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Ann Richards School marching band plays Broadway this Thanksgiving

The marching band and color guard for the Ann Richards School for Women Leaders practices Friday ahead of its appearance in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
James Christenson
The marching band and color guard for the Ann Richards School for Women Leaders participate in a send-off performance Friday ahead of trip to New York for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York will have a little local flavor Thursday morning: The Ann Richards School's marching band will make its way down Broadway.

The Marching Stars were originally asked to take part in the 2020 parade, but the trip was canceled because of COVID. This year the performance is on.

The Ann Richards Marching Stars Macy's send-off performance on Nov. 19th, 2021. Patricia Lim/KUT
Patricia Lim
Patricia Lim/KUT
There are only a dozen or so spots in the parade for marching bands each year.

Band director Stephen Howard says the application process is a bit of a long shot. The number of marching bands in the parade varies year-to-year, but there are only a dozen or so spots available.

Bands send in videos, resumes and letters of recommendation.

“It’s pretty intricate and involved,” he said. 

On top of that, parade organizers accept only one band from any given state.

Howard thought their story would stand out: Ann Richards is the only all-female competitive marching band in the nation.

He says this is the first big trip in a while for some of his students; for others, it's their first trip ever.

A student stands next to a line of luggage outside a parked truck.
Patricia Lim
Patricia Lim/KUT
Students prepare to load their luggage on a truck bound for New York.

“What I’m looking forward to most is just seeing them be inspired again by things they didn’t know about, especially after the pandemic,  being virtual, being separated,” Howard said. “To see them wide-eyed and taking in wonder again and discovering new things, I think will be a real joy.”

Eleven schools in the Austin area placed in the top 20 in 5-A and 6-A state marching competitions. Ann Richards is the first from Austin ISD to perform in the parade since Bowie in 2008. Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville marched in the 2016 parade.

Various members of band have a post performance photograph taken before they pack up at Ann Richards school for women leaders in Austin, Texas. November 19th, 2021.
James Christenson/KUT
Various members of the band have a post-performance photo taken before they pack up at Ann Richards school for women leaders in Austin.

Howard says several of his students see the band program as a small fish in a big pond when comparing themselves to other programs.

“My biggest hope is that when we get back from the trip … having them see themselves on the national stage, is that students here can recognize that they are part of something bigger than themselves and are important enough to be invited to something like that,” he said.

The Stars are the first marching band in the parade Thursday morning.

Jimmy is the assistant program director, but still reports on business and sports every now and then. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @maasdinero.
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