Members of Morgan State University’s Magnificent Marching Machine will take their high-energy, stylish performance to New York City next year for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Representatives from Macy’s made the surprise announcement to an enthusiastic crowd at halftime of Morgan’s homecoming game against South Carolina State on Saturday.
Wesley Whatley, creative producer of the Macy’s parade, told the crowd that his team has “the great pleasure of looking across the United States and honoring the finest, most exciting, the most entertaining, the most fabulous marching bands in all America — and that search has led us here to Morgan State!”
Mayor Catherine Pugh, an alumna and former cheerleader, did a little shimmy dance when Whatley said the band would participate in the 2019 parade. University president David Wilson flashed thumbs up signs. The crowd in the stands roared in approval.
But there was one problem: The actual members of the Magnificent Marching Machine, stationed on the field to prepare for the halftime show, didn’t hear the announcement.
So as the band members went through their rollicking performance — with musicians and high-stepping across the field, performers spinning brightly colored flags and dancers pirouetting and leaping to the music — they had no idea of the honor they’d just received.
Once the Magnificent Marching Machine was back seated in the stands, Whatley and university officials made the announcement again, and the students cheered and hollered. They hadn’t been told that the university had applied last spring for the parade.
“It’s absolutely fantastic because I have absolutely never thought this band was going to perform in something this big,” said drum major Gerald Apugo, a junior music major from Randallstown. “That is a big deal to me. I am just so happy.”
Apugo jumped up and down in excitement a few times before running back to his post in front of the band.
Morgan’s Magnificent Marching Machine will be among 11 marching bands in next year’s parade, making the 2.5-mile trek along with 8,000 other participants in front of 3.5 million spectators and 50 million more people watching on TV across the country.
“It’s quite the stage for young musicians,” Whatley said in an interview.
The band now has about a year to put together a performance to fit with the parade logistics. Band director Melvin Miles said he was heartened that the Macy’s staff “encouraged us to be us.”
To Miles, that means a stylish, showy presentation.
On Saturday, the band took a tour through fun, crowd-pleasing tunes like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache (Jump on It).” They worked through intricate formations and broke down into energetic dance sections.
“We are an American band and we exude American culture in all of our presentations,” Miles said.
He promised the Macy’s show next year will have “a lot of punch.”
Wilson, the university president, usually heads home to Alabama for Thanksgiving, but he’s happy to scrap those plans next year so he can join his student musicians in New York.
“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will not be the same again after the Magnificent Marching Machine performs,” he said.
And the parade performance gives the university national exposure.
“Morgan is no longer a hidden treasure,” he said.