Four young musicians will represent Belmont County at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on November 25.
The local Union school district was again chosen to send students. April Linard, director of the group, said this was the eighth consecutive year that Local Union students would march in New York City.
Jessica McCormick, a junior from Belmont, will play the clarinet, while Carson Phillips, a sophomore from Bethesda, will play the tenor saxophone. This is the first year for each of these students to perform at the parade.
âThey were really excited to have the opportunity to go. They worked hard â, said Linard. âChildren love to have new musical opportunities, and that’s one of my goals since I started as a conductor – to provide as many musical opportunities as possible. When they know this opportunity presents itself, they go for it.
She said donations and fundraising by the group’s boosters would help with travel costs. She also prepared the students for the trip.
âIt’s very busy. There’s a lot to do, a lot of rehearsal time, and they also have tours like that. The schedule is pretty tight, but it’s a lot of fun â, said Linard.
In the St. Clairsville-Richland City school district, two members of the group were also selected. Badyn Woodford, a senior, plays the trombone and junior Caleb McKegan plays the saxophone.
Justin Schwertfeger, principal of the marching band at St. Clairsville High School, said the marching band students had participated in the parade several times in previous years.
âWe’ve had two or three before that. It’s a really great experience â, Schwertfeger said.
“I was really excited” McCormick said he heard the news. âI really had my doubts about myself that I was going to get it, but I really surprised myself. It really opened me up to more ideas of doing things musically.
“It was really, really surprising” he said. “I was sitting there (in class) shaken.”
“This will be my first time performing at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the Macy’s Great American Marching Band,” Woodford said. âIt will be great to represent the St. Clairsville High School Band. “
“It was a pure shock at the beginning”, McKegan said. âI was sitting in my English class. â¦ I checked my phone and started to cry tears of joy. I didn’t expect to be accepted.
McCormick and Phillips each said their interest in music ignited when they saw the Jets band perform in elementary school. They then took the opportunity to join the group.
“I had really, really enjoyed it, and I was always just a music-based kid,” said Phillips. âI wanted to get involved as much as I could. “
“In fifth grade you go down, try all the instruments and pick the one you think you like best, and then from there you grow.” McKegan said. âIt was in seventh grade that I started to really take an interest in music and in the band. I want to do this for the rest of my life.
Woodford said walking the parade was one of his ambitions.
âWatching the parade for a few years and seeing what it was about, and there was an opportunity for me to show off my skills and talents, I knew it was something I wanted to do,â Woodford said. “I was absolutely delighted to read the acceptance letter because to be honest I didn’t think I was going to go into it.”
When the big day arrives, they will have an early morning rehearsal at 3 a.m. on November 25, and then the parade will begin at 9 a.m.
The students reviewed their scripts and the music that will be played in the parade. They also spoke to students and alumni who have performed in recent years.
“It’s definitely a challenge” McCormick said. “I have a few friends who have been to Macy’s, and they have given me a complete overview of what it is and the hard work you have to put in.”
Phillips said he was happy the parade was right after walking season so he’s fit for the 3 mile walk.
“It’s really cool that there are so many kids from all over the country” said Phillips. “I am excited for the whole aspect of Christmas in New York.”
“Now it’s up to us to memorize the music before going to New York” Woodford said. “We will get there on the Saturday before the parade, and we will have rehearsal days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the parade.”
âI have consulted him several times. It’s a lot of fun to play â, McKegan said of the score.
âI’ve heard good things about how fun it is, how exciting it is. I especially can’t wait for all of us to get to see a musical on Broadway, and I’m a huge music fan.
âI am really excited to be going to New York. I’ve never been there before â, McCormick said. âAll the different things they’ve planned, I’m really excited to do them. I was told that there is a pizzeria that sells very large pizzas. I can’t wait to see if I have the opportunity to go.
Phillips is also looking forward to browsing Times Square during the sightseeing portion of the trip.
Linard and Schwertfeger said they did not expect the mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic to impact the usual schedule of activities. Linard said all participants will be vaccinated and wear masks.
“From what I understand, it will be closer to normal”, Woodford said. âThe bands are back. They’re bringing in in-person spectators, so it will certainly feel more normal than last year’s Macy’s show, which was a lot leaner.
The students intend to continue studying music.
“It’s the best passion I have”, McCormick said. âI considered getting into music therapy.
Phillips envisions a career in specialized elementary education and student engagement through music, where his theater background could help reach students.
Woodford plans to attend the University of West Virginia and major in music education.
âI really want to major in music after I graduate from high school. Get a bachelor’s degree in musical performance and see where I go from there â, McKegan said. He congratulated his conductors for their training. “I’m really excited and I’m just really thankful and grateful.”