Pelham teen composes for Macy’s Parade

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Pelham resident Tyler Grant heard the voice of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade organizer on the other end of the phone, he initially thought it was a joke.


“I had to ask him ‘Are you for real’ several times,” said Grant, a 16-year-old student at Hoover’s Shades Mountain Christian School. “I thought some of my friends had set up a fake number and were trying to trick me. That’s something they would do.”

But as the conversation progressed, Grant realized the call was legitimate, and he soon would have an opportunity to showcase his talents to tens of millions of people.

The man on the other end of the line was Wesley Whatley, creative director for the Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group. During the call, Whatley asked Grant if he would be interested in composing a piece to be played by the Great American Marching Band during this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“Most composers have about two years to write a piece like this. I had to have the parade piece written in six months,” Grant, who has been involved in band since he was in fourth grade, said with a laugh. “But I was in complete disbelief they even asked me to do it. I accepted, and I said ‘I’m going to try to do this.’”

Parade officials decided to form the Great American Marching Band, a 235-member ensemble composed of high school band members from all over the country, in 2006 to commemorate the parade’s 80th anniversary.

For this year’s 85th parade anniversary, Whatley said parade organizers wanted to commission a musical piece to honor the national tradition. After he called Auburn University Director of Bands Dr. Rick Good, director of the Great American Marching Band, Good immediately recommended Grant.

“When Wesley called me, I told him ‘Believe it or not there is a kid in Birmingham who has been in our honor bands who is a composer. You may want to take a look at him,” Good said. “This is really major for him. He is probably going to be a big name in the future, and I think this will really catapult him.”

When the marching band steps off in the streets of New York City early on Thanksgiving Day, Grant will be marching alongside while listening to the ensemble perform what he called a “bright, energetic fanfare.”

“It’s got a title, but it’s not going to be announced until the day of the parade on NBC,” Grant said.

The band will be performing Grant’s piece in front of a live audience of more than 1 million along the parade route, and for a television audience of more than 50 million, Whatley said.

“Tyler was above and beyond excited when we asked him to write the music,” Whatley said. “This is one of the last large, national stages for marching bands.”