The Cary High School marching band sweated more than usual this year, and on Tuesday, band director Matthew Minick made them sweat a little more.
Minick summoned his 170 students to the school’s auditorium at 8:30 Tuesday morning for what they only knew was an announcement.
He was one of only a handful of people in the building aware of what that announcement was: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade organizers had picked the Cary High School band as one of 10 in the country to march in the 2016 parade in New York City.
It will be the school’s second Macy’s parade appearance. The first time was in 1983.
Never miss a local story.
But Minick, who has sent performance tapes to the committee nearly every year since being hired in 2000, kept quiet about the news.
The band in November made the semifinals of a national competition for the second time in Minick’s tenure – so members had reason to hope for something fun. Still, Minick’s ambiguous comments prompted wild speculation among students.
“Some were saying they were gonna cut band,” said Megan Cassimatis, a Cary High junior who’s in the color guard. “I didn’t think that, but I didn’t know what to believe.”
The assembly took an upbeat tone when Minick introduced Wesley Whatley, chairman of the parade’s band selection committee. Whatley identified himself to the crowd only as “a talent evaluator” from “a big city.” He said he had traveled to Cary to deliver “super, super special news.”
“Are you ready to hear it?” he asked the crowd.
Whatley built anticipation for the announcement and then delivered the news slowly.
“It gives me great pleasure, and it is a great honor, to announce today that the Cary High School marching band has been selected to represent ... the great state of North Carolina and perform in New York City ... ” he said, pausing for effect. “ ... at the 2016 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”
Some students hugged and high-fived as the crowd cheered.
Cary High will be the only North Carolina school to perform in the 2016 parade, for which 175 schools applied to participate.
The trip was announced more than a year in advance to give schools time to raise money.
Many of the current band members will graduate before the trip. But they cheered nonetheless, celebrating the news as recognition of their hard work.
“People see us sweat, get bloody and cry,” said Irene Castro, a 12th-grade flute player. “But it’s all worth it.”
Minick prepped the band for an intense year by introducing a yoga conditioning program, and the band has succeeded in national-level competitions.
“This has been a banner year,” said Cary High Principal Nolan Bryant. “I’ve been grinning all day. I just can’t stop.”
When judges named the 32 semifinalists for the competition in Indianapolis, Cary High was the last school named.
Sarah Moody, a sophomore who plays the piccolo, said the suspense of the Macy’s reveal was as heightened as an announcement made earlier this year about the band’s achievement in a different competition.
“I’m so excited, I don’t feel like going to class now,” Moody said.
The performance that earned Cary High a spot in the national semifinals Music for All’s Bands of America Grand National Championships is the same that earned it a spot in the Macy’s parade. The parade committee judges bands on tuning, marching, maneuvering, stage presence and how they synchronized they are. Minick sent the tape from Cary’s performance in the national preliminaries, where the band marched in intricate formations that resembled the blooming of flowers.
“We believe in what you guys do,” Whatley told the crowd.
Whatley led the auditorium in applauding Minick, who used his phone to take a selfie with Whatley before returning to the microphone.
“I would call this a bucket list event for my life,” Minick said. “It is by far one of my proudest moments.”
Students then reached under their theater seats to find packets of multicolored confetti.
Whatley asked Minick to stand at the edge of the stage and instructed students to toss the confetti toward him on the count of three.
He counted down to the trademarked Macy’s kickoff orders, “Let’s have a parade!”
Confetti fluttered throughout the auditorium, trickling down students’ faces.
Like sweat, but cooler.
Area parade participants
Here is a look at some of the area bands that have marched in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade, considered two of the biggest parades around:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The West Johnston High School Band marched in 2008. The Great American Marching Band has featured area students several years, including in 2006, 2013 and 2014. The Chapel Hill High School Chorus took part in the 2000 parade. Meanwhile, dancers from the Holly Springs School of Dance performed in 2009 and 2012. Rope jumpers from the Cary YMCA Super Skippers, Tri-Force Jump of Cary and Skipsations! of Chapel Hill performed in 2013.
Tournament of Roses Parade: The Cary High band has marched in the parade three times, the last time in 1984. Broughton High School’s band marched in 2008 and 2012. In 2011, N.C. Central University and Western Carolina University bands marched.
The News & Observer archives