On Nov. 26, the 330-plus members of the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Marching Band will take part in a tradition that has become almost as iconic as the Thanksgiving turkey in some homes: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
UVA’s band was one of only 10 selected from more than 175 applicants to perform in the parade, which garners nearly 50 million television viewers in addition to the 3.5 million live spectators on hand to watch the bands and balloons stream through the streets of New York.
The band will perform three songs during the parade; two while marching along the 2.5-mile parade route and one in front of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. Though the parade does not allow bands to reveal their song selections beforehand, one of the band’s four drum majors, third-year Shaw Driggers, said the performance “will pull in a lot of UVA tradition” while also featuring popular music delivered with the band’s signature energy.
“The prime directive of UVA’s band is to entertain,” fourth-year drum major Adam Trapp said. “We want to be the most entertaining band there, and I think we will come through with our dancing, our loudness and our hype.”
“We were very honored to be selected,” Driggers said. “We want to be one of the most professional there and make sure that every little detail is very good, but also get out there and have a lot of fun.”
The community has come together to help the band make the trip to New York, led by a $25,000 dollar matching gift from UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan and a $50,000 matching gift from the UVA Parents Fund Committee. These gifts and many others have nearly accomplished fundraising goals for the trip, which is estimated to cost $250,000.
Preparations for the parade began when UVA’s selection was announced in April 2014, and rehearsals began in earnest during the band’s annual camp this summer.
“There has been a lot of buildup, so it is very exciting that the parade is almost here,” said fourth-year Emily Cubbage, a piccolo player who watches the parade with her family every year and has been looking forward to this performance since her second year.
“We want to be the most entertaining band there, and I think we will come through with our dancing, our loudness and our hype.” - Adam Trapp
Cubbage and other band members cited the tight parade formation as a key challenge for the large band during their roughly 50-minute journey through the streets of New York.
“We are used to making formations on a field, but in New York we will need to be much tighter and closer together,” fourth-year drum major Anna Smith said.
The band has spent months working on those formations, creating parking lot diagrams to the scale of the Macy’s stage and spending hours practicing the tight turns required to move in unison through New York’s crowded streets.
“You need to stay focused for so long, staying in step and staying in form,” third-year mellophone player Samuel Johnson said. “I am excited to experience it, because it is one of the biggest things that a college marching band can do.”
“It is a great honor and I am excited for the students to get to perform on this national stage,” William Pease, U.Va.’s director of bands, said. “They are all working really, really hard. Hopefully it is a great time for them, and I am sure they will do really well.”
Pease has served as the director of the Cavalier Marching Band since its inception in 2003. With just over a decade of experience, UVA’s band is among the youngest to be selected for the parade, joining the ranks of some of the nation’s most acclaimed marching bands.
“I am excited to meet the other bands that will be there,” third-year drum major Ilana Brody said. “I love New York City and love the energy there, so I am also excited to experience that.”
Fellow drum major Smith agreed, anticipating that the band’s usual game-day enthusiasm will only grow as its debut on such a prominent national stage approaches.
“I am looking forward to getting up really early in the morning and seeing everyone so excited,” she said. “The band already has so much energy on game days. Everyone is going to be ready to go and really focused. I know that we will be on our game.”
The band will travel to New York on Nov. 24, returning on Nov. 27 in time for the UVA vs. Virginia Tech football game. UVA fans can tune in to watch the performance on NBC from 9 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day. Fans interested in watching the parade in person can find more information on events, hotels and suggested viewing areas here.