I was so grateful and lucky to have marched with the Macy's Great American Marching Band; a marching band made up of 250 high schoolers from across the United States. To be a part of this, you have to fill out an application and post your audition on YouTube. I first heard about this opportunity from an email from a camp counselor from Auburn University when I was doing band camps over the summer. The camp counselor said that the Auburn Director of Bands was also the Director of Bands for the Macy's Great American Marching Band and wanted to reach out to the community to audition for this. Intrigued by this, I wanted to audition for this. The audition process was a ton of work. Not only there was a music audition, but also a marching audition. It took a good few days, using every hour I got to perfect the audition video to post on YouTube. Since I auditioned in August (auditions open around February), I really didn't think I would make it into the band because I auditioned kind of late. Two weeks later during math class, I checked my emails. I got this random email that said Macy's on it. I opened it and it said, "Congratulations Kittana, we are happy to inform you that you have been selected as a member of the 2019 Macy's Great American Marching Band." I was overjoyed and kept saying "Oh My God" over and over and over. I couldn't wait to go to New York and meet some amazing band geeks from across the country!
Day 1: ATL -> EWR
November came fast, and the excitement grew. We finally got to the airport and flew to Newark, New Jersey. I was greeted by the Macy's Great American Marching Band staff with open arms. I then met more people who were also a part of this band. We kept asking each other, "What's your name? What state are you from? And What instrument do you play? The day was pretty chill as we just got to know more people, meet the staff, tried on uniforms, and had an orientation of the entire week (yes, we only had one week to prepare for this major performance together).
Day 2: Explorations, Practice, and Pain
The day of most aches and pains. The day the band explored New York City. For some members of the band, this was their first time being in New York and was met with many oohs and aahs. This was only my second time being in New York, but the last time I went was 6 years ago, not much changed. My group spent most of our time at Macy's trying to find a Macy's bear with the marching uniform on. We looked everywhere and even asked some associates if they knew where this bear was. To no avail, we left the store to explore the city more. After exploring the colossal city of NYC, we had a music rehearsal. Music rehearsal was rigorous as we changed some parts of our parade song, "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" aka "Joy to the World," by Hoyt Axton from playing to actually singing the lyrics to the song. Then we worked on our Herald Square performance song "Christmas on Parade," a medley of traditional Christmas songs such as Jingle Bells and Joy to the World. By the end of the day, all my muscles were pretty sore.
Day 3: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Three more days until the parade. I woke up pretty sore, but needed to push through the day. The rehearsals began, bright and early in the morning at Teaneck Coliseum in New Jersey. For the first part of rehearsal, we were sectionals (smaller groups who play the same instrument for those who do not get band terms) practicing the music and marching as a unit. For the second half, we started setting the drill for our performance on Herald Square! (setting the drill is when we are given coordinates which tells us where to be and where to go next, this is how we prevent collisions). After rehearsal, we had a leadership session which consisted of a hands on approach to how we really treat others in comparison to how we really SHOULD treat others by using playing cards. For example, everyone grabbed a card and anyone who had an ace was considered the best musician in the band while anyone who had a 2 was considered a musician who REALLY needs the practice. This taught us how we need to help each other out, no matter how good or bad we are, in order to succeed.
Day 4: Practice Makes Consistent
Two more days until the big day. The first half of rehearsal focused on the parade march song as we started to march and play "Joy to the World." The second half we worked on perfecting the Herald Square performance. We kept practicing the performance over and over and over, until we memorized our drill sets and music, which was achieved before lunch (Memorizing music/drill before lunch never happened in the history of the MGAMB until now!! So this was an awesome achievement to be a part of). Early afternoon, we went to explore NYC. Remember how my group and many others were looking for a Macy's bear wearing a marching band uniform? Well guess what was the first place we went to...Macy's! Beforehand, I heard rumors that this bear was finally in stock and almost everyone in the band rushed to Macy's to find this bear. Unfortunately once again, none of us found it and this was the last time the band was able to shop in NYC. We spent the majority of the day exploring shops such as Forever 21, the M&M's store, Rockefeller Center, and smaller NYC souvenir shops.
Day 5: The Final Rehearsal
One more day until the Macy's Day Parade. During rehearsal, we mostly worked on the parade march and added the street beat. The street beat is the percussion feature of the parade. Every year, the band also says a motto during the street beat which consists of M-A-C-Y-S in every motto. This year's was, "Turkey, potatoes, gravy, and some stuffing, M-A-C-Y-S, Santa stole our vibe!" This was extremely fun to shout out. We then performed a dress rehearsal in front of our parents, which was one of the best performances since we started. Afterwards, we went to see a Broadway musical at the Marquis Theatre called "Tootsie." It's about a failing actor who dresses up as a woman in order to get casted in major films and musicals. It's an amazing musical that I totally recommend seeing. Once we got back to the hotel, we finally got our uniforms. After taking some awesome selfies with my roommates in uniform, we went to bed at around 8pm. Then the alarm went off.