Director of bands in the Department of Music
College of Liberal Arts
Rick Good has served as the director of bands at Auburn University since 2007 and became a professor of music in 2009. He earned his bachelor of music education degree from Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, his master of music degree in wind conducting from Louisiana State University and his doctor of musical arts degree in euphonium performance at Arizona State University. Before earning his advanced degrees, Good taught for seven years in the public schools of Pennsylvania and Virginia. His current duties include conducting the Auburn University Symphonic Band and Symphonic Winds, the university's premier wind and percussion ensemble; overseeing the development of all Auburn University bands; and teaching both graduate and undergraduate conducting and wind literature courses. Under his direction, the Auburn University Symphonic Winds have been invited to perform at the College Band Directors National Association Southern Conference in February 2014.
Good is a member of the American Bandmasters Association, a prestigious organization founded in 1929 by John Philip Sousa, with only 300 conductors and composers in the United States and Canada and serves as the president-elect of the National Band Association. He has also served as the director of the Macy's Great American Marching Band since 2006 and will open this year's 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
1. What originally fueled your passion to study music?
My dad was actually a musician. He sold pianos and organs, taught lessons and would demonstrate organs on the streets of Disneyland. In eighth grade, my name was right below the cut-off name for the basketball team, so I decided to make my dad happy! I asked the eighth grade music teacher which instrument he needed and it continued from there.
2. How did you first get involved with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
In 2006, Macy's was preparing for its 80th anniversary parade and wanted to do something special. The creative director for the parade and entertainment group's vision of the Macy's Great American Marching Band was to be fun and energetic, so he wanted to pick two collegiate directors.
In 2004, the Auburn University Marching Band received the Sudler Trophy Award, the nation's most coveted award for college and university marching bands. I believe the success I had in 2004, which included the Auburn University Marching Band being selected to perform at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, influenced his decision to contact me and ask if I would consider directing a high school all-star group.
It kicked off for the 80th year of the parade and it's not something that's going to happen every year—they take it to their board and ask them if they want to do it again each year. They only pick about seven-to-eight bands across the nation, so it really opens the doors for students all over the country.
I started as a co-director for the parade with another director from The Ohio State University, but when he retired, I became the sole director and now have an assistant director. This will be my eighth appearance in the parade!
3. What is a typical parade day like?
Usually, it starts very early in the morning. The dancers and the flag line wake up at 1 a.m. and the band members wake up at 2 a.m. We're leaving the hotel in north New Jersey by 2:30 a.m. and heading down to Herald Square. The bands practice in full uniform from 3 until 5 a.m. in the order of the parade. They get about a 10-minute time spot and the NBC film crew is already out there, so that's your run-through.
The parade starts up by Central Park and they march all the way to the end of the parade route and then perform in front of 50 million people. The parade ends one block past the square.
Each performance is only 75 seconds start to finish, but it's one of the most intense 75 seconds a band member will ever spend. After the parade, the students get a lunch and get to go to sleep! Then they get ready for a big Thanksgiving dinner at their hotel and have a dance to celebrate and enjoy their final night. The next morning, bright and early, everyone flies home.
4. What type of music do you listen to on the radio?
I'm very eclectic. It could be anything from the hits list, to the brand new Sting CD, to Pharrell. Chad Hugo of N.E.R.D. was in my high school band, and he and Pharrell were best of friends, so I got to know their music.
But, I also watched the CMAs. I don't think it's healthy to listen to one style all the time. Music's too good—you've got to be diverse.
5. What is your favorite Auburn memory?
It happened at a Mississippi State game. Our football team was playing and it was when they didn't have seats in their end zone. It was a blowout game, and Aubie went and got on a John Deere tractor. Then he fired up the engine while the game was going on and started doing donuts behind the stadium. Security ended up coming and threw him out of the game! And for some reason the band started singing "Amazing Grace," replacing the words with "Aubie."