Northwest alumni march in Macy’s Parade

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Photo by Kelby Shouse

The Believe sign outside of Macy's in New York City. This is what POTM's show was based off of.

Five Northwest alumni had the chance to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the Western Carolina University marching band, also known as the Pride of the Mountains marching band, or POTM for short. 

For junior Charles Cornelius, a sousaphone player, the transition from Northwest’s marching band to POTM was seamless. 

“I had a lot of vets to help me get up to speed,” Cornelius said. 

The transition for freshman Collin Tastet, who played cymbals in the parade, was different. 

“It was definitely a change in scenery moving to a band with 500 plus members. That many performers can create a lot of energy,” Tastet said.

The five Northwest alumni who marched in the Macy’s Parade. (left to right) Drew Manry, Collin Flick, Daygan Shouse, Colin Tastet, and Charles Cornelius.

In comparison, Northwest’s band has around 140 members. The foundation that Northwest’s program created did help both musicians when they auditioned for POTM. 

“Northwest’s emphasis on technique is probably what got me into POTM. I’ve gotten comments from all of the groups I’ve been a part of for the past year about how I have a solid foundation of technique,” Tastet said. 

Northwest’s band size of about 140 has allowed each member to get personalized help for things they struggle with whether it’s music, marching or anything in between.

“It’s great to be in such a large band, but having 100 plus people makes it much better to get to know the band. At the time when I graduated, I was able to know most of the people in the band. Now in my 3 years in POTM, it’s been much harder to meet and get to know all of the (members of the) band,” Cornelius said. 

Northwest’s personal experience is something that is unique to bands of its size.

“I definitely miss my friends from all of my years of marching, and the competition days every weekend. I definitely started missing things (more) once winter percussion ensemble ended,” Tastet said. 

POTM has many great opportunities for its members. It is tryout based, and there are a specific number of instruments for each section. Around 100 people were cut from the audition. This year was even more rigorous because the people who were accepted in the program were able to march in the Macy’s Parade. The show’s theme “Believe” was based on the sign outside of Macy’s.

The first few balloons of the parade are Macy’s stars. POTM did not perform until the end of the parade.

Marching in the parade had one emotion throughout the band. Excitement.

“I was excited for the parade, especially after seeing the crowd. I’ve performed enough to where crowds don’t really mess with me, they encourage me (now),” Tastet said.

The parade did have its bad moments though. One of the worst parts was the cold temperature that day.

“The wind made it much harder to pack instruments back into cases, along with making it feel a tad colder than it actually was,” Cornelius said.

Another downside was the distance the band had to walk. 

“At the very end of the parade, everyone is tired and super sore,” Tastet said. “You have to really push yourself to get through it, because it’s a performance you don’t want to mess up.”

The parade had a plus side too.

“The best part was getting done performing and seeing all of us happy, and seeing our director celebrating as we walked off,” Cornelius said.

The crowd that day was around 3.5 million people.

“It was awesome to have such a huge crowd on every block of the parade. Every inch of the sidewalks was packed,” Tastet said. 

Representing Northwest and Western Carolina University was one of the biggest jobs for these alumni.

“It was a great honor to be in the parade, and to represent the state of North Carolina, along with other organizations I’ve been a part of in the past,” Cornelius said. 

Even to those who were in the parade, the adrenaline hasn’t gone away quite yet.

“I’m slowly realizing how big of a deal the parade was because the performance blew by insanely fast,” Tastet said.