While the first day of summer was this past Sunday, one Waxahachie High School student is already thinking about fall and winter — more specifically, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Hannah Duke, an incoming WHS junior, was selected earlier this year to play the flute and march in the parade as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade band. She applied in January, found out on April 18, and is now focusing part of her summer on learning the band’s music, she said. She was one of about 250 students selected form across the country, she said.
“I was watching the parade last year, and they had a marching band and I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do that,’ and I told my mom about it and said, ‘Do you think I can try out for it?’ She said sure, and then I had to wait until about January until the audition applications cam out,” she said.
She had to prepare a solo that was about four minutes long, post it to YouTube and send in the application. Weeks later, she received a letter stating she’d been selected to march, she said.
“I was shaking. My parents weren’t home at that time, and my sister was in her room whenever I opened it up. I screamed, and she ran out the door, covering her ears,” she said.
Her mother Laurie Duke, the WHS Choir/Musical Theater Accompanist, was ecstatic, but also wondered how the family was going to get her there, she said. The trip is about $1,500, she said.
“My first reaction was, ‘I can’t say no, so we’ve got to figure out a way to get her there,’” Laurie said. “So my mom and my aunt have stepped in and have done a fundraiser for her, and have raised almost all of the money to send her. My mom had free airline miles. Got her flight taken care of, and then they did a garage/bake sale fundraiser and they’ve raised almost all the rest of the money. It’s just been very quick and it happened so fast, and now she’s going to New York, and her daddy and I get to go, too.”
This trip isn’t the first time part of her family has marched in the parade. In 1986, her father marched the streets of New York as part of the Trinity Valley Junior College band.
“It’s really cool that he went and now I get to go,” Hannah said. “It’s really cool that I get to be part of it now, and I get to go to New York and march in this humongous parade that happens. He was excited. His main word is cool, and they’re both very excited because this is a humongous opportunity to get to march in this parade.”
Between now and when she arrives in New York on Nov. 21, six days before the parade, she has to get her binder of music and practice, practice, practice, she said. When she arrives, she and the others will get to see what New York has to offer, including a tour of the city and a Broadway production. But on parade day, she’s anticipating the day to start early — with a 2:30 a.m. practice in front of Macy’s, she said. She and her family will then fly out the day after Thanksgiving.
“We’ll see if I’m ready. We’ll see,” she said, adding this is the first time she’s flown on an airplane. “It’s going to be a long week, but I’m excited for it and I’m just ready for it to get here.”
Hannah, who has only been in the WHS band a year and a half, was also named this year’s Most Outstanding Band Member in her part of the WHS band, concert band one.
“I’m proud of her. I’m proud of her going after that,” said Rich Armstrong, the WHS band director, adding Hannah will help bring discipline, preparedness, solid marching and a level of excellence to the Macy’s marching band as she represents the school district’s name. “I think it’s awesome that she was selected. She tried out for the band and sent in her application. The entire band has played in the parade back in 2000, but I think she’s the first one in a while. Her improvement has been pretty steady and consistent, and we have a really strong flute teacher. So, she’s taking private lessons. There’s also competition in the flute section and that will drive you to get better, wanting to be in one of the higher bands. If a kid is dedicated and driven to be successful, they will do everything they can to continue to move forward.”