‘I was really excited’

Matthew Strother News editor

December 21, 2013

Troup High School junior Peyton White stepped on to one of the world’s largest stages when she performed for a national audience as part of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band in New York on Thanksgiving day.

White was one of about 40 members of the band’s color guard accepted from across the nation. She has been a member of the THS Tigerettes color guard and marching band since her freshman year in 2011. She also has been a part of the THS Winterguard and Dance Team.

White started her path to the band after being part of the fall’s Auburn University Marching Honor Band in September. The honor band’s director, Richard Good, also is director for the Great American Marching Band, and got her interested in applying.

The Great American Marching band has been a staple of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade since 2006, and is organized by Music Festivals and Tours. According to a statement by Music Festivals and Tours president Dennis Rhoads, the Great American Marching band honors “America’s finest high school musicians,” and is “comprised of select students from each of the 50 states.”

To apply, she sent in a recording of a solo competition she performed in, along with two pages of her written achievements and activities. She received the acceptance letter in mid-October.

“I was really excited when I found out,” White said.

She raised about $2,500 to pay a fee for uniforms, as well as accommodations and transportation in New York. The teen, with parents Tonya and Patrick White, set out on the road after school on the Friday before Thanksgiving. They arrived in New York on Saturday, where Peyton White spent time practicing and touring with the 256 members of the full band.

“It wasn’t as much practice as I thought it was going to be, but when we did practice, it was for about half the day,” she said. “… We had to get up about 5 or 6 in the morning. … On the day of, we had to get up about 2 or 3 o’clock to do makeup.”

However it wasn’t all work. While in New York, the group went to see the Broadway show “Matilda,” traveled to Times Square and Rockefeller Center. All those firsts for the Troup County teen led to another first.

“They’ve been doing the Macy’s band for eight years now and this is the first year that we got to open the whole parade,” Peyton White said.

“… They actually opened and closed the parade,” noted Tonya White. “They did the opening performance for the TV and then they jumped in the parade route and they were the ones at the end of the parade who marched Santa in.”

The Troup High student and her fellow Macy’s marching band members jumped on a bus after the opening performance, went back to the end of the parade and then started the 3-mile trek with Santa Claus.

“It was really neat to watch how a director can take so many different kids in a matter of three days, and teach them this routine and it go smoothly,” Patrick White said. “It was amazing.”

Tonya White added: “It was not only a manner of teaching all kids in a short amount of time, but teaching all these kids from different backgrounds and teaching them to come together in unison to work together as a team. It was really something, and the show was really neat.”

Opening and closing the parade for the cameras, White also got some TV time. When she returned from Thanksgiving break, she had some friends recounting how they spotted her on the parade coverage.

“Some of my friends were like, ‘I thought that was you on the TV, but I wasn’t sure,’” White said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, it was me.’”

Much of White’s parents set their DVRs to catch the moment, including her parents, since they were watching from the crowd on the packed New York streets.

“We had to get in line just like the general public did to try and see,” Tonya White said.

For the Southern family, just being in New York was something new.

“New York as a whole was an experience for us, because we actually stayed in New Jersey and commuted through the public transit system on trains and buses back and forth, in and out of the city every day,” Tonya White said. “Being from the South and driving your own car … it was a unique experience.”

Being part of the crowd also brought a new perspective to the family.

“The parade day it was very crowded and very cold – very, very cold,” Tonya White said. “But it was exciting to get to see it. Seeing all the people in the town excited over it.”

About 3 million people attended the parade, Patrick White noted.

“It’s pretty obvious when you get there, because it’s like ants, there are people everywhere,” he said.

Peyton White said she is hoping to do it all again, and encourage some friends to apply as well. Her mother noted that the teen seemed to find her niche when she started performing in the Tigerettes, and has pushed hard, and expects the same from her teammates.

“She just excels at everything she does, and she really has a serious drive for it and she strives for that same dedication in her teammates to take it seriously, and take advantages of opportunities that they have,” Tonya White said.