Naperville C. drum major to lead Macy's parade
Alex Reeder has spent more than enough family Thanksgivings sitting at the kids table.
So this year, the Naperville Central High School senior has made alternate plans to play with the big boys. Reeder arrived Saturday in New York City to perform his duties as one of two drum majors to lead Macy's Great American Band in the 84th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's his first time in the Big Apple and he plans to enjoy it.
"I love my family, but every year we go to Minnesota and do the same thing and they all kind of baby me," he said. "This year I have real responsibilities on a huge stage, so I'm hoping to take this trip and use it as another step toward being an adult and making them proud of me."
Reeder was selected to lead the band after catching the eye of Eastern Illinois University's Acting Band Director Barry Houser while attending the Smith Walbridge Drum Major Camp this summer. Houser is co-director of the camp.
Reeder said he worked hard in camp every day but was still surprised to learn he had been selected.
"When I read the e-mail, it was one of the few times I've been speechless," he said. "I've only been conducting for two years, so I wasn't aware such an opportunity even existed until I was asked."
Now he'll just be able to add it to his already impressive list of accolades.
Reeder is the top trumpet player in the most advanced level of the school's three jazz bands, top trumpet in the highest level of the school's four concert bands and the lead trumpet in the extracurricular band. He also uses some of his lunch hours to sing in vocal ensembles, plays in ensembles at his church and participates in a youth group that performs for senior citizens in retirement communities.
Naperville Central Band Director D.J. Alstadt wasn't surprised Reeder got the nod, calling him a great leader.
"Alex is a hard working young man and I am so proud of him and the community rallying around him," Alstadt said.
The community has stepped forward to help Reeder raise the $2,500 cost of the trip, including the Naperville Rotary, which contributed $400 on top of the $550 Reeder made this summer hosting a car wash. Local businesses and anonymous donors also have chipped in to cover his costs.
"Everyone has been so supportive and awesome in helping me get to New York and that's only made the honor feel that much more special," Reeder said. "People are really excited for me to have the opportunity."
Reeder expected a whirlwind of activities once he got to New York.
"Within minutes of checking in at the hotel I have to get fitted for my uniform and familiarize myself with all the music so I can lead the rehearsals," he said. "As the drum major, I'll be the one giving signal commands and visual effects while also keeping the time."
All that leads up to Reeder's alarm going off at 2 a.m. on Thursday for final preparations on parade day.
"Everyone at home is asking me what I'll do so they know I'm saying hello," Reeder said. "Some want a wave, others want a wink or something like that, but the procedure is to salute as we walk past the cameras and judging stand. I won't actually be on TV that long."
But likely long enough to earn him a seat at the adult table next year.