Michael D. Clark reports
It’s another first for the famed Marching Firebirds of Lakota West High School, as officials today surprised band members with an invite to perform on national TV in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The student band will march on Thanksgiving Day 2013 in New York City as a television of millions look on.
The honor – a 150 high school bands across America applied and only 11 were invited – is the latest prestigious gig for the acclaimed Butler County band program.
“Lakota West is one of the finest band programs in the country,” said Wesley Whatley, creative director of the Macy’s Parade, as he warmed up a crowd of hundreds of band students called to an assembly in Lakota West’s gym.
His announcement that the band earned their way on to the parade list unleashed screams of surprise and joy, followed by loud applause and the release of colorful confetti.
“You’ll be representing the school system, the city (Cincinnati) and this state in the parade. There will be more than 3 million spectators and over 50 million people watching on national TV,” said Whatley.
Greg Snyder, director of the 280-member band, said “it’s an awesome day!”
Lakota’s band programs are no strangers to the national spotlight.
In 2008, Lakota West’s band was the first from Southwest Ohio to perform in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in California before a global television audience of 40 million.
Later that year, the Lakota East High School band performed during parades and memorial services in Hawaii marking the anniversary of the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lakota’s music programs and its wide travels have attracted fund-raising support and special public performances in its schools by both the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Ballet.
And in December, Lakota West’s band earned kudos from music directors from around the world during its performance at the internationally attended Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. Only five high schools nationally are invited each year to perform there, and it was Lakota West’s third appearance since 2000.
The parade on Thanksgiving Day has been a tradition in New York City since 1924. In recent years it has grown in size and scale. The parade marches along a more than 2-mile route with more than 8,000 participants in tow including Macy’s employees, their families, celebrities, athletes, clowns and dance groups spreading holiday cheer. The event also features parade floats and Macy’s signature giant helium character balloons, but the parade’s musical heart, said officials, comes from its high school and college marching bands.
Lakota West band members were joined in the audience by band students in grades 7-9, who between now and fall 2013 can earn their way on to the performing squad through their musical expertise.
Tania Newbort plays flute for her 8th grade band and she traded shouts and handfuls of tossed confetti with her band mates at the news.
“I’ve always wanted to go to New York City and now I think I’ll enjoy being in band even more,” she said.