Six high school marching bands and one band made up of high school students from every state marched in Macy’s 95th Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning in New York.
The Macy’s organization has always known how to pick the best bands. If you’re looking for the best bands, it’s often good to start by visiting the states where many of the best high school marching bands can be found, such as Texas.
The second unit in the parade was the all-girls marching band from The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, Texas. The school, which is a public school but represents a powerful public-private partnership, brought the only all-female high school marching band ever to be invited to march in the parade. Austin’s mayor issued a proclamation giving the day a special name in honor of the band’s performance in the parade. The Marching Stars played an arrangement of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
A few slots later, we watched Macy’s Great American Marching Band (pictured) in a foot-tapping rendition of George Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band” from the 1927 musical of the same name. Every state is represented among the musicians in this honor band.
Although the honor band was selected from current high school students, other bands that marched the 2.8-mile route were selected in 2019, before the pandemic. Cancellation of the 2020 band performances resulted in those bands being invited to the 2021 parade.
Oklahoma is another state with several national-class marching bands, including the one at Union High School in Tulsa. They were the next band to step off, performing the title number from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma!.
And given that the Music For All organization has for many years picked Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana to conduct its “Grand National Championships,” three of the four remaining bands come from states that are always well represented in the semifinal rounds of that spectacle.
The band from Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana, made the semifinals at this year’s Grand Nationals earlier this month and performed here with a number from Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria” show. The band flew to New York in three planes, and one of them ended up being delayed—seriously delayed, WISH-TV reported. Another flight couldn’t be rescheduled on Tuesday, so students went home and tried again Wednesday, the day before the parade. Chalk it up to advance planning for contingencies. The delayed students found a way to entertain themselves with a smartphone scavenger hunt, according to the band’s Facebook page.
The next band down the Manhattan street was from Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 in New Lenox, Illinois. Three schools send students to the combined band, and the music featured was a selection from the band’s competitive field show this year entitled “Metamorphosis.” Simulating a butterfly with their uniforms—which might as well be called “costumes”—a wrap around musicians’ waists and the silks used by the colorguard caught the breeze on several occasions to give us a vivid and colorful picture of the show’s theme in the span of a few seconds in front of NBC’s television cameras. During the route, Lincoln-Way entertained the crowd with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Next up was the Trabuco Hills High School Thundering Mustangs Marching Unit from Mission Viejo, California. California, though not very well represented at the Grand Nationals, is filled with national-class high school bands. The band performed part of their show entitled “Pure Imagination” and raised about a quarter million dollars to cover the cost of their cross-country trip to New York. More than half the students in the band had never even been on a plane before this trip, NBC’s announcer noted.
Of special note, a student from Trabuco Hills was awarded Macy’s annual scholarship, chosen from musicians in the performing bands and awarded based on demonstrated leadership skills. Established in 2003 by Macy’s and The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, The Bob Hope Band Scholarship awards $20,000 to an exemplary student musician from a participating marching band.
Finally, the Centerville Jazz Band from Centerville, Ohio, was the closest high school band to Santa’s appearance at the finale. The band has entertained audiences for several decades at the highest level of performance, including an appearance earlier this month in the semifinals round at the Grand Nationals. The band entertained thousands along the parade route and millions on television with an upbeat rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”