Rockford Marching Band to Perform at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

The summer camps, hours devoted to practice and discipline required to really gel as one musical unit have paid off for Rockford High School’s marching band.

They’ve beat out more than 200 of the best high school, college, military and specialty bands across the country for the distinction of marching in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They’re the first band from West Michigan to earn the honor and only the third high school band from Michigan to participate since the parade began in 1924.

Barret Johnson marching.
Photo courtesy of Alicia Fetterman.

Barret Johnson, 17, will cap off his senior year by spending a week in New York City with some of his closest friends and performing with the band’s drumline. He started band in 6th grade and estimates he’s spent at least one full year of his life to playing when you factor in the practices, rehearsals, performances and competitions he’s taken part in.

“It’s definitely helped me with time management and work ethic,” he said of his time with the marching band program. Johnson is the son of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employee Alicia Fetterman.

Johnson plans to attend college and said he’s considering majoring in physics or astrophysics. He also might minor in music and would love to perform in a college marching band, with plans to eventually serve as a drum instructor on the side.

“I think that anyone who has an interest in playing any kind of music, they should definitely go for it,” he said.

The Rockford High School Marching Band practicing their formation at band camp.
Photo credit: Alicia Fetterman

Annually, more than 3.5 million spectators and more than 50 million television viewers watch the parade. Melinda Klukas, Rockford High School Marching Band President, anticipates tearing up as she watches her son, Jacob Klukas, march as the baritone section leader.

She’s watched the hard work students put in year after year, practicing to get better every single week they perform – from band camp in the summer to Rockford home football game performances to competitions. Klukas said the students representing the high school have earned the accolades.

“These kids literally live and breathe marching band,” she said.

Beyond their musical talent, Klukas explained that the friendships and character that develops as a result of their time in the band really defines the high school experience for many. As a chaperone for four years, she should know.

“They are the most sincere, respectful, and just dynamic kids,” Klukas said.

The cost to send 310 students to New York City adds up. The band is trying to raise close to a half million dollars and has fundraised in various ways, including a golf outing and selling raffle tickets to win a car donated by a local car dealership. If you’re interested in helping the band reach their destination, they have a website that details all the ways you can contribute.

“I feel like the whole community is trying to support us the best they can because it’s such a huge deal,” Johnson said.

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Photo credit (feature image) Nic McPhee

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