50 million expected to see Purdue Band in 2010 Macy's Parade

October 27, 2010

(From left) Drum majors Aurie Swartz, Cherrie Lemon and Rich Marzullo will lead the the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band when it participates in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in November. (Purdue University Bands photo)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Behind the flashy 75 seconds the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band will share with the world through the lenses of NBC cameras at the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, lies years of anticipation and months of hard work. 

Every second of this special show opportunity - only 10 bands from 300 applicants are chosen each year - is highly choreographed and practiced to perfection.

Exact details of the show remain a secret until the big day, but you can expect the Big Bass Drum to spin on top of the bright red Macy's star painted on the street outside their flagship store. You can expect the vibrant flags of the Golden Silks to be interspersed with the musicians to add color everywhere. And you can expect the Golduster dancers to add glitter to the edges and to raise their legs in a kick line reminiscent of those seen at Radio City Music Hall.

"This is an opportunity to be a part of a great American tradition," says assistant marching band director Max Jones, who's traveled this parade route six times in the past with other institutions. "It fits with our rich traditions and where we are in our history as we approach 125 years of bands at Purdue in 2011." 

Only in the past five years has Macy's opened it application process to college bands, and Purdue is the first in the Big Ten to receive an invitation. Each band accepted not only entertains throughout the entire 2.65 mile parade starting at Central Park West, but they get the rare opportunity to perform a special show when the cameras are solely trained on them with no commercial interruptions. 

"Macy's is the parade showcasing American marching bands. No one else offers this opportunity," Jones says.

To snag this coveted spot, Purdue Bands submitted an elaborate press kit with its application that emphasized the band's rich history and included letters of recommendation from other Big Ten band directors and video footage of past performances. Later, officials had to submit specific drill charts outlining the special parade show they'll do in front of the Macy's store.

At every step, Macy's officials expressed excitement. 

"They liked what they saw, and now we're trying to make what they saw happen," Jones says.

He's guided bands from both Winchester and Concord high schools through the Macy's parade experience and knows how hard and awesome it is.

"The steps that Macy's goes through to give you a wonderful experience is unparalleled," Jones says. 

Macy's also likes to heighten the anticipation for parade day, asking all participating bands to keep their main parade tunes secret and not release any videos of their show practice.

However, Purdue fans lining the route that winds through the heart of Manhattan and Times Square, along with all those watching on TV, will see a lot of things familiar to them. The horn moves, swagger steps, twirls and other antics the band regularly includes in their parade marching on campus will entertain crowds estimated as 3.5 million on the streets and 50 million more around the world through television.  

"We entertain all the way up and down the street, and that's one of our strengths. It sets us apart from other bands," Jones says.

He can reveal one song on the play list that's guaranteed to make fans and alums smile: "Hail Purdue!"

TV viewers get a bonus those on the street don't get. The special show each band does in front of the Macy's store can only be seen on TV. Streets immediately around the performance stage are blocked off. Not even parents can talk their way into this area.

For the band, the weeks preceding the parade will be spent polishing every detail of the 75 seconds they get in front of the camera. There's no room for mistakes. 

"This is not a hit-or-miss situation. Macy's wants a home run every time," Jones says. 

In the long run, the payoffs are huge in terms of memories for everyone involved and the positive world-wide exposure those precious seconds bring to Purdue University. 

"There's no way you could afford to buy that much time at such a high-profile television event," Jones says. "This is priceless."

Source: Kathryn Matter, Purdue Bands public relations, 765-496-6785, kcmatter@purdue.edu

Related websites:
Frequently asked questions and information about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Note to Journalists: The Purdue Band's trip itinerary is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/2010/101027BandsSked.pdf