By Katie Callahan (Photo/ACPS)
T.C. Williams student Maddy Dooley is preparing for the performance of a lifetime.
The sousaphone player has performed on a big stage before, but this one comes with an audience of about 2.5 million — 50 million, if you count the folks watching on television around the globe — in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, Dooley will join Macy’s Great American Marching Band, a collection of the top high school musicians in the country.
Carlos Gonzalez, band director at T.C., has overseen Dooley’s development for two years, and he is the first to sing Dooley’s praises.
“She’s a really fast learner,” Gonzalez said. “She’s very talented in many aspects of school so it’s hard for me to say she’s going to major in music but I’m sure she’ll continue to play and maybe minor in college or at least she’ll continue in college or as a working professional. I hope the things she learns in band musically and non-musically will help her throughout her career.”
Dooley started in symphonic band her freshman year and then moved on to one of T.C.’s elite bands — the wind ensemble — the following year. She got her start in fourth grade when, after struggling with a flute, gave the tuba a try.
“[The flute] was the only [instrument] I couldn’t get any sound out of,” Dooley said. “So, I picked up a tuba. And I was the first kid in 10 years to make sound come out. My band director was really excited about that. He took me under his wing and gave me a lesson every week.”
Dooley’s sister, Emily, marched in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2011 and 2012. After watching from the sidelines those two years, the younger Dooley now has the chance to take center stage.
Their mother, Sharon, is proud of both of her musical prodigies.
“I think it’s great. It’s a great opportunity for them,” she said. “As the parents, we can support the kids, we can get them to lessons, pay for lessons and badger them to practice, but what it really comes down to is it’s up to them. For both of them to be at the level to basically submit a blind audition tape and have them say ‘I want them in my band,’ I’m proud of them and happy for them and I’m looking forward to seeing Maddy march by.”
Until then, Maddy Dooley will be principal tuba in the Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, playing a concerto with them later this year, and in her high school’s wind ensemble and marching band.
Her favorite pieces are Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Fourth Symphony” and Otto M. Shwarz’s “Man in the Ice,” and she encourages more people, students included, to come to concerts at T.C.
“We have a lot of really talented kids who work really hard,” she said. “People would be really impressed. We play professional grade music well … and it’s free and right in the neighborhood.”