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Saxophonist ushers in Santa at NYC Parade

November 23, 2011

For years, the Engle family would get up early on Thanksgiving Day, pop cinnamon rolls in the oven and enjoy them as they watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television.
This year, an absence will be felt at the Engle household. Wapakoneta High School 2011 graduate Justin Engle will not be making the trip home from Oxford where he is a student at Miami University.
This year, the 19-year-old Miami Uni-
versity Marching Band member will be playing the tenor saxophone and actually marching in the holiday parade in New York City, as he and his band mates usher in Santa Claus.
“This has been a dream of mine for a long time,” Engle said, noting the years spending time with his family watching the parade on television. “The fact that it is actually here is kind of overwhelming and I am not really sure what to think about it.”
The Miami University Marching Band was one of 10 bands throughout the nation to be tabbed to participate in the 85th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 257-member band is slated to play “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” as it leads Santa Claus’ float along the two-mile route.
“For generations the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been one of the most iconic events and a magical start of the holiday season,” Miami University Marching Band Director Stephen Lytle said. “We are extremely proud and honored to return to New York not only to be in the parade, but to once again usher in Santa Claus.
“The band is working very hard not only to represent Miami on a national stage but to keep up our support of Miami athletics and the Oxford community,” he said.
This is the second time Miami has appeared in the parade, with the first coming in 2003.
“We are thrilled Miami University Marching Band will be joining the Macy’s Parade family,” Wesley Whatley, associate creative director of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, told Miami University for a news release. “They have shown us that they know how to please a crowd and create excitement. We are sure that they will be a hit with millions of parade spectators.”
The band is set to join a line-up of performers, Macy’s employees, floats and helium-filled balloons for the parade scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and to be aired on NBC. During its Thanksgiving Day performance, the band also will alternate between the Miami University fight song, “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix and “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That” by Robert Maynard, a news release from the university said.
The band left the university on Tuesday and is expected to return to Oxford on Saturday.
More than 150 bands submitted applications to be involved in the parade, but the Miami University Marching Band proved to be superior in their musical ability, marching technique and performance skills.
The band received its invitation in early 2010 and learned in October they would be the “Santa band.” The band, along with more than 8,000 parade participants, will play in front of an estimated 3.5 million spectators along the parade route through Manhattan and more than 50 million viewers.
Engle visited Miami University during a tour his junior year of high school and even then he knew he wanted to be a member of a college marching band. But he said he wasn’t completely sure of his decision until he sat and talked with Lytle.
Engle shared his discussions with Lytle regarding the band convinced him to consider and ultimately select Miami University to pursue his degree in middle childhood education, specializing in science and social studies.
“He said the program is a great program,” Engle said. “Then I mentioned I played tenor saxophone and he said, ‘That’s great because we never really have tenor saxophone.’ So since then I pretty much had it in my head I was going to march here.”
Engle, who plays the tenor saxophone for the Miami University Marching Band, is also proficient at playing many instruments.
He also plays bassoon, bass guitar and baritone saxophone, but he started with the clarinet in the fifth grade.
“I always wanted to play bassoon as long as I can remember so I switched to bassoon in the seventh grade, but the problem came with marching band,” Engle said. “You can’t march with a bassoon, so I had to switch back to clarinet.
“During my junior year, a friend of mine, who plays tenor saxophone, convinced me to play that instead of clarinet,” he said of his friend, Abbi White-Smallwood.
The change in instruments may have opened the door to being on TV as opposed to watching it this year.
The son of Ellen and Michael Engle said he learned of the invitation extended to Miami University by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade during a visit in May 2010.
“I told my parents and they were pretty surprised and shocked, but I don’t think it really sank in for any of us until this year,” Engle said. “Once band camp rolled around, we thought, ‘Holy Cow, we are going to the Macy’s Parade this year.’ ”
And this year, his parents and his younger sister, Erin, 14, may have to forgive him for not making it home Thursday to share cinnamon rolls in front of the television to watch the parade — but it doesn’t mean they won’t look forward to seeing him.
He will actually be a there in person.

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