Out of about 100 bands competing from around the world for a spot to be in the 2022 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the University of Missouri marching band has been chosen to help kick off the holiday season. Marching Mizzou will dazzle a festive crowd during the 96th annual parade to 34th street in New York City. So will the giant helium balloons, colorful floats, and of course, the big guy in red.

Marching Mizzou (Photo courtesy of Dr. Amy Knopps)

The selection process is highly competitive. Marching Mizzou is one of nine bands that will make the march beyond Macy’s Herald Square. Only three university-level bands were chosen. The rest are high school and cultural bands.

Marching Mizzou Director, Dr. Amy Knopps, was on cloud nine about the announcement. During an interview with Missourinet, her energy was contagious as she smiled from ear to ear the entire time.

“I’m so proud of our students for their hard work and dedication. They didn’t know that this was a goal of mine, but now they do,” Knopps chuckles. “I know for them this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They’re going to look back on this memory and have the opportunity to tell their friends and family, ‘Remember when we marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.’ My heart just bursts because they are going to make so many memories.”

The selection process involves a Macy’s committee reviewing video of field performances submitted by each band. Knopps, a Mizzou alumna, entered a video of the band’s field show celebrating the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup win. The drums were wrapped in blue and gold. Special drumheads had the Stanley Cup logo. Members were positioned in the shape of the Stanley Cup and a Stanley Cup banner was proudly stretched across the field. Two Blues players even joined the band on the field.

“That got the attention of national media, the NHL, NBC Sports,” says Knopps. “They were generating that national media and I thought, ‘We’ve made two really good splashes this year. I’m going to submit this media package.’ I just knew that level of musical and marching execution was finally there to hopefully get the attention of the parade committee.”

Wesley Whatley, the creative director at Macy’s, tells Missourinet Marching Mizzou’s vision is what has landed members in the historic parade.

“We want to see that there’s a vision and that it’s carried through in every detail,” says Whatley. “It’s not just a musical arrangement – it’s in the design. It’s inviting the players. It’s doing it in the drill. Those are the kind of creative sort of ideas that really land well in the Macy’s parade.”

Whatley knows a thing or two about band performances. He joined the Macy’s team in 2003 and has 18 parades under his belt so far.

The parade began in 1924. It has been held every year except for a couple during World War II. The event is approaching its century mark at the same time Marching Mizzou will celebrate its 137th season.

“We want to be a part of that evolution of the band program,” says Whatley. “We just hope that the parade is another step on a long journey for you, Dr. Knopps.”

Whately says committee members have had their eyes on the Tigers for a while.

“A band program is greatly influenced by leadership. We saw Dr. Knopps join the program. We know her pedigree. We know where she comes from. We knew that she was coming into this program to invest in it and to improve it,” says Whatley.

He says the band will get to experience all that New York has to offer during the holidays.

“It’s an experience unlike anything. I think at the high school age level to get to come to New York, to see a Broadway show, go to a museum, it could potentially inspire these kids to study music in college, pursue a career in this field. We like to keep the backbone of our program in the high school age range, but I have to be honest, college programs are so exciting on our route. So, we always want to save room for colleges. That’s a special age because they are mature musicians. They’ve had that high school experience. They’re studying in college. They know how to play. They know how to entertain,” he says.

Both Whatley and Knopps expect extra interest in the band program after this announcement.

“As you can imagine, when an opportunity like this is on the horizon, a lot of students decide to join the band or they might decide to stay if they were thinking about leaving. I hope that Dr. Knopps benefits from the value of an invitation like this,” says Whatley.

“This is a great recruitment for us. Our work has begun on this performance and this trip. Every moment and every aspect of what we do is with that goal in mind to have an impactful performance on 34th street,” says Knopps. “We may get up to 400 by the time we are over!”

Knopps, who has been in her position since 2017, says her parade dream would be to have the band perform to the music of American rocker Sheryl Crow – a University of Missouri graduate and native of southeast Missouri’s Kennett. The icing on top of the cake would be if Crow joins her alma mater for the performance.

The parade has not had an artist/band collaboration before. Whatley says he loves the idea.

The band is no stranger to Sheryl Crow’s music. Last fall, the Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter was inducted into the University of Missouri Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame. Marching Mizzou played a part in recognizing Crow that day by performing her 2002 hit “Soak Up The Sun” and spelling Crow on its practice field.

The 300-member strong band plans to roll out its fundraising efforts today for the trip to the Big Apple. Macy’s has donated $10,000 for the cause.

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