(Posted July 21, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Come the morning of the fourth Thursday in November, many households across the United States tune their televisions to NBC for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Madison Countians have an extra reason to watch this year.
Madison Estep, who will be a sophomore at London High School this fall, will perform in front of 3 million spectators lining the parade route and 50 million television viewers as a member of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. The high school honors band is made up of 185 musicians and 40 color guard members and dancers from around the country. Members must audition to earn a spot.
Estep found out about the opportunity through family friends who encouraged her to audition. The 15-year-old tuba player submitted a performance video and a marching video and later got notice she’d made it.
Estep is looking forward to all facets of the trip to New York City, from rehearsing and performing to sightseeing and rooming with three strangers in the week leading up to the parade.
“I’m sure I will have a ton of really good friends at the end of this, which I’m really excited for,” said the outgoing teen.
Early this fall, Estep will receive the music she needs to memorize before making the trip. Once on site, she and her fellow band members will practice parade blocks, formations, and the drill they will do for their marquis performance in Macy’s Herald Square in front of television cameras, celebrity hosts, and a grandstand audience.
Estep is up for it. Ever since elementary school, she has been pursuing new experiences in music.
“Originally, I wanted to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. He played saxophone and built the music program at Sinclair Community College,” she said.
A long line for woodwinds on instrument tryout night in fifth grade changed her course.
“No one was over at the brass line, so I gave it a try,” Estep recalled. “No one had tried the baritone, so I tried it. I got a really good sound out of it. We bought one right away, and the more I played it, the more I felt a connection with it.”
Estep was a student at Jonathan Alder Local Schools at the time. She credits Justin Henning, the then band director, with giving her a great foundation. She kept the ball rolling when her family moved to London three years later, joining the marching band and pursuing music opportunities outside of school.
Estep made it into Capital University’s junior winds program last year, a group that rehearses and performs nine months out of the year. She said the group’s director, Ryan Alexis, gave her a drive for music. She plans to audition for the university’s advanced group, the Columbus Youth Symphonic Band, this year.
She’s also grateful for the weekly private lessons she receives from Tony Zillinick, a music professor at Capital University.
“Thanks to these amazing guys, I have some skills and tricks up my sleeve on tuba,” she said.
Estep practices her instrument every day. The only exception recently was Madison County Fair week when she was busy showing a steer, an alpaca, chickens, and turkeys. Also on her agenda this year is playing with the Springfield Youth Orchestra and possibly a jazz quartet or two.
Estep is the daughter of Amanda and Brandon Estep.
The Macy’s Great American Marching Band was established in 2006. The 97th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will take place on Nov. 23.