Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade definitely is a draw for people in Verona. Ann Gault volunteered as a balloon handler last year, realizing a life-long dream, and we know of several families that wake up very early every Thanksgiving to get to Manhattan for the best viewing spot.
Natalie Wertz saw the parade from a much different perspective this year. Wertz, a freshman who plays in the flute section of Verona High School’s Marching Maroon & White, was one of the 200 high school students from around the U.S. chosen for the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. She had seen the band perform in 2009, while seeing the parade live with her family. But it was only later, while watching the parade on DVR, that she learned that she could audition to be part of it herself. And that’s exactly what she did.
Several months ago, Wertz got the application from the Macy’s band’s Web site and submitted a five-minute audition CD. The odds were not in her favor: Despite the stiff cost of participation ($1,389 per student plus transportation to NYC), hundreds of students apply. The band picks only a certain number of musicians per state and the flute/piccolo section is one of the first to fill.
Things only got harder after she was picked. Band members checked in to the Woodcliff Lake Hilton on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and drilled at both the hotel and the Teaneck Soccer Coliseum. There were rewards, too, like New York City sightseeing and a new perspective on marching bands in America. “She got to meet kids from all over the country,” says Natalie’s father, Rich Wertz, a math and computer science teacher at Verona High School. “Her three roommates were from Alabama, Michigan and Louisiana.”
Band members had a 1 a.m. wake-up call on Thanksgiving morning so that they could be on 34th street at 3 a.m. for a rehearsal. After a 4:45 a.m. breakfast, they lined up for the parade and waited to step off–a long wait, since the band accompanied Santa this year, which meant it was the last band to march in the parade.
And Natalie Wertz wouldn’t have traded a minute of it.
(Photo courtesy Rich Wertz.)