The Macy’s Day Parade has always started in the same way.
Wesley Whatley, the parade’s creative director, told Grain Valley High School band students that it always starts with a countdown from longtime host Al Roker, ending with a small declaration: “Let’s have a parade.”
Only soon, the phrase will be Grain Valley Marching Band’s cue to action along with the rest of the parade.
The marching band program won a spot in the iconic New York parade, one of 10 selected out of 160 entrants nationwide.
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Whatley said what called his attention about Grain Valley’s students was their boldness and willingness to be creative on the field.
“When Grain Valley approached a field and a show, they do it with innovation and they try to think outside of the box — they really do,” Whatley said.
“What’s special about that is that it makes the performance memorable. We know that Grain Valley will deliver something that will surprise our audience.”
Representatives from Macy’s and NBC greeted the students Tuesday to deliver the announcement personally.
“This is insane,” Jordan Bonnel said. “I have no words.”
Bonnel is a baritone, but she’ll participate alongside the band in the parade as a drum major. Bonnel and the Grain Valley Marching Band are no strangers to prestigious events. The group marched in Hawaii for an event alongside the USS Missouri while it was stationed in Pearl Harbor.
Bonnel, a sophomore, said the Macy’s Day Parade is a yearly tradition on Thanksgiving in her home. Speaking Tuesday after the announcement, Bonnel said she was still processing being part of it.
The program already has a banner year starting with the accolades Grain Valley won in the Bands of America Super Regional competition. The marching band was the first from Missouri to be named both division champions and a finalist in the 2-A school class.
Reid Atkinson, director of bands, said he was just as floored to get the news, especially given that this is the first time Grain Valley’s music program has submitted a request to be considered.
“It’s such a huge achievement,” he said.
Whatley said groups were evaluated by a judging panel on categories like intonation, maneuvering, musical ability.
Atkinson, seven-year long employee, started as a middle school instructor and came in as a high school instructor as some of his first students were become freshmen, too. He said he’s watched them grow into precision-oriented and skilled performers.
“They have a pride of how they carry themselves, a pride in their work ethic and a pride in their attention to detail,” Atkinson said. “That’s throughout this entire school.”