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Brownsburg Band to Perform in 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Photography Provided by Curt Moss and the Brownsburg Marching Band

In 2017 Chris Kaflik, performing arts and band teacher at Brownsburg High School (BHS), applied to get the school’s marching band accepted into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a rather arduous process that requires a band resume, a list of staff and band accomplishments, a video performance, and three recommendations from band directors across the country. It’s stiff competition, as hundreds of bands apply every year – high school bands, college bands, drum corps and community bands. In total, only 11 are selected to perform in the parade. Last year was the second time BHS had applied, and they came close to being chosen. 

“The committee sent us an email encouraging us to apply the next year because they said we were the last name cut from the list,” Kaflik says. 

When school leaders learned BHS had been selected to perform in New York City in November of 2020, they gathered the students and their parents for the big reveal. 

“We popped tubes of confetti right after the announcement, and everyone was so happy,” Kaflik says.

Kaflik soon took a trip to New York City with colleague Tracy Runyon to plan the group’s itinerary, including a Rockettes show at Radio City Music Hall and “Wicked” on Broadway.

The students will rise at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving because the band has to be at rehearsal two hours later. 

“They take you through the televised part of the parade, and there’s a one-minute performance for the directors and producers to watch in order to get an idea of the pacing,” Kaflik says. 

The students will then grab breakfast before being taken to the front of the parade. It ends on 34th Street directly in front of Macy’s. After that, it’s back to the hotel to get some rest. That night they get to enjoy an evening dinner cruise that includes a view of the Statue of Liberty. 

“The whole boat is reserved for Brownsburg bands and their families,” Kaflik says. 

When COVID-19 happened and sporting events, concerts, fairs and festivals began to get cancelled, many suspected the Macy’s Day Parade would follow suit. After all, the annual nostalgic event typically attracts 3.5 million spectators who line the sidewalks. Though the parade was not cancelled outright, in September New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the parade would be virtual. What that will look like, exactly, is hard to say.

“I think they are trying to do whatever parade they can,” Kaflik says. “Most marching bands across the country have cancelled their season entirely, or are doing something rudimentary.”

Though students were deflated by the news of the cancelled trip, the parade committee has invited all bands scheduled for 2020 to perform in person in November of 2021. Leaders at BHS told seniors they may come back next year and perform at the Macy’s Parade if they’d like. 

“We know that some seniors, due to college or other commitments, may not be able to participate, but we wanted to offer them the chance to do so if they can make it work,” Kaflik says. 

The 210-member marching band has had to significantly shift its normal way of operating this year due to COVID-19. In a typical season the band rehearses on Mondays and Tuesdays after school, Thursday evenings, and all day on Saturdays, and the season runs through mid-November. This year the band is rehearsing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and on five Saturdays. The band will stop after fall break because competition season was cancelled. 

“We are not only rehearsing half as much as we normally do, but we are also standing differently due to social distancing guidelines,” Kaflik says. “We’ll usually have students close, and lifting each other up doing choreography, but not this year.” 

Nevertheless, Kaflik is happy that students still get the chance to make music.

“It means so much to be rehearsing as a group again,” he says. “It’s something we’ve taken for granted in the past. It’s great seeing students expressing themselves through music, where everyone is connecting through that one common ground.”

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