Pitts-burg! Pitts-burg! Pitts-burg! These echoing sounds of the Pittsburg High School Marching show Band were quite familiar to the ears of their families back in their hometown. Across the country from their home, the “Pride of Pittsburg” marched on during the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I was selected to become drum major the year before. I was very excited to take on the challenge, and be the first drum major to lead the band in their first trip in history to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It also made me very nervous because not only did I felt that if our performance wasn’t up to our bands potential, I would be the one to blame, but also the fact that our band was the only band west of the Mississippi River to be invited to perform. This was soon to be put behind me with the amazing support of all of my friends.
Months before school had even started, the Pittsburg High School Marching Show Band began its march to the streets of New York. We worked once a week on Tuesdays for three hours. From seven to ten, we practiced getting the feel down with the size in band and basic marching fundamentals. Since we still had to prepare for our home games and other parades near our school we weren’t able to practice every day in class. We still had the football season to worry about. Although we weren’t as big as the nine other bands invited by the parade committee which would stack up to about 300 members our sound more than made up for it. Our band only consisted of about 160 members, but another quality we were known for was our volume.
The weeks went by really swiftly. By the time that the actual school year started we had the routine learned, and most of the music. This is because in the middle of the summer, I had a conversation with my music teacher and she asked me about my feelings toward the song we had. She had paid a professional composer to write out a piece for our band. With this being a tremendous amount of money, I was careful with my words to her. In the end, I expressed that the music did not portray a proper image of our band. She then explained to me that she felt the same way, and so she had me listen to a few songs and I chose one in which I was able to easily picture our band performing. The song was entitled “Alive and Amplified” by Mooney Suzuki.
As time went on, the Pittsburg High School Marching Show Band prepared for the annual King Walnut parade. The main goal for this parade was to win the King Walnut, or “the Nut” as the band would like to call it. Winning this award meant that your group had the best overall performance and was considered to be the most entertaining to the crowd. The night was warm, but continued to cool as it went on. Our performance was a medley that I had written out for our band with the help of my director. This medley was formed from the songs “Chariots of Fire” as seen on the Olympics and “Gonna Fly Now” as played by Maynard Ferguson. We had chosen these songs to fit the theme of “Hometown Heroes”. Ours was an Olympic Gold Medalist named Eddie Hart who is from Pittsburg. We ended up putting on an amazing show which had given us high hopes for winning but that still didn’t mean we were safe. All of the bands gathered around a gazebo in wait for the judge’s final decision. Cheers from each different group were shouted across in an effort to be heard; each of them, screaming at the top of their lungs, “We want the Nut! We want the Nut!” Finally, after about an hour or so which seemed like forever to most of us. The judges were finally ready to announce the winners, “This year’s winner for the 2009 King Walnut Award goes to…” as soon as the judges spoke the sounds went silent with anticipation. “The Pittsburg Pirates!” Everyone started screaming “We got the Nut! We got the Nut!” and indeed we did. This meant everything to the band and it was a huge motivation boost for them as we geared our focus towards New York. This was a mark for when the band finally started to become a family.
The next few weeks after the King Walnut Parade would determine if our band was ready to perform in New York. We had to work twice as hard because we had spent all of summer learning a song only to scrap it and have to learn a new one. Everyone was upset about it, but agreed that the new song fit our band better as a group.We continued to practice hard as we could as the trip neared.
Once we were finally in New York thanks to all of our supporters back in our hometown and respected neighboring cities, practice did not end. We continued running our routine over and over on top of a parking garage until about 10:00 at night. The sounds of Pittsburg filled the city and soon they realized that we were there. As we would march on top of the parking garage our steps were so in sync, each one would cause the building to shake. Our hard work had been paying off.
On the morning of Thanksgiving Day we had an early wake-up call for a run through of the parade. By 1:00 a.m. we were on our buses but were soon back asleep until we arrived to the parade route. The parade rehearsal got the entire band’s adrenaline going. Just hearing how our band sounded and how much it improved was encouragement enough. Everyone was so excited that they couldn’t stop talking about it at our 6:00 breakfast.
Time went by slow as our desire to perform grew stronger. Finally, the hours had gone by and it was time to line up, and prepare to step off. The cheers from the millions of pedestrians, viewing the parade from the sidewalk, didn’t phase the band as our sounds filled the city. The crowd’s hollers were overwhelmed with the resonating sound of the trombones, the flowing harmonies of the woodwinds, and the melodic counterpart from the trumpets. The booming bass drum was in perfect rhythm with its complimentary snare while the groove of the sousaphones bounced on to the beat. The adrenaline had hit so hard that everything into slow-motion. The intensity of the band was at full potential. The sounds of the Pittsburg Pirates Marching Show Band had swarmed in like a rolling thunder. When our performance was over a “shell-shocked” silence hit my ears and after it cleared all that was heard was the roars of the crowd screaming our hometowns name “Pittsburg! Pittsburg! Pittsburg!” This was when my heart sank inside of me. I was ecstatic. The joy of everyone’s excitement led me to believe that we had truly put on an amazing show.
As I stood there on the center of the Macy’s Star I couldn’t help but to think back on our incredible journey to New York. All of the onerous work we put in resulted in an astonishing performance. They would remember the little town known as Pittsburg.