Marching Illini selected to perform in the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Members of the Marching Illini pose for pictures with Barry Houser, Marching Illini director (center left), and Wesley Whatley, creative director of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (center right). 

By Bryan Boccelli

The Marching Illini will be traveling to New York City come November 2015 as one of four collegiate bands chosen to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Parade coordinators chose 10 marching bands to perform at the annual parade out of a list of over 175 applications sent in by bands from across the country.

Eager students, many of them members of the Marching Illini, filled the Harding Band Building Friday morning, awaiting the news that Band Director Barry Houser had been keeping under lock and key for weeks now. Accompanying him were Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Wesley Whatley, creative director of the parade.

“The suspense has been growing for a while,” Houser said.

Whatley made the announcement upon presenting the Marching Illini with a drumhead to commemorate the accomplishment.

“It gives me great pride, and it is with great pleasure to finally share this news,” Whatley said. “The University of Illinois Marching Illini have been selected to represent this University, represent the great state of Illinois and perform in New York City in the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

In a statement from Macy’s, Whatley said the selection committee looks to recognize bands that have a kind of stage presence that can captivate national audiences.

“It’s my job to look across the country and identify schools that are the finest in the country — certainly the finest in what they do — and more specifically music programs,” Whatley said, adding that, in his professional opinion, the University is one of the finest.

Houser told the audience that although he knows many Marching Illini members will have graduated by that time, he hopes they can join them by physically being there to cheer among the 3.5 million people attending the parade or by watching live through national broadcast.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity to spotlight the wonderful students that you are, the great university that we have here at the University of Illinois … the School of Music within the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and we’ve had some wonderful things and wonderful support from this University,” Houser said.

As he handed the microphone over to Chancellor Wise, Houser thanked his students for all the hard work they put into the Marching Illini.

As a native of New York City, Wise spoke of her fondness for the parade and reminisced over having gone to the parade every year as a child.

“I haven’t been back since,” Wise said. “But I’ll be there next year.”

As the event came to a close, Whatley wanted to end it in a celebratory fashion. Everyone in the audience was given confetti and it was thrown around the auditorium in celebration.

As the confetti flew through the room everyone shouted the phrase that begins the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade year after year: “Let’s have a parade!”

Bryan can be reached at [email protected]