–Article & photo courtesy of BCPS-
Many folks spent Thanksgiving 2022 eating big meals with family and then watching football games and holiday movies.
Clarinetist Sophie Risley, a Grade 12 student at Perry Hall High School, spent hers marching through the streets of New York as part of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band in the 96th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Sophie’s journey to New York began on Thanksgiving 2021 when she was watched the parade on television.
“During the parade, there was an ad to audition to be a part of it,” Sophie explains. “I had to record a solo and send them a video of me marching to apply.”
On her birthday, March 31 – just one day after she submitted her application, Sophie received confirmation that she was in the 200-member band of high school students from across the nation.
Just one day after she submitted her application, Sophie received confirmation that she was in the 200-member band of high school students.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Sophie checked in to a hotel in New Jersey with the other band members. Two of her three roommates were from Missouri, and the third from South Dakota.
From that Saturday through Wednesday, Sophie estimates that the band rehearsed for about 10 hours. They had received the music in advance.
When they weren’t rehearsing, they spent time exploring the area. “It was my first time in New York City,” Sophie says. “It is so large, and everything looks the same, so it was easy for me to get lost.”
Sophie loved Times Square, especially at night, visiting the M&M store, and seeing “Aladdin” on Broadway.
On Thanksgiving Day, the band members woke up at 2 a.m., did hair and makeup, and got into their uniforms.
The group drove into the city at 3:45 a.m. for a rehearsal at Macy’s Herald Square. One purpose of the rehearsal was to allow the camera crew to plan its coverage of the performance.
“After the rehearsal, we went to the Hard Rock Café for breakfast,” Sophie says.
“It opened just for us, but I was so tired that I fell asleep on the table. After that we got back on the bus for a while, and then we did a lot of standing. Being in the parade involves a lot of hurry up and wait.”
Sophie notes that as the band waited, they were in a perfect location to see the parade’s giant character balloons come out of a side street, and they also caught a glimpse of comedian/talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
After getting in line at around 10 a.m., and standing for about 90 minutes, the band began marching along the parade’s 2.5-mile route, cheered on by the 3 million parade-watchers there in person and the 44 million viewers at home.
Those viewers included Sophie’s family members who caught a glimpse of her on television.
Following the parade, the band members returned to the hotel to have Thanksgiving dinner together followed by a dance party. They said their goodbyes and left for home on Friday morning.
“It was an amazing experience,” Sophie says. “I would do it again if I could, and I would highly recommend it to others. The best thing about it was just to make a bunch of friends from all over the county who all love marching band as much as I do.”
“I would do it again if I could!” -Sophie Risley said.
Sophie began playing the clarinet in Grade 5, while a student at Kingsville Elementary School.
While her grandmother and aunt both played the clarinet, Sophie said she selected it because she liked the sound of it and playing it came more naturally to her than playing other instruments.
Following Kingsville Elementary, Sophie attended Perry Hall Middle before entering Perry Hall High.
At Perry Hall High, Sophie plays the clarinet in the school’s wind ensemble, symphony orchestra, and marching band. For the past two years, she also has been a member of school’s steel drum band, and this is her first year as a member of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra, which is based at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology.
The youth orchestra had a concert in mid-November and will hold concerts again in March and May.
As this story was being written, Sophie also learned that she has been accepted into the Maryland Music Educators Association’s 2023 All State Senior Band.
Sophie’s Perry Hall High activities also include serving as a member of the National Honor Society and Rotary Club.
When she isn’t busy with school or music, Sophie enjoys making greeting cards and baking desserts.
Cards and baked goods created by Sophie
Now almost mid-way through her senior year, Sophie’s focus is on marching forward into the future. She has already been accepted into three universities and plans to major in human development and family sciences.
While Sophie had planned to become a teacher, last year she learned about a career that even better matched her interests: becoming a child life specialist.