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Originally posted April 22, 2012
The following is an updated, more complete story from the Tulsa World.
Wesley Whatley (at right), creative director of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, presents a gift (a commemorative drum head) to Union marching band director Matt McCready, after band members were surprised by being selecting to play in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, inside Union High School's Performing Arts Center, on Friday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World ... More photos here
Union High marching band picked for 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
BY MICHAEL OVERALL Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
The first clue should've been the band director's clothes: pressed khakis and a dark pullover with the official Renegade Regiment logo.
He wears it for special events, not ordinary Friday morning rehearsals.
"Go to the auditorium," Matt McCready told his students near the end of first hour. "There's somebody who needs to talk to you."
Shuffling down the hall, the Union High School marching band members indulged in rampant speculation.
Was somebody getting fired?
Was someone being suspended?
"I thought we were in trouble for something," confessed sophomore trombone and baritone player Ethan Mueller, "but I didn't know what we had done wrong."
Stepping into the auditorium, he noticed the newspaper photographers and the television cameras.
"I knew something big was happening," Mueller said. "I had no idea what it was."
The students sat down and fell quiet, glancing around nervously.
"It's OK to talk," an administrator told them while they waited. So the whispered theories began again.
Did somebody steal something?
Who wasn't at school today?
Was McCready - by all accounts a well-liked and respected teacher - resigning?
The meeting began with a short video of highlights from recent performances. Then McCready stepped to the podium.
"I'm sure you're wondering why we're here," he said. "And we're going to get to that right away."
But they didn't. Not right away.
"I was nervous," admitted Stephan Scrivener, a sophomore trombone player. "What was going on?"
Another man, dressed in a pinstriped jacket, walked to the podium. No one mentioned his name.
"My job," he began, "is to look across the country and identify, and then recognize, music programs that are doing it right."
This explained nothing.
"I flew in from the East Coast," he hinted. "From a very big city on the East Coast."
"Would you like to know what my announcement is?" he asked.
The students all said yes, but not loud enough. The man made them yell: "Yes!"
"For the first time in this school's history," the man said, "you are going to perform ... "
He paused to take a breath.
"... in New York City ... "
He paused again, but some of the students already started clapping.
"... for the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."
Then everyone cheered. A few students even jumped out of their seats.
"I've had my eye on you guys for quite a while," said the man at the podium, Wesley Whatley, the parade's creative director. "What you do on the marching field is extraordinary."
The parade will give Union an audience like no other, with 3.5 million spectators along the route itself and 50 million people watching on national television.
About half a dozen Union school officials, including McCready, had known about the invitation for a month.
"I'm glad I don't have to keep the secret anymore," the band director told the students.
"I know some of you won't be with us in the streets of New York," he continued. "But you'll definitely be with us metaphorically."
The celebration died down a little. In the first rush of excitement, the students might not have appreciated one crucial detail - it's not this fall's parade.
Most of these teenagers - all the seniors and juniors - will graduate before the band goes to New York, leaving only the sophomores and upcoming freshmen to look forward to it.
Some cried with disappointment.
"I'm sorry you don't get to go," sophomore saxophone player Emily Tumilty said as she hugged junior drum major Cecily Yoakam.
"That's OK," Yoakam told her. "You guys are like my babies, and now I get to watch my babies march off to New York.
"I'm going to be proud of you."