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, âsaid Linard. âKids 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 group 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, âsaid 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, âsaid Schwertfeger.
âI was really excited,â McCormick said upon hearing 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.
âIt was really, really surprising,â he said. “I was sitting there (in class) shaken.”
âThis will be my first time performing at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the Macy’s Great American Marching Band,â said Woodford. âIt will be great to represent the St. Clairsville High School Band. “
âIt was pure shock at first,â 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.
âI had really, really enjoyed it, and I was always a music-based kid,â Phillips said. âI wanted to get involved as much as I could. “
âIn fifth grade you go down, try all the instruments and pick whichever you think you like best, and then from there you grow up,â 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 said Woodford. “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, 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.
âIt’s definitely a challenge,â 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.
âIt’s really cool that there are so many kids across the country,â Phillips said. “I am excited for the whole aspect of Christmas in New York.”
âNow it’s up to us to memorize the music before we show up to New York,â said Woodford. “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, âMcKegan said of the sheet music.
âI’ve heard good things about how fun it is, how exciting it is. I can’t wait for all of us to get to see a Broadway musical, and I’m a huge music fan.
âI am really excited to be going to New York. I’ve never been there before, âsaid McCormick. 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.
âFrom what I understand it will be closer to normal,â said Woodford. âThe bands are back. They bring in in-person spectators, so it will certainly feel more normal than last year’s Macy’s show, which was a lot more lean.
The students intend to continue studying music.
âIt’s the best passion I have,â said McCormick. 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, âMcKegan said. He congratulated his conductors for their training. “I’m really excited and I’m just really thankful and grateful.”