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CHARLESTON - While television viewers throughout the country are tuning in today to watch the 84th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Barry Houser will be helping direct the Great American Marching Band in the parade.

Eastern Illinois University's acting director of bands will step off from New York's Central Park with the marching band of high school students as they prepare to file past 2.5 million live spectators on their way to Macy's Herald Square. There, they will perform for more than 50 million TV viewers watching the broadcast live on NBC

Houser, who is also director of athletic bands at Eastern, said there are several events on the national stage that are huge in the band world and a mark of excellence for those who take part, and the Macy's parade is one.

"Having the opportunity to work with high school students, chaperones and other staff from across the country is certainly an honor I am not taking for granted," Houser said. He was recruited to help direct the marching band after taking part in a symposium at the University of Louisville this past summer.

The Great American Marching Band is made up of more than 200 high school students drawn from all 50 states. Houser has been in New York since Saturday working with the students musically and visually as they prepare their routines for the parade and performance in Herald Square.

Houser said the students had their first rehearsal Saturday night and were proving to be a great band. He noted that the bands should be good going into rehearsals because they already have submitted audition videos as part of their application process.

Houser said he has helped lead a massed band of high school students for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl Game in Atlanta and helped direct the Buchholz High School band from Gainesville, Fla., in the 2000 Macy's parade.

"As I have gotten older and done more and more of these great opportunities, I look forward to seeing the excitement of the students. In this world of ups and downs and so much negativity in the news, it is fantastically exciting to see great kids doing great things. We need more of these things to highlight the good in this world," Houser said.

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