The U.S. Army Field Band mentors the next generation at the AAB

By Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Kennedy Johnson
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: Forrest Berkshire, U.S. Army Cadet Command.
Master Sgt. Scott Cameron, with the Army Field Band, works with members of the 2012 All American Bowl marching band at Alamo Stadium in San Antonio Jan 4.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Twenty two members of The U.S. Army Field Band spent the first week of the New Year in San Antonio, Texas mentoring high school band students in preparation for the 2012 Army All-American Bowl.

While a few dozen All-American athletes played football, 125 of the most talented high school students in the country were sitting 50 yards away, watching, and waiting for their turn to perform.

Those students were members of the 2012 Army All-American Marching Band. They were selected based on three separate audition videos, showcasing their skill on their instrument, their preparation of the selected music, and their marching ability.

The members of the All-American Marching Band arrived as strangers. Like the football players, they are all high school seniors. Most are in the top 10% of their class, and many are ranked first in their class. They drilled and rehearsed tirelessly and without complaint for five days, preparing a halftime show that would take an average college marching band several weeks to learn.

They had an excellent marching staff, made up of music educators from all over the country, and an excellent director who inspired fierce pride and camaraderie in the band. Members of The U.S. Army Field Band led several mentorship sessions with the students, working on their music and helping them become better performers in general. The Volunteers (the pop/rock component of the Army Field Band) and the Army Field Band Brass Quintet performed for them, and offered lessons and guidance throughout the week.

All that culminated in the All-American Bowl. The band played an incredible halftime show. The arrangements were terrific, the drill was beautifully designed, and the students executed the show like they've been doing it for years instead of hours. It was inspiring.

You'd think a performance like that would be the highlight of the week. That was what everyone had been working towards. But the highlight came immediately afterwards, when the band students were in the hallway behind the bleachers. They were all hugging and laughing and congratulating each other on their performance, when the mellophones started playing an old Journey song. The drum line joined in, the other musicians started singing along, and after a few minutes it led into another song, led by different players. That led to another. These students, strangers five days ago, were playing in an impromptu jam session.

Finally, students and staff jammed together on "Chameleon," an old Herbie Hancock tune. When it was time to turn the instruments and uniforms back in, the students marched down the hall in perfect step, playing "Stand By Me" as they went.

For anyone present, that moment was the highlight of the 2012 All-American Bowl. The students of the All-American Marching Band memorized an intricate, challenging halftime show and performed it for tens of thousands of people. Then, when nobody was watching, they performed another show for each other, with no preparation except the skill they've developed on their instruments, their inherent creativity and their love of music.

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