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Mercer Island HS marching band to appear in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

It’s not yet Halloween, but the Mercer Island High School marching band is already thinking about Thanksgiving.

That’s because the band is marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Joe McCormick is a senior and plays trombone. For him, the preparation started in April when the band was selected for the parade.

“I started to mentally try to prepare myself,” said McCormick.

For drum major Elena Lill, the selection is the culmination of a fairly long journey.

“The band is finally getting the opportunity to show the hard work that we’ve put in,” she said.

Wednesday morning is a late start day for Mercer Island High School, but the band was out early for KIRO 7 to take in a rehearsal and practice. Parker Bixby is a co-director of the MIHS Marching Band and says that he has been hard at work ever since the announcement months ago.

“Energy and enthusiasm turned into organization and turned into rehearsal,” said Bixby.

For the band, it’s crunch time rehearsing for the school’s first-ever appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

MIHS is one of only six high school bands performing in the parade and only the second from Washington state ever.

Drum majors Sol Park and Elena Lill are focusing on inspiration and preparation. Park says the work by them to get the band in the right spots will be critical.

“We always have a high intensity. We always want to be excellent,” said Lill.

Lill also says that the band has evolved through the tough times in the last few years only to see the work pay off in a way few of them would have expected.

“We started our freshman year with COVID and the band kind of had a slow start, but we’ve been ramping up,” Lill said.

Claire Ryu plays piccolo and is part of the flute section. She says the gravity of being in America’s biggest parade is hitting home for her and her bandmates.

“Even though it’s a month away, it’s still kind of loose in our minds. Is this really real?,” said Ryu.

Ryu knows that in late November in New York, the weather can be unpredictable. It’s one reason why she’s glad that the high school has new uniforms and gloves that could help the band in the wintry northeast weather.

Director Bixby also says the Mercer Island HS Marching band practices outside and often does it in bad weather on purpose to get the experience.

Tewodros Sanchez-alemu plays Trumpet and simply considers the band’s selection as an honor not just for Mercer Island but for the entire region, but mostly it’s a huge honor for the band.

“It’s also kind of like a celebration of what we’ve done as a band,” said Sanchez-alemu.

The band is not just playing on Thanksgiving but is also playing in Central Park on Inflation Eve, the day before Thanksgiving, nicknamed for the day when they blow up the Thanksgiving balloons.

Erika Sutkus on drums admits seeing the actual balloons blown up would be neat.

“I want to see the inflation! I’m genuinely curious how they do it, I don’t understand and I want to see it,” Sutkus said.

The band found out it would be marching in April and has prepared ever since. The band members who spoke to us say they’ve never been to the parade, and they guess a majority of the hundreds of students that make up the band have not been to the parade either.

Ryu knows that the practice for the last few months will pay off.

“In the end, it’s all about grit and making sure you pull through and produce the best product you can,” Ryu said.

Director Bixby also knows that in the end it’s also meant to be fun for the band and any of the millions that will be watching.

“We want to bring energy, fun, and excitement; we dance, we play popular music and we try to make sure we leave everybody smiling,” Bixby said.