Colony High School's marching band, Thee Northern Sound, has been picked to perform in the 2017 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City. It will be the first time an Alaska band has marched in the famous parade, first held in 1924.
Thee Northern Sound was one of 10 marching bands selected for the parade from among 175 applicants. The band has previously performed in the Sugar Bowl Parade and at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009. In 2014 they became the first Alaska band to march in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
Last fall they became the first Alaska band to participate in the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis, a competition that draws high school musicians from around the country. Winners are usually from large schools with ensembles that regularly compete with other top bands. Said to be the only high school marching band in Alaska, Colony's 32nd-place finish was considered respectable for a school that had no competition experience and a small student body. The judges presented them with the Spirit Award and a check for $1,000.
The Macy's Parade is watched in person by about three million people in Manhattan each Thanksgiving and by an estimated 50 million or more viewers on television.
In determining which bands would participate in the 2017 event, parade organizers gave great weight to video footage of the applicants' field shows. The entertainment value of the bands was considered to be a particularly important factor.
Wesley Whatley, the parade's creative director, extended the invitation in person.
"They're a small band, but they create such a beautiful sound," he said.
The band's director, Dr. Jamin Burton, said it was a proud day for the program he founded 11 years ago.
"I'm mostly excited for the kids," he said. "They spend countless hours, and their parents spend countless hours and time and money, to get good at something … It's a reward for the work they've done and it validates everything they've been working on."
Whatley said the 18 months of advance notice gives the program an opportunity to raise money for the trip. He said bands that perform in the parade can expect to play for about an hour on a 2.5-mile Manhattan parade route.