Prospect High Marching Knights strut their stuff in New York
Prospect band struts its stuff in NYC
The Prospect Marching Knights were more than ready for their global close-up at the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.
Before an estimated TV audience of 50 million people, the marching band from Prospect High School had two major appearances before the cameras.
Celebrities and Muppets were involved, too.
The Marching Knights shimmied and jived to a performance of "Twist and Shout" by the Muppet band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem at the start of the broadcast. Then the Knights had pride of marching behind a float with 90-year-old crooner Tony Bennett and Miss Piggy, and in front of the concluding tableaux featuring Santa Claus.
"It was exhilarating," said 17-year-old Knights co-drum major Maggie Ward of Mount Prospect. "And it was interesting to see how the Muppets worked and being able to dance with them."
The Knights previously marched in the parade in 1992 and 2002 under then-director Dave Morrison. Current band director Chris Barnum said called his first time appearing in the parade "a neat and surreal experience."
"The parade ends downtown in Herald Square which is just outside of the Macy's store, so we were there to film the opening while the parade was simultaneously starting uptown near Central Park West," Barnum said. "We then hopped in our buses and drove up to march in the parade."
The Knights welcomed the arrival Old St. Nick by performing "Buddy and Santa's Flight" from John Debney's 2003 "Elf" film score. Barnum suspects this musical choice might have been what helped the Knights to get their prime parade spot.
This year's Bob Hope Band Scholarship recipient happened to be 17-year-old Knights co-drum major Hannah Thornton of Mount Prospect. She got her own close-up plus shoutouts from parade hosts Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie.
"You fill out this big, five-page questionnaire, actually -- all sorts of things about your travel and your fundraising and your school and your community," Barnum said. "You give them tons of information, but you have no idea what it will be that they actually talk about."
The Knights were featured for a few minutes on TV during their 90-minute march. They also got to perform the Chicago song "Make Me Smile" and a "Jingle Bell Jam" arrangement along the two-mile parade route that included more than 3 million people.
"It didn't seem that long," said 17-year-old Knights co-drum major Sophie Speedy of Arlington Heights. "I couldn't stop smiling. With all the buildup to the moment, I tried to experience all of it."
The 190 Knights, their 28 chaperones and 200 parents have been in the New York area since Monday. They opted to stay in a hotel in New Jersey to save on expenses to they could do more touristy things such as seeing Broadway shows and visiting important sites like the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
"We've really tried to expose these kids to as much of New York as we could," Barnum said. "For a lot of these kids, it's their first time in New York City, so it's a really neat aspect of a trip like this."
The Knights' trip has been a long time coming, since they had to apply in fall 2014 and they didn't find out they were going until the following spring. But with so much fundraising, planning and rehearsals to do, the 18 months of notice were valuable.
"The students, they're over the moon. They did such a tremendous job, and, to be honest, we worked very, very hard to prepare," Barnum said. "So to be done with it is sort of strange. In a blink of an eye, it's done."