- December 25, 2014
Five West Orange Warriors made national television last month when they flew to New York City to participate as members of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band in the 2022 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Peyton Cottle (senior, trumpet), Caroline Gordon (senior, trumpet), Avery Hanebrink (junior, trumpet), Cooper Ray (senior, trumpet) and Hannah Taylor (senior, flute) auditioned and were accepted into the marching band, which is made up of about 200 of the best high school band students from across the country. They stepped off from Central Park Thursday, Nov. 24, and performed at Macy’s Herald Square in front of celebrity hosts, a grandstand audience and more than 50 million TV viewers watching the parade on NBC.
The five said there were many exciting moments during the trip, including walking in such an iconic parade; seeing stars such as Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, the cast of the new “Pitch Perfect” show, and Trombone Shorty. Hanebrink also saw Hugh Jackman while walking around the city with her family.
All participants received meals, lodging and sightseeing as part of their six-day trip package. For several of them, this was their first time in NYC. The students saw the Broadway show “Aladdin, explored Times Square, visited Top of the Rock, ate at restaurants such as Ellen’s Stardust Diner, shopped at New Jersey’s American Dream Mall and enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner dance.
Participants had to submit an audition video of themselves playing a short musical composition, showing their feet marking time and marching a box drill while playing a scale.
The WOHS students shared their thoughts on this unique experience.
“My favorite part of the trip is the friends that I made,” Gordon said. “MGAMB brings together people from all over the country. … I love MGAMB so much. It's a great place to learn how to be a better leader and a musician and meet peers who have the same passion for marching band as you do.
“I've always enjoyed watching the Macy's Day Parade growing up, so getting to be a part of it is super surreal,” Gordon said. “I'm really honored I got to be a part of something so important to many.
“When we are in rehearsals, they always tell us how cool and different it will be from the parades we all do back home, but it doesn't actually hit you until you are there,” Gordon said. “There are so many people lining the streets and the floats are huge. … My favorite part is looking up at the skyscrapers and seeing all the people watching through their windows.”
Gordon auditioned in 2020 during the COVID-19 summer quarantine and was accepted, but participation was delayed a year. This is her second year marching in the parade band.
“My favorite part of the trip was marching in the parade,” Cottle said. This trip marked her first time on an airplane. “Just seeing the towering skyscrapers above you and the excitement of the crowds and your other band members really builds and hypes you up. … While we were waiting to go on, we got to talk to the balloon carriers and people walking alongside the floats. And marching down the route with all your talented bandmates who were working so hard for this performance was such a privilege.
“Something people don’t realize is how much work and rehearsal hours go into putting together a 60-second performance,” Cottle said. “We rehearsed a total of 16 hours in the span of three days. … Not to mention we all had to memorize our music before we even arrived in New York.”
“It was such an amazing experience marching with the Macy's Great American Marching Band,” Taylor said. “The parade was so much fun and was unlike anything I had ever done before. I had only ever watched the parade on TV, so actually seeing the balloons and floats was unreal. I also loved seeing the huge crowd. It was so exciting to march our Herald Square performance. … Being in the parade was the best and also easiest part. It took a lot of hard work to make our performance smooth and the parade as magical as it is every year.
“On parade day, before the Thanksgiving Day parade started, there was a ‘dress rehearsal’ that morning,” Taylor said. “We had a wake-up call at 2 a.m. to be dressed and ready to leave. The different groups and bands performing did a run-through of their performances at Herald Square … that morning. We did our run through around 4 a.m.”
“My favorite part of the trip was being able to march in the biggest parade in the world (and) also getting to meet a lot of new friends from around the country, which has made me more confident in getting to know more new people when I graduate,” Ray said. “Marching in this famous parade was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.”
Ray plans to continue playing music in the U.S. Air Force while becoming a pilot, and he hopes to join The Airmen of Note.
“My favorite part of the trip was either the free time in the city, or visiting the American Dream mall in New Jersey, because I really just loved hanging out with the new people I met,” Hanebrink said. “I was nervous the day of the parade, but it was really fun, even though we were all exhausted. Seeing all the people lined up to see the parade and listening to them cheer was very cool.”
Hanebrink would like to continue marching band in college.