Two Liberty High School alumni will get the opportunity to be part of the 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday.
James Madison University students Ali Adamson and Thomas "TJ" Martin, both of Marriottsville, have headed to New York with the rest of the school's 485-member Marching Royal Dukes band to prepare to perform in the parade on Thanksgiving Day. Adamson plays in the band's percussion front ensemble section while Martin plays in the band's sax-alto section. Both students are former members of the Liberty High School marching band.
The JMU band is one of 11 marching bands performing in the parade, and one of only two college bands - the other is the University of Massachusetts Amherst - that were invited to perform.
The Marching Royal Dukes were selected from more than 150 applications sent to the Macy's Parade Committee. This is the band's third appearance in the parade. They previously performed in the 2001 and 2008 parades.
The band will perform three pieces while marching down a route that is over two miles in length through the city. At the end of the route, the band will perform "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music" in front of Macy's in Herald Square.
Adamson, a sophomore at JMU, said she and others in her front section will be holding the James Madison University and state of Virginia banners rather than playing instruments. She usually plays the vibraphone, but it and the other front section instruments are too large to take.
"We've been told to smile and wave the whole time," she said.
She remembers finding out last summer that the band was going to be part of the parade.
"I was so excited," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
The students left Tuesday to arrive in New York and will stay until Saturday. Thanksgiving Day will be a long one for the band; they will need to be in uniform by 1:30 a.m. and will do a morning dress rehearsal around 3 a.m. The parade will occur from 9 a.m. until noon.
"We're leading the parade," she said. "The actual performance is at 10 a.m., where we're in Herald Square."
If there's any reason Adamson would want to miss the Thanksgiving holiday with her family, this is it, she said. She's also excited to stay in New York City at the Sheraton Hotel and explore the city Friday.
Adamson believes the band stood out because of its size and the fact that they are good, she said. The 485-member band is the largest in JMU's history.
The band will have an open rehearsal today in the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel Metropolitan Ballroom from 1 to 3 p.m.
The Marching Royal Dukes date to 1972, when JMU established a football program. Membership in the marching band is open to all JMU students, regardless of their academic major. The 2013 band's members represent 47 academic majors. More than 400 Marching Royal Dukes are non-music majors.
The band performs at all home football games, travels to select away games and represents JMU at local and regional high-school exhibitions and community events.
Scott Rikkers, director of the Marching Royal Dukes and assistant director of bands at JMU, said the school has one of the largest college marching bands in the country and has a great program.
"The Marching Royal Dukes represent the best that JMU has to offer students," he said in a university news release. "We are a very visible example of the process of education."
Martin, a freshman at the university who plays the saxophone, said the band marched around the field during practices last week to build up their endurance.
"Practices have gone a little overtime this last week because they want to make sure we do it right," he said. "We're going to be marching for an hour straight."
Martin is excited about seeing the parade balloons and possibly even celebrities.
"It's been enjoyable, and it's definitely going to be an exciting experience," he said.
He has been told to be quiet and listen to what the producers say during the parade. His parents are going to look out for him on TV, but he assumes they won't be able to find him among all the people.
Excitement, not nervousness, has been what he has felt about the experience.
"I feel pretty comfortable with what we've prepared for," Martin said. "I'm pretty confident we'll do well."
He already celebrated Thanksgiving with his family Sunday, but that doesn't mean he won't want a traditional meal in New York City Thursday.
"I'm not really sure what I'm going to do for Thanksgiving dinner," he said. "I'll find turkey somewhere."