CULLOWHEE –Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains is one of only 10 marching bands selected from across the nation to perform in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.
Macy’s Parade officials were on campus Thursday, April 25, to surprise the 400 members of the WCU marching band with news of the invitation to participate in the 2014 edition of the annual holiday event.
Members of the band had assembled in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center under the pretense that they were attending a mandatory organizational meeting. And, when Chancellor David O. Belcher came into the room, one student shouted, “Belcher is going to march with us next year!”
But when Wesley Whatley, the parade’s creative director, broke the news, unveiled a parade banner and presented a commemorative drum head to David Starnes, director of the Pride of the Mountains, the student musicians burst into applause and cheers. They then showered Starnes with a rain of colorful confetti.
“David Starnes continues to push forward the legacy of musical excellence at Western Carolina University and we are so proud to have this enormous and exciting band join our ranks for the very first time on Thanksgiving Day 2014,” said Whatley, head of the parade’s band selection committee.
The invitation to perform at the Macy’s Parade is the latest accolade bestowed upon the WCU marching band, Belcher said.
“It is a supreme honor to add this invitation to participate in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the long list of accomplishments of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band,” Belcher said.
“We were proud of the Pride for winning the 2009 Sudler Trophy for collegiate marching bands. We were delighted when they were selected to march in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade. And we are absolutely ecstatic that our band members will be sharing their talents and creativity with the millions of people who will watch the Macy’s Parade, both in person and on television,” he said.
The Sudler Trophy, presented by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, is considered the nation’s ultimate honor for college and university bands and has been called the “Heisman Trophy” of the collegiate marching band world.
When the WCU marching band appeared in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., it won “favorite band” in a poll conducted by KTLA-TV, earning 72,287 votes – 40 percent of all votes cast in the poll and more than any of the parade’s other musical groups.
The band is looking to make that same kind of impact on Thanksgiving Day next year, said Starnes.
“We are honored as well as excited to represent Western Carolina University, the School of Music and the entire Catamount Nation on national television in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” said Starnes. “It is undoubtedly one of the greatest events a band student of any age can experience and we feel privileged to offer our members this opportunity. Our band program has received numerous national honors that carry great prestige. However, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has not been a part of our resume – until now.”
Founded in 1924, the world-famous event attracts more than 3.5 million spectators lining the streets of New York, and 50 million at-home viewers.
“When you are the best band in the land, you might as well share it with the rest of the world,” Belcher said.
(Photos by Mark Haskett)
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