All-American Marching Band Drum Major: Is the Band Ready?

Blake Morgan, a Herndon (Virginia) High School senior, is the drum major for the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band (USAAAMB). His band director at Herndon is Kathleen Jacoby. The 125 student musicians named to the band last fall will perform at halftime during the All-American Bowl on January 4, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. The top high school senior football players in the United States will play in the game.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is the official selection partner of the USAAAMB, and partners with title sponsor, the U.S. Army, Drum Corps International and All-American Games.

High school seniors chosen for the band possess exceptional musicianship, marching achievement, character, and leadership skills.

Blake, a percussionist who is also a choral student, and he says he appreciates the music instruction he’s received from Jacoby and Herndon choral director Dana Van Slyke. “I am grateful for the insights they’ve given me about music as well as life,” he says.

He says he’s aspired to be a part of the USAAAMB “since he learned of the band as a freshman. I’m a percussionist, so I planned to audition for that, but I am also drum major here (at Herndon), so I went for it and luckily I was chosen.”

Two other Herndon students were chosen for the band in the past and both went on to college for study as music performance majors.

As he looks to leading the band in San Antonio, Blake says his conducting style is “based on the music. Rather than providing a beat for marching, I want to make sure that what the band plays on the field sounds like music instead of just sound.”

Nicholas V. Holland, III, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands at Charleston (South Carolina) Southern University, is the director of the U.S Army All-American Marching Band (USAAAMB) for 2014 and 2015.

Holland joined the USAAAMB staff in 2011 as the piccolo/clarinet instructor.  He is an active adjudicator and clinician of marching and concert ensembles throughout the United States.

Watch a live feed of the dress rehearsal on January 3 and of the  USAAAMB halftime performance on January 4. 

Get updates on the band or visit the Band’s Facebook page.

Nominate Students for the 2015 Band

Band directors can nominate their outstanding marching musicians and color guard members through January 31, 2014 for the 2015 band. All students who are nominated, must be a member of their high school marching band, and on track to graduate in 2015. In February, 2014 students that are nominated for the band will receive correspondence from NAfME with all audition and application instructions.

Instructions will not be released to the general public until March, 2015. U.S. Army All-American Marching Band nominees will be listed on the NAfME website, and nominees of NAfME members that complete the application process will receive an official letter and certificate following the application deadline. 

An Official Invitation

Each of the 125 students across the United States received a special ceremony at their school inviting them to join the band. Blake was officially invited to participate as All-American Marching Band drum major at a November 24 ceremony at Herndon.

“Blake impresses me on a daily basis,” Jacoby said. “While making All-American Drum Major is a huge honor, it’s only a small indicator of his normal operating level. Blake’s ‘normal’ means being exceptional in everything he does. I’m thrilled that Blake is being recognized for being his normal, exceptional self.”

She added, “This is an indicator of all the great things we have going on at Herndon High School,” she said. “And it’s not just the band—it’s the entire music department, with all the great things we have going on.”

During the assembly, Blake was presented with a special commemorative glass from George Mason University’s ROTC program, and a U.S. Army All-American hat and jacket.

After accepting his All-American hat and jacket from Staff Sgt. Wallace, Blake spoke to the audience of fellow music students, parents, and teachers.

“I want to say thank-you to my parents and my family for all the help they’ve given me, and also thank-you to all the music educators in my life,” Blake said, of his teachers from today all the way back to elementary school. “It’s a great honor, and I’m really glad I could be here.”

To his fellow Pride of Herndon band mates in the audience, he added, “Thank you for all the support you’ve given me, and thank you for being a part of my band.” They responded with laughter.

Jane Mell Balek, NAfME assistant executive director, Center for Resource Development, also spoke at the ceremony, congratulating Blake on his accomplishments.

Before Blake heads to San Antonio, the band has a special trip of its own. On December 4, the entire band departed for Honolulu, Hawaii, for a marching appearance in the annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade. The Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade Committee was commissioned to organize an official parade to take place each year on December 7th to commemorate the anniversary of the invasion of Pearl Harbor.

In addition to marching bands, the Pearl Harbor tribute to veterans and armed forces will feature performing groups, associations, dignitaries, military groups and other officials. The parade route takes bands from historic Fort DeRussy, through the scenic streets of Waikiki, to Kapiʻolani Regional Park at the foot of Diamond Head Crater. 

Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, December 4, 2013. © National Association for Music Education