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Harrison High's band director reflects on Macy's parade experience


It's tough to transport 190 high schoolers, their band instruments (some weighing 30 pounds), and then keep track of them for days in one of world's busiest cities.

But could you then get those students to play music and march in unison on national television in front of millions of people?

You probably can't, but Josh Ray can and did.

Ray orchestrated the transport of Harrison High School's band 899 miles from Kennesaw to New York City where students marching in the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"It was better than I expected," said the school's band director.

High school marching bands join the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

He had help from about 10 parent chaperones and 15 band staff members — two of whom switched off for 16 hours driving a box truck filled with the outfits, along with the larger instruments like drums and sousaphones.

For many students, it was their first time in New York City.

"Seeing things they see on TV or movies was a unique experience," he said.

But it wasn't his first time. He was an assistant band director when he went with Harrison in 2009.

"Back then I was more just along for the ride," he said. "This time I was way more connected into the planning of it."

Ray and his staff sent in its application two years ago.

He said the company required videos of their competitive performance, pictures of the band's uniforms along with written narratives about their credentials.

"They want to know what you look like and how great of performers your band is," he said.

They liked what they saw.

About 18 months ago, all the band members were pulled out of class and sent to the theater without a clue what was going on. The creative director for Macy's came on stage and told them they were one of the 12 bands performing in the historic parade.

In case you missed it: See Cobb’s Harrison High band in Macy’s parade

Aside from the parade music standards, Ray and his staff had to create a routine.

Each band in the parade stopped for a minute and 15 seconds and performed an original routine right in front of the main New York Macy's entrance.

The Hoyas performed a mashup of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance."

The band was up at 1:30 a.m. Thanksgiving day.

Cobb receives state grant for arts integration

And that was after days packed with Broadway shows, a ferry ride to see the Statue of Liberty, a tour of the 9/11 memorial and show from The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.

Ray admitted he took a two-hour nap after the five charter buses arrived back in Kennesaw at noon on Saturday.

"We're still recouping," he said Monday afternoon from his office phone.


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