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Marching Colt in New York

Junior star musician marches in the Macy’s Day Parade this Thanksgiving
Junior Samantha Taylor and Senior Parkway South student Haley Parks posing next to Macy’s on 6th street. Photo courtesy of Cristina Taylor

This Thanksgiving, one of Parkway Central’s own Marching Colts marched in the United States’ most popular and broadcasted parade; the Macy’s Day parade. Junior Samantha Taylor, the 2022 All- Suburban 1st chair piccolo and 6th chair flute player, has been watching the Macy’s day parade since day one and became very determined to be a part of the parade this year.

“I have been watching the parade my entire life and I wanted to be in it and when I started marching band, I thought, ‘that’s what I want to do,’” Samantha said.

Taylor’s story begins far before her inspiration to be a part of the marching band though. Her musical career started with her learning to play the piano, then learning to play the violin, then learning to play the flute and finally, the piccolo. Christina Taylor, Samantha’s mother, has supported her through it all.

“She played piano from 1st grade through 5th grade,” Christina said. “In 3rd grade, she came in 3rd place in a state piano competition. Samantha has also been in the choir at church since she was in kindergarten and has also sung solos.”

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While music has been a part of her life for what seems like her whole life, Samantha’s decision to learn the flute was made on the fly.

“Samantha decided to play the flute about three weeks before the start of 6th grade, which surprised her whole family,” Christina said. “I really hoped that she would be able to make a sound with the instrument, as she had never tried to play it before. We called the middle school, and they were able to completely rearrange her schedule so she could join the flute class.”

Her inspiration to play the flute came from her end goal to learn the piccolo solo in John Phillip Sousa’s patriotic march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” This goal seemed like a long stretch in the beginning because practicing was not an exciting idea for Samantha. What became apparent to Samantha was the ease in practicing that came to her with the flute as opposed to the violin or piano.

“I’ve never really enjoyed practicing an instrument, so when I could just pick it up and then play something that I enjoyed playing,” Taylor said. “You don’t want to actually practice and wanting to practice made me get better and then also just let me enjoy playing the instrument.”

Her determined mindset and goal oriented personality is a quality that is clear in more than one aspect of her life. Doug Hoover, the director of bands at Parkway Central, has known Samantha since she joined the marching band the summer before her freshman year.

“She’s a self starter and self motivated,” Hoover said. “She is so sincere about doing everything at a high level. It doesn’t matter whether it’s academics or service hours, practicing her flute, she really wants to do whatever she does at a very high level. That’s commendable.”

That determination made her decision to audition for the Macy’s Great American Marching Band in character for her. Her inspiration from watching the parade for years and learning about this opportunity from Parkway South student senior Haley Parks brought her to this point.

“I auditioned this year by sending in a video recording of a marching and then a video of my solo from Solo and Ensemble,” Samantha said. “A couple days later, I found out that I had made the ensemble.”

In addition to her playing solo and ensemble solo, she sent a video recording of her marching the piece she would be playing. Her parents were able to support her by taking the videos and encouraging her to audition.

“We spent a few very cold hours out on the football field in February making a recording of her marching and playing for that part of the audition,” Christina said. “We have taught Samantha that it is good to go ahead and try-out for things. The worst that can happen would be that they say ‘no’ and you don’t get in. However, you never know unless you try!”

After her successful audition, she and her family traveled to New York the weekend before Thanksgiving.

“On Sunday, we went around the city and had our first rehearsal inside the hotel,” Samantha said. “I felt really bad for the wedding reception happening next door. …Then we had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday rehearsals. We had rehearsals for most of the day to prepare our show and make sure we’re doing equal sized steps and looking ready to go to your music school. We all memorized our music before, so it was just a really good sound to hear the first day.”

On Thanksgiving Day, Taylor had an experience that would last a lifetime.

“This is the most amazing thing that could happen.” Samantha said. “When I looked at the pictures, all the other piccolos in the wind section had serious faces. Then, you just see a picture of me grinning from ear to ear.”

Not only was this a great opportunity for Samantha to play in a bigger setting and make new friends, but she was also able to build connections.

“Because she knew one other player in the band,” Hoover said. “ She had to meet all kinds of new people, new staff and new adults over the bands and in a different way. So, this has been a good experience for her.”

Junior Samantha Taylor (fifth from the right) marches with the Macy’s Great American Marching Band down 6th street on Thanksgiving Day. Photo courtesy of Christina Taylor

This story was originally published on Corral on January 29, 2024.