Thanksgiving dinner for members of Center Grove’s marching band will be served in New York next year and will come after the band has performed in a parade seen by millions across the country.
Center Grove’s marching band has been selected as one of about a dozen bands to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014. On Wednesday night, officials from the Macy’s parade met with the 150 members of the Center Grove Marching Trojans to tell them they would be going to New York next year for the parade.
Center Grove’s auditorium, filled with band members’ friends and family who had just seen the students’ spring concert, cheered and applauded after hearing the news from the parade’s creative director, Wesley Whatley.
“We only select the very best of the best, and that’s why I’ve flown here, to invite Center Grove High School. Congratulations,” Whatley said to the band.
He then presented the band with a ceremonial 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade drum head. The band’s drums will feature similar drum heads during the parade, but the one presented Wednesday is meant to keep the band motivated until November 2014, Whatley said.
Kevin Schuessler, Center Grove music department chairman and marching band director, had kept the secret of Center Grove’s selection for two months — even from his own son.
Just before spring break, Macy’s officials told Schuessler that his band had been picked but asked that he keep the news to himself until Wednesday night’s official announcement. So for nearly two months, Schuessler had been keeping the news a secret from co-workers, parents and band members — including his son, a freshman Center Grove percussionist.
“I’m a very transparent person. So I’ve honestly just shut up,” Schuessler said.
More than 175 bands from across the world applied to march in the 2014 parade, and each year between 10 and 12 bands are selected. Each band represents its state.
Bands are selected by a committee that includes Whatley and other Macy’s employees with backgrounds in the arts, such as Broadway experience. The committee members review tapes of the bands’ shows from the previous fall, as well as photos, resumes and letters of recommendation. The goal is to select the top dozen bands from around the country, Whatley said.
Whatley already knew about Center Grove’s band through its performances at Bands of America contests and considered it one of Indiana’s top bands. And when he watched the video of the band’s performance last fall, he felt the band would entertain the millions of people watching the parade from the streets of New York as well as from home.
“We want an exciting, entertaining, high-energy marching band. And Center Grove has all of those qualities,” Whatley said.
Schuessler tries to organize an out-of-state trip for the band every three years. Previous destinations include Hawaii, California, Philadelphia and Florida. If the band hadn’t been selected for the Macy’s parade, Schuessler wanted to take them to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
The announcement still hasn’t had time to sink in for most of Center Grove’s students.
“I kind of sat there in shock for a moment. I did not expect that at all,” sophomore Chris Crockett said.
Crockett has been to New York before to see the parade, which he said feels like a massive, miles-long party. And if asked, he’ll suggest the band perform decades-old pop music, possibly something by Chuck Berry.
“I feel there’s a good amount of power behind his work, and I feel we could pull it off,” he said.
This year’s seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders will make the trip.
Schuessler is excited about the parade but also relieved to finally be able to talk about the trip. He always tries to be open with students and parents about performances and goals he has for the band, but he couldn’t tell them they were going to New York because Macy’s officials wanted to make the announcement.
That was especially challenging because people knew he had sent in an application. So anytime a parent or booster club member asked him whether he knew anything, all Schuessler would say was that an official announcement hadn’t been made — which technically was true.
The Macy’s parade route is about 2.5 miles long, starting in the Upper West Side and ending at Macy’s Herald Square store. The route takes about an hour for bands to complete, and about 3.5 million New Yorkers and tourists are expected to line the route.
When the Center Grove band nears the end of the line, they’ll perform for 85 seconds for about 50 million people watching the parade from home, Whatley said.
Schuessler’s hope is that the parade builds students’ confidence in their abilities.
“When you’re told you’re desired to be in a certain spot, what an honor,” he said.
Preparation for performing in the parade likely won’t begin until next fall at the earliest, but raising money for the trip will begin immediately, Schuessler and Whatley said.
Marching band members pay about $650 each year to participate in the program, and the cost of the trip will likely run $1,000 to $1,200. Center Grove schools won’t be asked to cover any of the travel expenses, but Schuessler wants to start working now to make sure the entire band makes the trip.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure that every child that wants to go can go,” he said.