COLUMBIA — Two Columbia high school students have something special to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday. Shaun Gladney and Philip Leak were chosen to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as members of the Macy's Great American Marching Band.
The two started their band careers together at Oakland Junior High School. They went to different high schools, but have continued to follow each others' band careers.
Gladney, Rock Bridge High School sophomore, was selected to play the quints — or tenor percussion — for the national band. Leak, Hickman High School sophomore, was selected to play sousaphone.
With selection comes a trip to New York City, new uniforms, new music and a chance for band students across the country to become a part of one band.
"The experience has been great, extremely tiring and a lot of hard work," Gladney said. "We have a limited time to get ready and get everything perfect, and we are expected to be at an extremely high level."
The young musicians are given the chance to see the sights of New York City but not without at a high price. Everyday they wake early and rehearse long hours.
The itinerary includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and Times Square. The musicians also get to watch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.
The Macy's Great American Marching Band will lead the parade in front of an estimated 2.5 million viewers on national television. The group is directed by Dr. Richard Good of Auburn University and Dr. Jon Woods of Ohio State University. The band is accompanied by 50 flags and dancers.
Gladney has been in the band program since the sixth grade. He said he wants to make music a part of his life. "I would like to go to college and major in percussion performance as well as English and education — primarily music education," he said.
He has his own online business that helped him raise money for the trip. According to the Web site, F5Percussion was built on creating music for "today's percussion composers, educators, performers and all who support them."
Gladney said he would like to teach high school music one day, but his ultimate dream is "to be a percussionist in an orchestra that does the soundtrack music for movies."
Viewers can watch both teens march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live at 9 a.m. on NBC.