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This Wisconsin high school band prepared for over a year to march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

High school students play brass instruments on a football field. They are arranged in two rows. The front row kneels on one foot and the back row stands behind them.
Brian Gregg
The Greendale Marching Band rehearses for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Greendale High School Marching Band will represent Wisconsin in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Greendale is one of six high school bands that were chosen out of about 150 applicants from around the country.

The students have been rehearsing for the parade for a year and half, in between pep rallies and football games. Last week, the Greendale Marching Band was walking laps around the high school track for two-and-a-half miles. That is how long the students will be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

As they march, the students practice turning in a line formation while waving to a cheering audience. For now, they wave to their band directors sitting in the bleachers, but soon enough, they’ll be on television, performing for an audience of millions.

Kennedy Kapocius, a member of the band’s dance line, first learned that she would be marching in the Macy’s Parade as a sophomore. Now as a senior, it is almost time to show off the hard work she and her peers have put into preparing for their Thanksgiving performance.

A group of high school students hold musical instruments and march in a block formation on a football field.
Brian Gregg
The Greendale Marching Band practices marching in a lined formation ahead of their New York City appearance.

"It's been a lot of work. We practice every Tuesday and our dance line does practice almost every Thursday," Kapocius says. "We've had a lot of changes over the past couple of weeks, so it's been a lot of readjusting and adjusting and practicing everything. It's been a lot, but it's been really, really fun."

Band director Tom Reifenberg says getting the students ready for the Macy’s parade is different than preparing for regular marching competitions.

Throughout the season, you're constantly tweaking things and making improvements and adjustments, but for Macy's, it's spending all that time preparing, knowing that you get one chance to do your absolute best. 

The Greendale High School Marching Band is known across the state. The band has won 18 consecutive state championships. They even performed in the Macy’s parade before, in 2016. Here’s why Reifenberg thinks his band stands out.

A group of high school students dance on a marching band field. One of them stands in the center of a block formation, and they are wearing a crown.
Brian Gregg
Greendale Marching Band's dance line performs as the band plays "I Can't Wait to Be King" from The Lion King.

"What we do well is that it's that entertainment factor," Reifenberg says, "I think that we appeal to a wide variety of audience types, so anybody watching at home will like what they see, hopefully."

When his students marched in the Macy’s parade in 2016, they played “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake and a medley of songs from the musical Mary Poppins. The marching band will play “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede on their parade route. For their star performance on television, the band will play “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” from The Lion King.

Reifenberg says he wanted to choose music that was fun and relatable.

"Everyone loves The Lion King," Reifenberg says. "Whether you're young and kids know it or whether you're a little bit older, you might have grown up with Lion King. It's something that will relate to everybody."

As a fan of the Thanksgiving Day Parade herself, student Kennedy Kapocius is excited to be on the other side, performing in front of a national audience.

"I love the Macy's Day Parade. It's a really big tradition in my family to watch it every morning on Thanksgiving," Kapocius says. "I am super excited. It's a lot of our first times going to New York City, so I'm really excited to just experience the city with all my best friends and really enjoy Thanksgiving Day with the band." 

If you just can’t wait to see the Greendale Band march in New York City, you can tune in to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC this Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Nadya Kelly is WUWM's sixth Eric Von fellow.
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