Return to Headlines

Maercker D60 Alumni to March in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Hinsdale Central Senior Deona Julary was Selected as a Drum Major for Macy's Great American Marching Band


Deona started playing the clarinet in the fifth grade band at Maercker Intermediate School under the direction of Peggy Sue Casey. She continued playing through her time at Westview Hills Middle School with teachers Karen Moffett and George Huff supporting her as a musician, a student, and a leader. 


“I fell in love with music and had the best time in middle school band,” said Deona. “Maercker District 60 is such a positive and uplifting atmosphere with such a diverse and supportive culture. I try to promote that feeling wherever I go in life.”

Photos: Deona during her time at Westview Hills


A highlight from her time at Westview Hills was when the Gold Band was selected to go to the Illinois SuperState Concert Band Festival at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when she was in seventh grade, as well as being challenged by pieces of music that pushed her abilities. 


“What struck me about her when she was at Westview was what a hard worker she was,” said Moffett. “If she hit an obstacle, she just refused to give up. It is her work ethic and positive attitude that make her the kind of person who can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.”


Deona still stays connected to Westview Hills as a coach for the Future Problem Solvers team and says that it’s a fundamental place for her. 


“Mrs. Moffett and Mr. Huff were so encouraging,” said Deona. “There was a time when I was experiencing a bump in my musicianship and Mrs. Moffett was so proactive in helping me reach those high notes and work on my skills. She is so inspirational and was a huge push for me to become a drum major.”


A drum major is the leader of a marching band, often seen in the front or up on a ladder conducting, directing, and organizing the musicians performing. When she got to Hinsdale Central High School, she kept playing the clarinet and auditioned as a sophomore to become a drum major. It is a very rigorous process that involves a written application and conducting the band. 


After being selected, she took part in the prestigious Smith Walbridge Clinic camp for drum majors where she got to learn from Barry L. Houser, director of the University of Illinois's Marching Illini (which she says is the best marching band in the country) on how to lead, teach, conduct, clearly communicate and possess a strong work ethic.


“I help the band directors run rehearsals, marching practice, and everything it takes to get 180 musicians to march, play, and move as one unit,” said Deona. “We have a band camp one week before school starts where the drum majors teach marching fundamentals. It's all about building those interpersonal relationships."


Through her involvement at the Smith Walbridge Clinics, Deona was one of two drum majors selected from around the country to lead the Macy's Great American Marching Band at the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. More than 200 of the nation’s best marchers will be gathering in New York City for four days of rehearsals and some sightseeing before having to march for three hours, performing for hundreds of thousands of people at the parade and millions on television. 

“I did not expect this honor,” said Deona. “This camp has the most dedicated, motivated marching band students in all of America, the level is extremely high. I got a text from my parents with the news when I was on the bus and I was in utter disbelief. I emailed Mrs. Moffett right away.”


“Deona has always been unafraid of a challenge, and her recent achievement as drum major has really showcased her leadership abilities,” said Mrs. Moffett. “I am so happy and excited to look for her on TV!”


She will have a short amount of time to work with the other student musicians to start playing and marching as one, at the parade-prescribed rate of 120 beats per minute through endurance training, rehearsals, and connecting with each other. 


“Band was the most informative experience I ever had and it started at Maercker,” said Deona. “Every type of person can participate in band and it teaches so many life skills like time management and organization that you can’t find in other clubs. I owe a lot of my leadership skills to being a part of an ensemble and marching band. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat!”  


Be sure to tune into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and watch for Deona in an all-white uniform leading the 200+ student musicians marching in red and white uniforms!