NEW YORK CITY - Local residents are encouraged to turn on the television this Thursday as four Newton County School System students will be marching in the Macy’s 2017 Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
The parade will be broadcast live on NBC at 9 a.m. Watch closely and you may see NCSS students Joseph Bickel (Eastside), Jonathan Sugg (Eastside), Austin Huffman (Eastside and NCCA STEM Institute) and Brittany Allen (Alcovy and NCCA STEM Institute) performing. Each successfully auditioned and were selected to march in The Macy's Great American Marching Band. Only 185 musicians and 40 flags and dancers were selected from the national auditions to participate in the elite band.
“What an incredible accomplishment,” Samantha Fuhrey, NCSS superintendent, said. “Only 225 students from across the country were selected for this prestigious band and four of them are from Newton County. I am so proud of Joseph, Jonathan, Austin, and Brittany; I know they will represent us well. I will be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and I encourage others to watch as well to support these amazing students.”
Superintendent Fuhrey will not be watching alone. More than three million spectators are expected to line the parade route with another 50 million more watching the broadcast live on television.
The number of spectators is nothing to get nervous about for Bickel, Sugg, and Huffman. Each of them marched with the Pride of Eastside in last year’s 2016 Hollywood Christmas Parade. And Huffman, who plays the clarinet, also marched in this year’s Rose Bowl Parade.
“Marching in a parade is a lot of fun and it’s cool that it’s being televised,” Bickel, who plays the baritone for the Pride of Eastside, said.
“I enjoy doing parades and this will definitely be something to look back on,” Sugg, a mellophone player for the Pride of Eastside, said.
Both Bickel and Sugg auditioned for the parade after hearing about the positive experiences of previous Eastside band students who had participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Plus, they noted participation in such a high profile parade makes for great college resume material.
“Mr. Fowler’s daughter Katie Beth was in the color guard two years ago and then trumpet player Reid Waters and drum major Austin Barnett were in it three years ago and all three of them came back and had tremendous things to say about it, so I wanted to do it myself and see what it’s like,” Sugg said. “Plus I’ve never been to New York and I’ve wanted to do that for a while. And the idea of being in the Macy’s Parade is pretty cool.”
For Huffman, auditioning for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was more about ending his high school marching band career on a high note.
“It was kind of one of those things like, what’s next?” he said. “We went to the Hollywood parade last year and I went to the Rose Parade, so I knew I wanted to do something big again this year, so I decided to try out for the Thanksgiving Day Parade to have something to look forward to senior year. It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something like that.
“I joined band in sixth grade to be in marching band. I went to a football game when I was five years old and I saw the marching band and knew right away that I wanted to do that. I just love marching and playing music.”
Allen, a member of the Alcovy High School color guard, had her sights set on participating in the Macy’s Parade for quite a while but waited until the time was right to audition.
“I found out about it at the end of sophomore year and I was going to go for it in junior year but didn’t feel I had the skill set yet,” she said. “So, I auditioned in my senior year. I just thought it would be a unique opportunity to go for.”
Like her three counterparts, Allen wants to continue to participate in band at the collegiate level. As a member of the color guard; however, she has a unique role in the performances and participating in such a prestigious band will no doubt help her improve her skill set as she prepares to make the leap from high school to college color guard.
“I’ve always been interested in dancing and I wanted to find something equivalent in high school and I found color guard,” she said. “It’s cool to be able to create an art form, a visual aid to the music and make it come to life. I want to audition in college so I’m hoping participating in the Macy’s Parade will help me strengthen my skills. I’m also looking forward to meeting new friends.”
“I’m looking forward to work with world-class musicians who know way more than I do about music and marching than I do,” Huffman said. “It’s a learning experience but also a chance to network and meet new people and learn from them as well.”
Of course, each of the high school students noted that in addition to performing in the parade, they are also looking forward to just having some fun in New York; not one of the four has ever been there. In addition to rehearsing for their performance, time is also set aside in the weeklong trip for sightseeing in New York City.
“It looked like a fun opportunity and is going to be something great to put on my college portfolio,” Bickel said. “But I’m also looking forward to having fun with friends in New York and playing some good music.”
“The Macy's Great American Marching Band has become an annual tradition,” Alan Fowler, band director at Eastside, said. “I think this is the eleventh year the all-star band has been a part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and it's the third time we have had Eastside students selected. In 2014, Austin Barnett and Reid Waters were part of the group, and in 2015, Katie Beth Fowler marched in New York. To have three this year is special and I know the guys will have a terrific experience. I look forward to hearing all about it. It is also neat that a student from Alcovy is getting to go too.”
"The Alcovy Tiger Band is proud to congratulate senior color guard captain Brittany Allen for being chosen to perform at the 2017 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York,” Brian Coates, Alcovy band director, said. “This prestigious parade auditioned several students from across the country so it is an honor that she was selected and will represent Alcovy and Newton County Schools on national television."