Heights High School Group Heads To Chicago Thanksgiving Parade | Education

When Heights High School band principal Antwuan Walters made the decision in February to submit an application for his students to perform in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, he wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t didn’t tell anyone else.

Essentially, he said he didn’t want to give his students hope, knowing there were hundreds of submissions from high school and college groups across the country.

It turned out that his decision paid off. A few months later, he found out that the Heights band had been selected as one of 24 bands nationwide – and the only band from Texas – to participate in the parade in the Windy City in November.

“I just decided to do it,” he said. “…A few months later I received an email saying they had been selected. I informed the staff and then brought the kids here later that evening and told them.

This selection putting the band in rare company isn’t just luck either, but more of a result of the work the band has been doing in recent years, Walters said. Last year, for example, the group received 1s in a row from UIL judges for the first time in Heights history at last October’s regional competition. A 1 is a “top” rating, the highest rating a performance piece can receive in competition.

This is the first time the group Heights has been selected to perform in a national parade, according to Walters.

“(This selection) continues to push us to the next level,” said Walters, who is in his fourth year in charge of the Heights group. “It’s one of those things where we’re excited, and we’re grateful that the work we’ve done over the past few years has gotten us to this point.”

The band are now trying to raise funds for the trip which will see them perform on a national stage in just a few months. It will cost about $200,000 to fund the trip, according to Walters. So far, Walters said they have raised about half of that money for the trip and will have additional fundraising opportunities in the coming months to help cover the remaining expenses that will cover the tickets. flights, hotel stays and more for the group of 160 members.

A GoFundMe page was also created at gofundme.com/f/send-heights-band-to-chicago-thanksgiving-parade with a set goal of $50,000. Nearly $740 had been donated to the effort Wednesday afternoon.

“We need help to make this journey a reality,” said Megan Zientak, co-secretary of the Heights music encore club, whose daughter is part of the group’s caretaker. “Some of these children will never have the opportunity to travel like this, and it’s the chance of a lifetime.”

Color Guard Director Matt Caballero echoed that sentiment.

“I think we all share the same thought as we get closer and closer – excitement and a lot of anticipation,” he said. “It’s exciting to share an opportunity with the kids and provide something for the kids where some of them wouldn’t normally be able to travel that far, or it could be their first out-of-state trip.”

Walters said there was a bit of a pang with the amount of money needed for each of his 160 students to partake in the chance to perform in the national spotlight.

“We’re just trying to spread the word so people come to help us,” he said. “…We hope to take them all to Chicago with us.”

But overwhelmingly, he said the anticipation in the air was the most powerful feeling he saw in his students.

“There’s also the excitement of being able to go and represent not just our district, but the state as the only guest band in Texas,” he said. “There are lots of opportunities for us to show off all the great things happening here at Heights High School.”

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