Friday September 14, 2007
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Bands set to appear in national spotlight

Groups chosen to play in 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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By Michael Skinner / Student Publications

Band performs at halftime.

By Denisse Gonzalez Contributing Writer

Imagine performing for more than sixty million people. Come Thanksgiving Day 2008, student musicians in the Tech marching band will be doing just that.

Band directors recently announced that Tech had been selected to march in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Tech was one of two colleges selected from hundreds of applications. The winning submission, which included videotapes, recordings, and pictures of past performances, was the band's second attempt to participate in the nationally broadcast parade.

"We applied the year before and were short listed. We were encouraged to re-apply the next year which was ideal because we were kind of targeting the [band's] 100th anniversary knowing that it would be a special event for us," said Christopher Moore, associate director of Bands and director of Athletic Bands.

Tech's band began in 1908 with a group of 14 students. Director of Bands Andrea Strauss said plans are underway to extend the anniversary celebration beyond the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade performance.

The entire band program, consisting of the concert band, marching band and symphonic band, will be going.

"We're going to make a whole week of festivities in New York to celebrate our 100th anniversary," Strauss said.

Highlights will include a gala and concert for Tech's alumni and fans, as well as tourists and locals from New York City. Strauss has already submitted an application to Carnegie Hall as a venue for the concert and is considering bringing "a big name soloist" to perform with the band.

Beyond the excitement surrounding the trip, however, lie concerns about fundraising. The music department has estimated the cost of the trip at $500,000.

"We're going to need to charter two airplanes to fly the entire band program [about 400 students]. We need to fly because the UGA game is that Saturday after Thanksgiving. We'll also need to pay for buses and food for four days and over 100 hotel rooms for four nights," said Donny Allen, assistant director of Bands.

Other expected costs include renting the venue, publicity for the event, and the cost of hiring a soloist for the performance. Though the trip is over a year away, band students and staff have begun making plans for fundraising.

"Fundraising is a big issue. We've been trying to play a lot of gigs around the city and trying to raise money for the trip," said Matt Ward, a fourth-year Biomedical Engineering major who is a drum major and plays the trumpet in the marching band, orchestra and basketball band.

One of the most recent shows band members played was on Sept. 8 at the Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre. About thirty students from the drum line were commissioned by the country music duo Sugarland to surprise singer Kenney Chesney at his concert.

"That gave us about $4,000, but that's only like 2 or 3 people's trips. I'm sure we'll make it, but we're trying to do as many gigs and as many fundraisers, ask for alumni contributions, and things like that," Ward said.

"We've been fundraising and saving for a while to have this piece commissioned," said Carly Chupp, a third-year Industrial Engineering major who plays the tuba in the marching band and is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the honorary band service fraternity.

The fraternity announced that it has commissioned an Emmy award-winning composer to write a song especially for the band's 100th anniversary.

According to Strauss, the music department will boost its fundraising efforts by working with the Office of Development to get in touch with donors and will begin a campaign at football and basketball games to reach alumni.

"The 50, 40, and 25-year alumni reunions typically raise money for various projects here at Georgia Tech and we hope that our project is embraced by one of the classes," Strauss said.

Despite financial challenges, both students and directors are excited about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day performance.

"The parade is a huge deal. It's one of the biggest parades in the nation. It's really going to open up Tech to the public to see us out there," Ward said.

An estimated five million people watch the parade live in New York City, and over 55 million are expected to watch it on television around the nation. The Tech marching band's performance will be broadcast for one minute and 15 seconds.

"It's one of those things that we all remember as Americans growing up and watching, and it's a way for Tech to be able to connect with the American public in a way that we could never have paid for that kind of exposure, especially the music department," Allen said.