Caleb Duke is a junior at Waxahachie High School and will soon spend his turkey day representing the Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band by marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Caleb is one of the thousands of kids who applied and one of 250 accepted to play in the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. But this is not anything new for the Duke household, as Caleb’s older sister experienced the same opportunity during her junior and senior years of high school.
Both of Caleb’s parents have a musical background, his father is a percussionist while his mother plays the piano and is a high school choir teacher.
“I’m very proud. Oh my gosh,” Laurie said. “For them to grow up musical, I think it’s awesome that they have such drive and ambition that when they want to do something, they go do it.”
Caleb applied in February, and when he didn’t hear anything back, he started to get a little nervous. He then made a phone call to check his application status. Come to find out, they only had a submission from his sister in the system from years past. The person on the phone then informed Caleb there was only one spot left for a snare drum player.
Caleb then reapplied by submitting his application and audition tape and waited anxiously.
By mid-June, Caleb’s answer finally arrived in the mail. While Laurie videoed Caleb opening the tri-fold letter, he immediately read “congratulations.” At that moment, he was at a loss for words.
“I knew I had the chance to achieve what I wanted. I knew that the battery was the hardest section to make in the band and knowing that I got accepted into this group and that there is only going to be seven or eight other snare players that are just as good that are from the entire country.”
When Caleb was accepted he said, “It lets me know that I’ve been successful and that I’m doing something right… this gives me a good idea of where I’m at as a musician.”
Not only is this an honor for Caleb but an opportunity to learn music at a collegiate level and network with people at the same skill level. He started by reaching out to a couple of guys who had performed in the past, asking for advice on making an audition tape. Caleb has already begun networking with other snare drum players and his roommates on the trip via social media.
Caleb said the moment it too surreal still.
“It feels like last week I received the letter but I know it’s not going to feel real until I’m actually there,” he said.
Caleb left for the trip on Saturday, Nov. 18 and won’t return until the Friday after Thanksgiving. His family isn’t able to make the trip with him, but they will be in Houston at the Thanksgiving Day parade, supporting their daughter who’s playing with the Tyler Junior College band.
With the family being scattered this year, they decided to have their family Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday so they can celebrate together.
Caleb said he’s excited to be working with a collegiate-level band director from Auburn University. He said the director set the bar high for his expectations by telling band members that they could be replaced at any moment if need be. Caleb enjoys the competitiveness and how serious everyone is taking this experience.
“I’m super excited, who wouldn’t be? I’m just imagining being in Herald Square with all of the cameras on you, knowing I’m on TV with millions of people watching. I’m doing what I love in one of the biggest events in the country.”
Laurie explained the trip doesn’t just involve a performance in the parade but tours, a Broadway performance, and visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Caleb will even have the chance to be one of the few selected to perform Monday at the Today Show.
However, Caleb said he’s looking forward to New York’s food the most.
Laurie said, “There is a large fee involved and our kids have worked very hard to put themselves there. We’ve told them, ‘this is not something I can write a check for.'”
Caleb worked all summer to save his money — from working at Hurricane Harbor and pulling weeds at Waxahachie Lake. He said he’s almost at his goal to pay the $2,000 costs in full.
When it comes to playing on Thursday, Caleb said he’s going to bring it and soak in this experience. He said he expects to apply again next year, too.