CARLSBAD — When the 85th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City airs on Nov. 24, San Diegans have an extra reason to celebrate the event. Carlsbad High School senior Kaili Masamoto will be representing Carlsbad at the Macy’s Great American Marching Band.
Masamoto is among a select group of fellow high school musicians arriving from all over the nation to take part in one of the most popular parades in the country.
Playing the flute, Masamoto, 16, will be joining 225 other band members who will lead the 3-mile parade route in New York City with 3 million to 3.5 million street spectators watching.
“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is one of America’s last surviving variety shows and it defies gravity with giant helium balloons flying through the air and celebrates American culture and heritage by celebrating the spirit of kids of all ages,” said Wesley Whatley, creative director for the Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group.
Whatley said that participation in Macy’s Great American Marching Band was “invitation only” and followed by a thorough application process review, which Masamoto passed.
“We have a panel of college music professors who review the applications and pick members based on geography and the needs of the instrumentation for the group,” said Whatley, who added that the band members are from grades nine to 12. A list of musical accomplishments was also considered in the process.
Masamoto has been part of the Carlsbad High School Band for four years. Above all, she was selected to play in the All-State High School Honor Band in 2011, which netted the attention of the Macy’s Parade people and started the Macy’s Great American Marching Band application process.
The trip to New York was an out-of-pocket expense. A combination of funds made it possible for Masamoto to go. For starters, Masamoto, who has been a piano teacher since 2009, used her earnings to fund part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I currently have seven piano students who are so much fun to teach,” she said, adding that she instructs out of her home. “It’s seriously the best job I could ask for because I’m getting paid to show other kids how to play music.”
Masamoto’s mother, Dina Masamoto, said that her daughter also raised money through the Carlsbad High School Band Boosters’ fundraisers.
In addition to achieving the All-State High School Honor Band, Masamoto’s other accolades include All-Southern California High School Honor Band in 2010 and 2011, All-Southern California Middle School Honor Band in 2008 and 2009, and All-State Middle School Honor Band in 2008.
For Masamoto, snagging a spot in the recent All-State High School Honor Band was no small feat. “The flute is probably the most competitive instrument in those auditions, so it’s a pretty big deal for her to get in,” said Greg Anderson, band director at Carlsbad High School.
Masamoto will be arriving to New York the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“I’ve never been to New York and I’m looking forward to seeing it and being part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Masamoto said. Meeting all the other band players from across the nation, she said, is something else she’s really looking forward to.
When the students arrive, they have a lot of work and preparation ahead of them. “We need to bring everyone together both in sound and visual marching,” Whatley said. “They spend about six to eight hours a day in rehearsals, which is generally split into morning and afternoon sessions.”
The evenings, however, are strictly for fun. Supervised trips have been arranged for the musicians to visit popular New York sites and Broadway show performances.
Although music will always be a part of Masamoto’s life, she said that she may not want to pursue it professionally as an adult career. But one thing is for sure, she’ll be playing for more than 50 million television viewers on Thanksgiving Day.