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Macy’s Marching Orders
Whitefish students selected to perform in Macy’s Thanksgiving parade
RIGHT: Freshman Sarah Bonnington plays the baritone saxophone during band rehearsal. LEFT: Sophomore Thomas Henson laughs while talking over a part with a fellow percussionist during practice at Whitefish High School. Henson and Bonnington are performing in this year's Macy's Day Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
People are often told to march to the beat of their own drum, to branch out and express themselves. Two Whitefish High School students are about to take this advice literally, and in a big way.

While they play their instruments, sophomore percussionist Thomas Henson and freshman saxophonist Sarah Bonnington will be marching with about 200 other musicians from across the country in the 85th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City on Nov. 24.

Bonnington and Henson will join their peers in the Great American Marching Band as they march into Herald Square during the iconic parade, which is expected to be watched by roughly 2.5 million audience members on the parade route and 50 million more tuning in to the NBC broadcast.

The Whitefish High band director, Mark McCrady, said the musical duo were a bit of a late addition to the massive marching band, accepted as the deadline for applications drew near.

The nationwide effort to select students for the band began over a year ago, giving musicians from 14,000 schools a chance to audition. McCrady said he received an email informing him that several Western states had not sent any audition tapes.

McCrady gave his band students the information and asked if any of them would like to head to New York to play for the country on Thanksgiving.

“Both of these students stepped up and said, ‘I would love to do that,’” McCrady said after band practice at the high school last week.

Henson said he had been rehearsing over the summer and sent an audition tape in to the program. As a percussionist, Henson plays more than just a drum set, with a range that includes various cymbals, xylophones and other rhythmic instruments.

He is unsure what his part will be in the parade, but said he is excited for three main reasons: “Getting to go to New York, missing school and being on TV.”

As a sophomore, 15-year-old Henson has been playing percussion since middle school. He said he is a little nervous for the parade, though he is looking forward to getting back to the state where he was born. His family will accompany him on the trip, he said.

“I’m really excited to go, it should be a lot of fun,” Henson said after ta percussion section practice.

Bonnington, a 14-year-old freshman, noted that while she has played her saxophone in a parade before – specifically during Whitefish’s Winter Carnival – the Macy’s parade would offer a few brand new experiences.

“I’ve never been in a marching band before,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played with that many people before.”

Bonnington said she will play the alto sax during the band’s rendition of “Disco Inferno” and a song commissioned specifically for this event.

While she’s been to New York before, Bonnington said she and Henson would get the opportunity to tour the city with the other marching band members after they have practices in the mornings.

McCrady said the Great American Marching Band is a musical machine, with precise, straight lines and flawless uniforms. There are very high standards, he said.

“It’ll be great for them, really eye opening,” he said.

The musicians will be under the direction of Richard Good, director of bands at Auburn University, and Jon Woods of Ohio State University. They will perform with 50 choreographed flag performers and dancers, as well as the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps of Pennsylvania.

The students will have four days of rehearsals, and will also attend a leadership and educational workshop.

McCrady said he is working with Henson and Bonnington to prepare them for the event and looks forward to watching them on television on Thanksgiving morning.

“I know these students will do a great job and make us proud,” McCrady said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the students’ trip to New York can contact Mark McCrady at 406-862-8600, extension 420.
On 10-24-11, ICallB.S. commented....
Congratulations to both students!  Look everyone! Something good has happened in the Flathead Valley!!!
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