OHIO VALLEY — Avery Richardson’s dream of marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the Great American Marching Band was finally realized.
Richardson said it was difficult to express exactly what it meant to her to be in the parade, and the emotional experience of standing in Herald Square.
“Playing in Herald Square was the most exhilarating moment of my entire life,” Richardson said. “Being able to be there, to touch it with my feet, seeing the Macy’s Turkey for the first time, it was all so exciting.”
As previously reported, Richardson plays clarinet, and was selected as a participant after a successful audition for the 2020 parade. Her dream of performing that fall was put on hold due to COVID-19 concerns, when the parade was extremely modified, and many of the entries, including the Band, were canceled.
The experience was a whirlwind of activity. Upon arrival, she was fitted for her uniform, then it was onto practice. Richardson said it was impressive to get approximately 300 musicians from different parts of the country to play and march together so well in such a short period of time.
“The atmosphere was like a band camp,” she said. “Everyone was focused on what they were doing. We had to get everything done very quickly. We had to learn an entire drill with four practices. Our first practice was very amazing, it was inspiring that the band could sound so good the first time together. It was impressive to see everything come together so quickly.”
She said she didn’t realize how highly selective and competitive it was to be chosen for the Band until after she arrived in New York.
“I found out after I got there and heard other band members talking about it. I was taken aback, I had just decided to audition, and I was accepted, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know,” she said.
Richardson explained, she decided to audition after her friend Gracie Hall posted a photo of her New York trip and performance in the Macy’s Great American Band. The two had met at a band leadership conference in 7th grade and stayed in touch. Hall told her about the program, and Richardson decided to work toward applying.
She credits her clarinet teacher Scott Nibert, for helping her achieve the level of performance necessary to meet the challenge.
“I began working with him my freshman year, and I started to gain confidence my junior year, I began to live up to my potential,” Richardson said. “He taught me to read music better, helped with a lot of auditions. He saw the potential in me during my freshman year, and as the years went on, I wanted to do more, and he encouraged me, and I am really grateful for him.”
She said she had a lot of community support and encouragement to make her trip happen.
“It was stressful, I had to work to raise the money to go, but everyone was so supportive, and I was able to get the alumni package and take my mother with me.”
Her mother, Mary Farley, literally “won the lottery” when her name was drawn for a seat in the audience in Herald’s Square.
“All of our chaperones put their names in a drawing to see who would get a seat, and my mom won,” Avery said. “We were both so excited.”
Richardson said the trip gave her the experience she lost her senior year of high school, and said, ” I got to have another band camp, it filled in the gap.”
Richardson said she found other West Virginians in the band, including one from Grafton, one from Ripley, and two from Roane County, and hopes her experience will motivate other students from Point Pleasant and other parts of the state to apply.
“It took a lot of courage for me to do something like this,” she said. “I understand what it’s like to come from a small high school in the Ohio Valley, and I want them to realize if they put the work into it, they can achieve their goals as well.”
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.