Nov. 17—Among the celebrity appearances and iconic character balloons featured in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a familiar face — Edmeston Central School band director Michelle Fritts, playing clarinet with the Band Directors Marching Band.
Fritts, a Springfield Center resident, will join 52 other clarinetists among the 400 band directors from across the country in the marching band, directed by music educator and band director Jon Waters.
The band is part of the Saluting America's Band Directors project.
The three-hour parade is set to place from 9 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day in Manhattan, along a 2.5-mile route that begins near Central Park West and ends at Herald Square.
The band also is scheduled to play in a wreath-laying ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial on Monday, Nov. 20.
Fritts marched with the band once before, in the 2021 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
A 17-year veteran of music education, she connected with the Band Directors Marching Band through the New York State School Music Association, a professional association of music teachers.
She applied for the band towards the end of 2020 and was accepted into the band to march in the Rose Parade.
Fritts is on a leave of absence from her job — she gave birth to twin sons Simon and Matthew in May — but said that her coworkers were very excited for her, both this time for the Thanksgiving parade and for her Rose Bowl trip.
"We're missing a few pieces of information in terms of where I am in the formation," she said. "Once we get that, I usually put out a little ditty online about where to find me."
Her parents and sisters traveled with her to California, but opted to stay behind this time to care for her 6-month-old sons. Her husband, Brett Fritts, is also in the parade as a banner carrier during the band's Herald Square performance.
The band isn't covering her trip expenses. She and the other band members paid for a tour company that did all of the organizing and for travel in and out of New York City,
"It's the first time that I've been away from my children for four days," she said, "so we're going to keep it to the minimum and we'll be home by Thanksgiving night."
The band is marching towards the front the parade lineup and therefore will be one of the first groups to arrive at Herald Square — where the televised parade broadcasts from.
"You have 400 band directors of varying ages, all having to march two-and-a-half miles first, and then be on TV," she said. "I'm cool with that, I'm very cool with that. I've been practicing. People have been out walking. Some people walk on their treadmill to practice."
In order to get used to keeping pace while marching, the band has been practicing using a method called eight to five — meaning eight steps to five yards.
"Most band directors are in a school that have a football marching program," Fritts said. "We do not have that here, so that is not something that was familiar to me, until I started doing this the first time. Then we learned real quick, the eight to five."
Lacking a nearby football field, Fritts said she practiced by walking around her neighborhood, playing along to practice audio tracks in her headphones.
The band will play a march trio medley written just for the band, and a special arrangement for the Herald Square performance called the Big Apple medley — "Strike Up the Band," "Simple Gifts" and a tagline of "Seventy-Six Trombones" from "The Music Man."
A native of Franklin in Delaware County, Fritts graduated in a class of 24 students and earned her undergraduate and master's degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany.
"I now live and teach music education in a small place," she said. "It's great because you get to teach them as a fourth grader and grow as a family all the way until they graduate."
She said that the power of music has taken her places, literally.
"Children, you dream," she said. "Whatever you want to do, you can do it. That's so important, and the power of music. It is so powerful."
Follow Fritts' journey at www.facebook.com/p/Mrs-Fritts-Marches-in-Macys-2023.