URI alumni to perform in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

2 music teachers from R.I. part of 400-member The Band Directors Marching Band

KINGSTON, R.I., Nov. 21, 2023 – Viewers of this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade might feel a bit of Rhody Pride, as two University of Rhode Island graduates will perform with The Band Directors Marching Band.

Samantha “Sam” Hackenson, a music teacher for North Providence Public Schools, will play the clarinet, and Scott Travers, music director at St. Michael’s Country Day School in Newport, will play the piccolo. They are the only two members of the 400-member band from Rhode Island.

Travers graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education from URI in fall 2018, and is in his fifth year of teaching at St. Michael’s. While at URI, he served as a drum major of That Ram Band in 2017, and is on staff with the Athletic Bands at URI.

“This is my second appearance with The Band Directors Marching Band,” Travers said. “I performed with them in 2021 in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The application process was simple for me; the group wanted representatives from all 50 states to be a part of the ensemble, so I applied back in 2019 for the original appearance in California. When it was announced that the group was getting together again for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I couldn’t wait to apply. 

“Sam and I are the only two people from Rhode Island, and we’re so excited to be representing the smallest state in the Big Apple.”

Hackenson received her bachelor’s degree in music education from URI in 2019.

“I have been teaching for 5 years now, currently at both North Providence middle schools (Ricci and Birchwood),” Hackenson said. “I was also in the marching band and was actually a member of the clarinet section and then color guard for my final 2 years at URI.” 

The Saluting America’s Band Directors parade entry will again convey its theme, “America’s band directors: We teach music. We teach life,” to recognize the dedication and accomplishments of band directors and music educators everywhere.

Travers and Hackenson are heavily involved in music in the local community. Hackenson is the color guard director for the Blackstone-Millville Regional High School Band and the Cranston East Marching Band, and is on instructional staff for 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps. Travers plays in the Newport Community Band at Salve Regina University. Hackenson and Travers play in The American Band of Providence, one of the oldest continuously active bands in the United States.

“It is a dream come true to be able to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Travers said. “It is an honor to be able to show my students how music can bring people together and allow us to accomplish our goals.”

The band will be directed by nationally known music educator and innovative band director Jon Waters. The group will make various performances and appearances in New York throughout the week of Thanksgiving, including a performance and wreath-laying ceremony at the One World Trade Center Memorial in honor and memory of all first responders from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.” Hackenson explained. “I am thrilled to be able to have this experience and share the power of music with my students.”

The sponsoring organization behind the Saluting America’s Band Directors project is the Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation, based in Pickerington, Ohio. The foundation was created to recognize and carry on the work of the late Mike Sewell, who dedicated his life to the school and community music programs in Pickerington and Central Ohio for almost 40 years.

The parade airs locally on WJAR Channel 10 Thursday at 8:30 a.m.