The Homestead High School Marching Band, including many Los Altos musicians, marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City this year.
The Mustang band from Cupertino was one of only 10 invited to perform this year. Crowds gathered on the streets of Manhattan under sunshine as the local students provided entertainment along the route.
Macy’s estimated that 3.5 million people assembled on the parade route, while an additional 50 million viewed the live broadcast on TV.
“The kids are excited. Parents are excited,” Director John Burn said. “They realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The students had to be up at midnight on the eve of the parade to rehearse and prepare for the parade.
The parade route covered approximately 3 miles beginning at 77th Street, then south on Central Park West to Seventh Avenue, before moving to Sixth Avenue and ending at Macy’s Herald Square. When they reached Herald Square, the band gave an 85-second performance in front of the NBC cameras and thousands of paradegoers.
“My favorite part of the trip was performing at Herald Square in front of Macy’s,” said Hannah Want, a sophomore in the color guard. “This parade was exciting because the crowd was so reactive.”
The parade featured more than 40 balloons, 27 floats, 800 clowns and 1,600 cheerleaders. Star appearances included Mary J. Blige, Cee Lo Green, Avril Lavigne and the Muppets.
“The parade itself was an experience of a lifetime,” said Jason Leddy, a junior who plays the baritone horn. “I will remember this forever.”
In addition to marching in the parade, the students visited the Museum of Modern Art, saw “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway, toured the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, stopped at the 9/11 memorial and took a Thanksgiving dinner cruise on the Hudson River.
The wind ensemble had the honor of playing at Carnegie Hall.
“It was amazing to play at Carnegie Hall,” Leddy said. “I was a little nervous at first, because you are in this amazing place.”
Want said that while the trip was fast-paced and the students were constantly busy, she was happy to spend time with her bandmates.
“I had so much fun,” she said. “We all understand we are going to be tired. It is kind of like a family – where you get upset with each other but you love each other, too.”
Only approximately 10 percent of the Homestead musicians had been to New York City before the Thanksgiving trip.
“The entire experience was eye-opening,” Burn said. “It’s different. It’s not downtown Los Altos, where the band has performed regularly for the Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade. This was all very exciting for the kids.”