The three Rye Cove High School students will perform with around 250 of the nation’s top high school band members in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They are not only the first students from Rye Cove to receive the honor; they’re also the first from any Scott County school to be selected.
“They’ll get to meet a lot of different friends from everywhere,” said Sheila King, Rye Cove band director. “So I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for them.”
Ron Simmons of Music Festivals and Tours contacted King in October and asked her to nominate some of her top-performing students for Macy’s Great American Marching Band, which is comprised of around 250 students from high schools across the country. The band has performed in the parade every year since 2006, with different students participating each time.
King didn’t get her hopes up at the time, as she knew Rye Cove was competing with much larger bands and schools. Still, she submitted her list of nominees, and within a few days she learned they’d been selected.
“I normally ask the parents, ‘Is it OK if I nominate your students?,’ and because I didn’t think anything would come out of it, I hadn’t done that,” King said. “So my phone started going off, and I got a text message from Brayden’s mother, and she said, ‘Is this a hoax?’ She sent me a screenshot of the email they had sent out to Brayden, and my heart just about jumped out of my chest. I couldn’t believe it.”
King said the other parents didn’t quite believe the news at first, either, while the students had similar reactions.
“This all happened during band class,” King said, “so at the end of band class, we went inside from the marching field, and I had those three kids come to the front. … Then I explained that I’d talked to this man about the Macy’s parade and I sent in a list of students and told them these three had been selected. The three stood there in shock, and the whole band was just kind of sitting there staring at me too, so I had to repeat it again. Emilee started crying, and Lindsey and Brayden were not too sure what to do; they were just kind of in shock, too.”
In New York
King said Gilliam and his parents left for New York by car on Friday, while she and the other two students and their parents would fly there from Tri-Cities Airport on Saturday morning.
Once they arrive, the students will be rooming with all the other students in the Great American Marching Band, while King and the parents will stay in their own rooms. Students were to report for uniform fittings on Saturday afternoon, and Macy’s chaperones will take the students sightseeing on Sunday.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the students will be rehearsing their performance during the day, with more sightseeing each evening, King said. All that leads up to the parade on Thanksgiving Day.
“They keep them so busy that I won’t get a chance to see them very much, just kind of passing from one point to the next point,” King said, adding that the school board is helping to finance the trip.
A proud moment
Though she was surprised by the news, King said she’s also proud and excited for the three students and for her band as a whole.
“I’m really proud of them, because we are out in the middle of the country, and our school’s eighth grade through 12th grade, and there’s maybe 240 kids,” King said. “The band kids, we average about 32 … and they worked really, really hard. I really couldn’t ask for better kids.
“So I’m extremely proud of the band in general, but to have these three have that opportunity, it just makes my heart very proud for them.”