KAYSVILLE — Steven Hendricks called a special meeting of the Davis High School Band, and rumor around the school was that the band director planned to retire early.
But when students gathered Monday morning, the real reason for the meeting was revealed: The band is going to perform in the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Davis High’s band will be seen and heard by millions as it marches along the famed parade route.
“For television, the parade audience is 50 million people,” said Wesley Whatley, creative director of Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. “I was in marching bands, and I don’t think I’ve ever performed for an audience that large. It’s going to be an incredible experience.”
Emma Nilson, a student from Farmington, said she was surprised by the visit from Macy’s representatives — she really did believe Hendricks was going to announce his retirement.
As excited as she is about performing in the parade, Nilson said she’s even more excited that she’ll be making memories with people she loves.
“It’s kind of a big finale for my band career,” she said.
Almost 200 bands applied to be in the parade, including college and military groups. Macy’s selection committee narrowed it down to just 10.
“One thing that stood out to me, specifically, about Davis is that they are a well-rounded program,” Whatley said. “As we looked at the resume, it wasn’t just marching band. They’re also successful on the concert band stage and in the jazz program. To us, it’s important to recognize programs that are raising and developing well-rounded music students.”
Judges were also impressed that Davis High has marched twice in the Tournament of Roses Parade (2003 and 2013) and that it’s gotten high rankings in state and Bands of America competitions.
“We watched their field show and agree with the Utah community, and the Bands of America community, that this band really is one of the finest in Utah,” Whatley said. “We knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Davis would represent the State of Utah in a really stunning way on Thanksgiving.”
Davis High’s selection announcement was made in the Macy’s tradition — with a lot of confetti. It also came with a gift.
Wesley Whatley, from Macy's, made the big announcement to Davis High. pic.twitter.com/OVBV8afhl1— Becky Wright (@ReporterBWright) April 11, 2016
“We give drumheads to all our marching bands,” Whatley said. The drumheads are printed with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade graphics and the year the band will be marching. “It reminds them what they’re working for over the next 18 months.”
Because the band was selected for the 2017 parade, the students that will travel to New York are this year’s sophomores, as well as eighth- and ninth-graders from Davis High’s feeder schools.
Nathan Williams is a junior this year, which means he’ll graduate before the parade.
“I think it’s still really exciting,” he said, noting he’s looking forward to helping fellow students prepare. “I’ll get to watch them on TV, too.”
Hendricks estimates between 250 and 280 band members will participate.
“When we went to the Rose Parade a couple of years ago we had 290, but I think the price is going to knock a few kids out the mix, which is unfortunate,” he said, adding that fundraisers will be held to ensure more students get to go.
Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt went to Davis High for the announcement and noted he’s willing to help with fundraising — even if that means getting dunked or playing basketball against pros, like he’s done for past band trips.
“To have only the second high school in the whole state of Utah to get invited to both the Tournament of Roses and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades is a pretty good endorsement to say we’re talking about the best of the best here,” Hiatt said.
Band member Mia Longo is going to start saving money now. She’s also planning on a lot of hard work with the band.
“I know Hendricks is going to really push us to be even better this year, and I feel like people will focus more,” she said.
And they’ll need focus to learn new moves that will impress those watching the parade.
“You come into Herald Square, stop and face the cameras, and do about a one-minute production,” Hendricks said.
Initially, Hendricks was afraid having the band travel to New York City during the holidays would be too much. But then he heard from his friend, John Miller, who twice took American Fork High School’s band to perform in the parade.
“‘They treat you like gold. It’s a wonderful, great experience, and your kids will come home glowing,’” Hendricks remembered Miller saying.
So, he decided to give it one more shot and apply for a spot in the parade before he retires at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“It’s just a huge honor,” he said. “My former principal, now my area director, emailed me and said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to the Super Bowl of parades,’ and it is.”