic trip, along with more than 500 relatives and friends.

What many people fail to realize is that the bands learn they’ll be participating about a year and a half before the parade. For example, the band from Prospect found out in May 2015. Then, with great anticipation, they go about their school day but have visions of New York and Santa Claus in their heads. Then they prepare. Then they save money and conduct assorted fundraising drives with the help and support of their schools and communities.

Then they board buses or planes and travel great distances to this big city on the east coast—only nine of the 201 members from the Grain Valley band had ever been to New York—and practice some more. Then they get up for a 3 AM sound check for NBC’s cameras, after probably getting no sleep the night before.

And it changes their lives and their high school experience forever. That’s the power of music and a good fine arts program at an American high school. As Amy Kule, the parade’s executive producer, said, this parade isn’t a New York thing, it’s an American thing.

Happy Thansgiving to all our readers, and thank you. Here’s a story in the Chicago Daily Herald about Prospect’s outstanding performance in the parade.

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.