If there's anything better than being surrounded by family and sharing turkey on Thanksgiving Day, Jessica Zelenak of Lower Macungie has found it.
Instead of the turkey, Zelenak's parents and sister will be in New York City watching the 17-year-old Emmaus High School senior and her clarinet in the Macy's Great American Marching Band as it leads the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 24.
“Thanksgiving will definitely be different this year, but it will be exciting,” said Sue Zelenak, Jessica’s mother. “They'll be in the beginning of the parade in the red and white uniforms,” Jessica’s mom said with pride.
Jessica Zelenak is one of five students who was chosen to represent Pennsylvania. She joins 195 high school musicians across the country in this prestigious marching band who will come together to spend six days and nights in New York City to practice and see the sights together.
The Macy's Great American Marching Band, which began in 2006, honors the best high school musicians in grades 9-12 from all 50 states.
Jessica and her mother found out about it from friends and looked into it online. They filled out an application in June 2011, and after completing a a written application and also submitting an audition tape, she was notified by mail in August that she had been chosen.
Dr. Jon Woods of Ohio State University and Dr. Richard Good of Auburn University direct the band.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “It’s the chance of a lifetime.”
Jessica has been playing clarinet since she was 8 years old -- almost 10 years.
“My father got me interested in it. I also play the alto sax, but I like clarinet better,” she said.
At EHS, Jessica plays in the orchestra, pit orchestra, symphonic band, jazz band and marching band. This year, she is the sectional leader in the marching band, where she is in charge of 10 other clarinetists.
In New York, an estimated 2.5 million spectators will cheer the band on as they march along the parade route, beginning at Central Park and arriving at Macy’s Herald Square. There, the Macy's Great American Marching Band will perform for celebrities, a grandstand audience and more than 50 million television viewers watching the live broadcast.