My daughter Lizabeth, who studies acting at Pace University, decided to stay in NYC during the Thanksgiving break. She called home Monday to share her plans for the week, which include visiting several museums and attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Lizabeth called home twice on Tuesday — each time sharing exciting news of people she’d encountered during day one of doing NYC in tourist mode. Her first stop that morning was the Central Park Zoo, where she was headed for a lemur exhibit just as director Tim Burton and actress Helena Bonham Carter crossed her path.
Both were gracious about taking pictures with Lizabeth, who genuinely appreciated their warm and generous spirits. Soon e-mails with pictures of the pair — plus other zoo sightings from sea lions and owls to polar bears and big cats — started flying. Maybe Thursday she’ll send me photos of Burton’s “B.” float, one of six works of contemporary art floated as part of the parade’s “Blue Sky Gallery Series.”
Lizabeth called home again while exploring FAO Schwarz in NYC, excited to tell me about a friend from Arizona who’d startled her with a tap on the shoulder. It was Alexandra Papazian and her mom, who I’d run into just the week before while indulging my son Christopher’s craving for Target popcorn.
Alexandra and Lizabeth spent many years studying and performing together at the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix, and Alexandra attended Arcadia High School with my older daughter Jennifer. Lizabeth was excited about reconnecting, and thrilled to learn that one of Alexandra’s younger brothers is performing in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
I got in touch with proud papa William Papazian, whose many volunteer gigs include heading Ballet Arizona’s Corporate Advisory Council, and shared my enthusiasm about reconnecting with their family after so many years. Soon I was chatting by phone with the younger William Papazian, a 17-year-old senior at Arcadia High School who goes by “B.J.”
Papazian was invited to join the 2010 Macy’s Great American Marching Band after attending the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, and got the call this year to participate as an alumni — though it will have to be his last. Musicians are no longer eligible for the Macy’s Great American Marching Band once they graduate.
It’ll be easy to spot Papazian during Thursday’s parade, because Macy’s Great American Marching Band leads the pack. Papazian by the way, is one of six Arizona students playing in bands marching with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. Several Arizona youth are also participating in the parade’s Camp Broadway float, and will be sharing parade tales once they return.
Macy’s Great American Marching Band starts off playing their own music, according to Papazian, but switches to showtunes once they reach Herald Square — home to Macy’s NYC. They’ll also perform a piece commissioned by Macy’s for this year’s parade — “Imagine Fanfare” by teen composer Tyler S. Grant.
Young performers put in plenty of hours preparing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Papazian arrived at JFK Airport in NYC at 5pm on Saturday, and will stay with fellow musicians at a hotel in New Jersey. Though parents are welcome to watch on parade day, says Papazian, they’re not allowed to hover as musicians make their way through days leading up to the big event.
“Our first big rehearsal was Monday,” recalls Papazian. Seems they practiced from 7am until about 4:30pm, then headed out for a bit of fun NYC sightseeing. Tuesday rehearsals ran from about 7:30am to 12:30pm, says Papazian, who told me Tuesday afternoon of his plans to explore Times Square with fellow band members before Wednesday rehearsals that start at 7:30am and don’t wrap up “until the director feels we’re ready.”
There’s no full dress rehearsal, says Papazian, so Thurday’s parade is the first time they don those fancy uniforms complete with hats, gloves and assorted regalia befitting a marching band of this stature. Papazian describes the week’s adventure calmly, as if he performs every day before thousands of onlookers and millions of international television viewers. “I feel very honored to be here,” he says.
For all the magic of marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it’s the friendships formed through two years of playing with the Macy’s All American Marching Band that Papazian finds most meaningful. His fellow musicians, he says, share similar values — hard work, academic integrity and kindness towards others. “Everybody here,” he says, “is really nice.”
“My favorite part is making friends with so many people,” reflects Papazian. “I’ll never forget the friendships or the memories that I’ve made here.”
Note: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airs at 9am on NBC. If you’re looking for unique gifts, check out the parade’s online gift shop — which sells goodies like ornaments, toys, stuffed animals and a new children’s book titled “Balloons Over Broadway.”
Coming up: Christmas ornaments — museum style