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Alabama A&M will lead bands in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

It will be the first time the historically Black university has performed in the annual parade.
Alabama A&M marching band members play on a field.
The Alabama A&M marching band in Orlando, Fla., in 2014.Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP file

When almost a dozen marching bands make their way through the 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, there will be a sea of maroon and white. That’ll be Alabama A&M’s Marching Maroon and White band. 

Officials selected Alabama A&M to lead the 11 marching bands in the parade, making it the historically Black university’s first band appearance in the event’s almost 100-year history. The university’s Dancin’ Divas will perform with the band, and again in a special performance with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, the university announced.

Carlton Wright, director of the university bands, told USA Today that Alabama A&M applied two years ago. He learned the band had been accepted in February last year and the Marching Maroon and White immediately began fundraising and rehearsing for the New York trip. 

With the big performance coming Thursday, Wright said, it’s “really real now.”

“So, we’re excited about that and a little bit nervous as well. … But once we get started on the first step of the parade; we will be OK,” he told USA Today. He added: “It’s a great reward for our students to be able to attend this parade because they’ve worked hard to raise the funds for the past two years. To end this semester and this marching band season on a high note like this is wonderful.”

The band’s 250 members will travel to the city — some for the first time — for the parade and plan to spend time exploring, AAMU Assistant Vice President Aaron J. Thompson told the New York Amsterdam News. Band officials are not revealing the song selection for the event, but Thompson told the publication that the Marching Maroon and White has a diverse set planned that will appeal to listeners of all ages.

The Alabama A&M University marching band.
The Alabama A&M University marching band in Atlanta on Jan. 15.Paras Griffin / Getty Images file

Some reports have stated that the Marching Maroon and White will lead the entire parade, but a Macy’s official said that is incorrect. Wright clarified to NBC News that the Marching Maroon and White will be the first to appear among the marching bands in the parade but will not be the first performers in the entire parade lineup. 

Excitement over the event has swept through the university community. And the cultural and historical significance of an HBCU leading bands in the parade is not lost on Macy’s officials, either. 

“When it comes to entertaining audiences, no marching, step or dance style delivers like HBCU bands and step groups,” Wesley Whatley, creative producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, told the Amsterdam News.

“Their creative energy and showmanship bring an unmatched energy to the parade. This year, we are thrilled that Alabama A&M University will step into the spotlight and showcase their talent on a national stage for millions of viewers across the country this Thanksgiving.”

Alabama A&M is the latest HBCU band to perform in the parade, with Morgan State University, Hampton University and others representing historically Black schools in prior years. 

“Our Parade has a rich history of featuring performances from talented HBCU marching bands across the country and we are thrilled for Alabama A&M to participate this Thursday,” Macy’s spokesman Ryan Gannon wrote in a statement to NBC News.

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