NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. — When the 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade steps off at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 Point Pleasant High School graduate, and current Ohio University honor student, Avery Richardson, will realize a dream that was put on hold for a year — that of marching in the Macy’s Great American Marching Band.
Richardson plays clarinet, and was selected as a participant after a successful audition for the 2020 parade, but her dreams of preforming that fall were put on hold due to the pandemic. Last year’s parade was extremely modified, with many of the entries, including the Band, canceled.
The Macy’s Great American Marching Band is comprised of around 200 select student musicians from across the United States. The numbers include a majority of high school seniors, along with alumni from previous years. Richardson would have marched as a high school student in the 2020 band, making her eligible to march in subsequent parades as an alumna. When the band was canceled altogether last year, organizers reached out to those students who had been selected but missed the opportunity, allowing them to be included as alumni.
Senior marching season for the 2020 Black Knight Band was also canceled along with so many other student activities, due to the pandemic.
“There were no competitions, and we only played at a few football games,” Richardson said. “It was so disappointing, everything about senior year was different than I thought it would be.”
Her story reflects the challenges many high school graduates across the country experienced. Senior year is traditionally a time of activities and celebrations with friends and family, the last chapter of one’s high school career. Instead, it was a year when online classes took the place of in person learning, activities were canceled, and those that remained were modified to ensure the safety of students and faculty.
Richardson’s musical training began with the piano when she was eight, and continued to include clarinet in sixth grade. She has played saxophone in a jazz band, was a member of the West Virginia All State Choir for six years, and performed with the West Virginia All State band for one year.
Currently an honor student at Ohio University, she is majoring in art history and administration, and stayed in practice through the year on her own. She said even though she is not majoring in music, it will always be an important part of her life.
“I have always enjoyed singing and playing instruments” Richardson said. “My family is musical, so music was always just part of my life.”
Richardson headed to New York this past Sunday, to join other musicians from across the county. Upon arrival, they were fitted with uniforms and begin practicing as a group for the parade.
Macy’s partnered with Music Festivals and Tours to organize the band in 2006. After the success of the inaugural band, Macy’s has continued the tradition. This year’s band is expected to include 185 musicians and approximately 40 flags and dancers.
With only a few days of practice together before their performance, Dennis Rhoads, president, Music Festivals and Tours, said this group is able to come together quickly because of an excellent group of music educators directing them, and they come prepared. He said the attitude, enthusiasm, and work ethic of the musicians make rehearsals run quickly and efficiently.
“The kids are so excited to be here,” Rhoads said. “All of them were individually selected, and are the best musicians from schools and states across the country. They come prepared, ready to begin when they arrive.”
Richardson said she was so happy to be included as an alumna, to have another opportunity to participate in something so important to her that she missed last year.
“After everything that has happened, I am very excited to finally feel normal again,” she said. “I am very happy to be going to New York, to be in the parade, it doesn’t seem real.”
To watch Richardson and the Macy’s All American Band perform in Herald Square during the 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, tune into NBC, the official parade channel. Other stations carry the parade, but only NBC covers the performance in Herald Square. Later viewing will also be available on YouTube later that day.
© 2021, Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.