NORMAN — Two Noble students were stepping high in the prestigious Macy’s Great American Marching Band on Thanksgiving Day in New York City. Kristopher Vance and Courtney Stringer from Noble High School became part of a proud musical tradition on Nov. 28, when they marched in the 87th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in front of an estimated 2.5 million spectators and an estimated 50 million TV viewers.
Vance is a senior who plays trumpet and Stringer is a junior percussionist. The pair had to submit audition tapes earlier this year for consideration and acceptance to the band. The competition is steep and the goal is to have all 50 states represented. Vance said he remembered the anticipation of waiting for his potential acceptance letter to arrive.
“It was pretty great. I opened it up and didn’t know if I was going to read ‘Congratulations,’ or ‘We appreciate you and try again next year,’” Vance said, recalling his reaction, “I’m going to New York!”
For some, the parade, a uniquely American extravaganza, marks the official beginning of the holiday season. For Fred Queen, director of bands at Noble Public schools, the parade marks his fifth trip to the Big Apple at Thanksgiving to serve as support staff for the band.
“It’s a great experience working with the kids,” Queen said. “There’s great networking with kids and adults from all over the country.”
For student band members, playing in the band is the highlight of a weeklong experience in New York City. Students from all over the country arrived earlier this week to pick up uniforms, tour New York City landmarks and attend a Broadway show. Queen said members of the band rehearsed 4-6 hours daily, interspersed with activities.
In a 2010 interview, Queen explained the schedule on Thanksgiving Day where students are awakened at midnight in order to catch a 1:30 a.m. bus in preparation for rehearsal at 2 a.m. Each band gets two passes in front of the cameras at Macy’s. After the TV calibration, students grab a bite and rest before lining up in Central Park four hours in advance of the parade. After the parade, students turn in uniforms and instruments before being treated to a Thanksgiving dinner-dance. It’s a long, full day.
The trip to New York City costs each student $1500 — not including airfare — but is well worth all the work and fundraising necessary to get there.
“It’s a pretty exciting deal,” Vance said.
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