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Teen to march with national marching band

Alexandra "Allie" Butler sat on the wooden deck of her parents' house. The slight breeze brushed against the black metal music stand, knocking the center two pages of her booklet to the floor.

"Do you need paper clips?" her mother, Michelle Muck, calls from the kitchen.

"No, I'll just use these," Allie answered, flipping up the small metal pageholders at the bottom of the bookstand.

She adjusted the pages as the warm breeze ruffled her white sundress. With a wooden birdhouse in a large tree behind her as her backdrop, she brought the clarinet to her lips and began to practice.

"I usually practice in my bedroom, but it's. . . well. . ." Allie, 17, admitted.

"She's actually the cleanest one in the house," her mother said.

Allie, a senior at Somerset High School, is beginning the next chapter of her music career. She has been chosen to participate in the Great American Marching Band (GAMB) in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 27.

Each year, students from over 14,000 schools across the nation apply for this opportunity. Andrew Emerson, Somerset High School band director, encouraged Allie try for one of the 200 available spots.

"Because I was in the State Honors Band, I didn't have to send an audition tape in," Allie said.

The GAMB will usher Santa Claus into Herald Square from Central Park -- in front of 2.5 million live spectators and more than 50 million TV viewers.

"I'm a little nervous," she confessed. "I'm planning on going by myself; not been this far away on my own before."

And to think she has only been playing for about six years.

It was attending a Middle School band performance that young Allie first became interested in music.

"I really wanted to play the flute, because it was so shiny," she said with a laugh. "But I couldn't make a sound out of it in the fifth grade."

When she tried out for the band that year, she displayed a knack for both the clarinet and the trumpet. She decided to go with the clarinet simply because there were enough trumpets already.

When in sixth grade, she made a switch from the regular clarinet to the bass clarinet.

"My fingers were too small to cover the holes all the way; the bass clarinet has pads," Allie explained.

Her mother, Michelle, explained that although Allie's dad plays the electric guitar in a band, she never displayed an interest in music until fifth grade.

"She always has been imaginative, creative, a dreamer," Michelle said. "She did play around with her dad's guitar, but it wasn't until she joined band that she really started to bloom."

In addition to the clarinet, Allie enjoys track, cross country, softball and singing. She said she planned to join the school choir this year.

However, she plans to major in music education or music performance post-high school.

"I want to stay in the area," Allie said, explaining she has looked at Concordia, Hamline and UW-Eau Claire. "My ideal job would be a college conductor, but I may also minor in business because the school music programs always seem to get their funding cut first."

To illustrate the point, Allie said that her personal clarinet is not working at all so she is borrowing one from the school. However, it is held together with tape and rubber bands. She is hoping to purchase a new clarinet before leaving for New York.

In addition, she has come up with novel ways to get sponsors for the $2,000 trip.

For a $20 donation, she will send a personal thank-you letter with a poster.

For a $50 donation, she will send the letter, poster and a scrapbook of her trip.

For a $100 donation, she will send all the above, plus an official T-shirt of the GAMB Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

"We're trying to be creative," Allie said with a smile. "If I can't raise it all, I'll sell candy or something like that."

If anyone is interested in sponsoring Allie -- the first Somerset student to make the GAMB -- please call Michelle Muck at 247-2958. They also have an account at TCF Bank in Alexandra's name for donations.