DOD band teacher in Japan warms up to march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Stars and Stripes November 20, 2023
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — A band teacher at this Army post outside Tokyo will join band directors from across the United States to march in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Brad Harzman, band director for Camp Zama Middle/High School, is among more than 400 band directors who’ll perform together in the iconic event known for its oversized balloon characters. More than 3 million visitors crowd Manhattan’s streets to watch the parade, now nearly a century old, according to the city government’s website.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait … I’m really excited for the opportunity, plus I love to travel,” Harzman, a Kansas native, told Stars and Stripes during a recent visit to the school.
A 27-year Army and Army Reserve veteran, Harzman teaches band to sixth- through 12th-graders for an hour two to three days per week and leads them in 10 to 12 performances every year.
Band directors register to perform in the parade through the Saluting America’s Band Directors project. It was established by the Michael Sewell Foundation soon after the longtime band director from central Ohio died in 2017, according to the foundation’s website. The project recognizes directors worldwide for their accomplishments.
Harzman said he and his wife, Amy Nulik, will pay their own way to New York.
“In order to participate, I had to prove that I was a band director and that I had the ability to play my instrument and march well enough to stay in step, play the part correctly and be physically fit enough to march the entire parade,” he said.
Harzman was among 250 band directors involved in the foundation who took part in the 2022 New Year’s Day Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
Harzman plays several instruments, including a marching French horn called a mellophone, which he will play in the parade.
From tuning up instruments to syncing their marching skills, the band directors have a small window to practice before each event. Harzman said he was surprised how humble each member of such a large group can be.
“The first time, I thought ego would be an issue, because everybody’s got the right idea, but surprisingly everybody put that aside,” he said.
Ahead of the parade, the group will perform the National Anthem and “Amazing Grace” near ground zero and the 9/11 Memorial in honor of all first responders.
Harzman said he hopes the New York weather is favorable and plans to arrive early to enjoy some extra time in the city before the parade.
“I’m looking forward to seeing New York, seeing a couple of shows and eating at some fancy restaurants,” he said.