Marching Captains step off in Chicago

CNU’s marching band filled feature performance role in Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

Instead of going home for the holidays, the Marching Captains traveled to Chicago to march in the 2019 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade. 

Not only was this performance the first nationally televised performance in the history of the Marching Captains, the parade had the biggest audience to date with over 400 thousand people lining the streets and 3.5 million people watching on television and live stream, according to John Lopez, Director of CNU Bands.

As the feature of the parade, the Marching Captains, 228 members strong, were the last band to march and had the task of introducing Santa in the parade. 

Lopez called this the most “coveted place for a band” because of the excitement Santa brings in and the prestige of ending the parade. 

The Marching Captains stepped off shortly after 10 a.m. CT, and they appeared on the television and livestream at approximately 10:45 a.m. CT. 

Before this, they were on deck at the start of the parade waiting with other bands and performers. While there was approximately an hour and a half wait, it allowed students to interact with other students and organizations. 

Sophomore Sarah Hatcher recounts a special moment with the local Punjabi community float. 

“They came by and started dancing and singing with the band, and it was one of the coolest experiences ever, to have a wonderful stranger come up to us and treat us like she had known us for years,” she said.

During the parade, the members felt varying degrees of emotions. Sophomore Allan Taylor said, “I was nervous at first, especially since our practices had been a little rough, but as soon as we started the parade, my nervousness evaporated. We were playing and marching very well, and the crowds were really loving us.” 

Hatcher said, “I wasn’t super nervous performing in the parade until we got to the televised section and I noticed all the people in the crowd.” 

One of the other biggest emotions present in the Marching Captains was pride. 

Junior Emmylou Kidder expressed how much fun it was to perform in the parade because “the crowds were really energetic and were dancing along to our music,” she said. 

Senior Dana Shaw echoed this sentiment when she expressed, “I loved seeing the kids and parents’ faces light up when we started playing.” 

This pride was echoed in the attitude of Lopez, who said, “I always love seeing the students’ faces when they first see all of those people and all of those buildings and the awe factor. For a lot of students it’s their first huge performance like that. 

The vast majority have not done this before, and it doesn’t really hit you until you’re in the moment and you see all the people and the television cameras.”

One big challenge the band had to face during the parade was the cold and the wind. 

Shaw said that “Before we started marching, I wasn’t really nervous because I was focusing on how cold my body was. Once we started performing, I forgot about the cold, and it was cool to see all of the families out enjoying the parade.” Hatcher agreed with Shaw and said that for her, “the most difficult part was trying to keep my fingertips warm.”

Their song repertoire for the event consisted of the rotation of CNU’s “Fight Song,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Anchors Aweigh” and “Burlesque.” Each song had designated visuals coordinated by individual sections.

In addition to being the parade feature, the Marching Captains were the feature of the parade Gala the night before where they played for 1500 dignitaries, which consisted of the parade sponsors, the people who run the parade and all of the high school band students.  

Their standstill show consisted of the songs they played for the parade and songs such as “Runaway Baby,” “Down and Dirty,” “Believer” and “Separate Ways.”

When they were not performing for crowds, the Marching Captains had the opportunity to watch the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” dine at both Gino’s Pizza East and Rainforest Cafe, visit the Skydeck at Willis Tower and shop at the Magnificent Mile. 

They spent their Thanksgiving dinner together on the Spirit of Chicago dinner cruise sailing down Lake Michigan. Students were also able to visit various museums, aquariums, monuments and parks in their free time.  

In addition to the parade, Lopez most looked forward to the dinner cruise with the Marching Captains. “I think that will be nice to be on a boat going down the river having Thanksgiving dinner and breaking bread with the band. Things like a meal in Chicago after our biggest performance we’ve ever had, I think will be pretty special,” he said.

When asked what sets the Marching Captains apart from other bands, Lopez said, “It’s the development of the individual members of the band. Part of what we try to do is to not only challenge the most experienced players, but we try to develop the ones who are less experienced. We try to develop them not into only good band members, but good people and good contributors to the organization and into good leaders.” 

He continued, “A lot of college bands of our caliber don’t march everyone. 

They cut a lot of folks. But I believe that if you come to a school like CNU and you want to be in the band, you should be able to be in the band.”

Lopez also discussed some of the challenges that the band had to face. “You go through a lot in the course of a season and the career at college. We have to overcome adversity. 

We have to overcome weather, we have to overcome sickness, we have to overcome difficult musical elements, we have to overcome difficult drill, we have to overcome a packed schedule. 

That’s how you grow is by being stressed. No great victory can come without overcoming adversity, ” Lopez said.

This was not the first time the Marching Captains have performed at a big venue. In the past, they have performed at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, New Year’s Day Parade in London, Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia and a Washington Nationals Baseball game. 

“Every five years we try to have a major trip like this with a high profile performance,” said Lopez. In the future, he hopes the Marching Captains will participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or the Rose Parade.

In the meantime, the Marching Captains will be performing at the Tree Lighting this Friday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. on the Great Lawn. They will also play at the proceeding Holiday Happening Concert in the Concert Hall. 

~Vivianna Atkins, Staff Writer~

Vivianna Atkins is a trumpet and rank leader in the Marching Captains. She traveled and marched with the band in Chicago.

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