Marching with the Best

Marching with the Best

The Opportunity USAAAMB Gives Your High School Band Students


Brandon Coplen, student of NAfME Member Grayson Fore, talks about his experience as a member of the 2016 United States Army All-American Marching Band.


Grayson Fore:

Q: Mr. Fore, how did you find out about the United States Army All-American Marching Band (USAAAMB) program, and why did you nominate your student, Brandon Coplen?

In 2014 one of our seniors, Samantha Gifford, brought it to my attention and asked if I thought she had a chance to earn a position. I recommended her, and she was selected on trombone.  She is currently a music education major at FSU and had a phenomenal time in the USAAAMB. When Brandon asked about auditioning I couldn’t wait to recommend him. 


What do you think was the biggest benefit for Brandon by participating in the USAAAMB program? 

Brandon is an outstanding member of our percussion section.  It was great for him to have the opportunity to play with an All-Star cast of his peers. It was a wonderful reward for his years of hard work and dedication. He has come back to share with us some of the exercises and techniques he learned, which will benefit our percussion section in the coming years.


Brandon Coplen:

Q: Brandon, you were a member of the 2016 United States Army All-American Marching Band program. What encouraged you to apply for this opportunity?

I love to try new things in life, especially with music. For example, last year I auditioned for the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps. I had never auditioned for anything like this before, but I knew I would learn something in the process even if I didn’t get a contract. I ended up getting a contract and marching in their 2015 show. So when I heard about the USAAAMB, I saw it as another opportunity to try something new and learn more about myself and music.


marching bass drum
Photo courtesy of Loran McClung,


Q: What did you find most beneficial, both marching-wise and musically, about participating in the 2016 USAAAMB program? What was it like marching with a group of some of the best high school marching students in the United States?

We had some of the best musicians in the country teaching us, and I learned so much about both music and life lessons. I think I learned the most from the lessons we had in-between rehearsal. They taught us about how to plan for our future and the opportunities we will have as musicians. Steve Harvey even came and talked to us about mistakes in life and how to recover from them. It made me a lot more confident about my future.

It was a lot of fun marching with musicians from around the country. They were some of the best players in the country. Some were amongst the best in their state, and some of the people I met are marching in some of the best Drum Corps in the world, including The Blue Devils and Carolina Crown. I not only learned from the instructors but from the people around me.


Q: What instrument do you march with? Is it your primary instrument? What was your experience with your section at USAAAMB?

I played bass drum three in the USAAAMB. I started playing marching bass drum about three years ago in my high school drumline. I had already marched drum corps, so I knew a lot about the style of marching we used and the playing technique.


marching bass drum
Photo courtesy of Loran McClung,


Q: What were some of the key differences between your high school’s marching band program and marching with USAAAMB?

A lot of high school band programs struggle to get the kids interested in marching music, and I think that is the case with my high school. Personally, marching band is my favorite way of playing music. For my high school we have a marching band camp that lasts about two weeks during the summer every year. During this time the members of the marching band learn the music and how to march for the first time. To even audition for the USAAAMB you have to have already been a member of your high school marching band and be able to march and play well. Members of the USAAAMB were prepared to start marching and playing music as soon as we got there.


Q: What were some personal highlights of the program to you, and why?

One of my favorite experiences from the USAAAMB was the first rehearsal day we had when we first got to try on and play our new drums. I love the feeling and the sound of brand new drums and mallets. Another one of my favorite moments was when Steve Harvey gave us a speech. He talked a lot about the mistakes you make in life and he even talked about one of his own mistakes when he hosted Ms. Universe. He is a very funny person on TV, but he is even funnier in person!


Q: What would you say to prospective students looking to apply and participate in this program?

For high school juniors applying to the USAAAMB, I would say, just stick with it. Don’t not apply because it looks too hard and especially not because you don’t think you’ll get accepted. Even if you don’t, you’ll always learn something from auditioning for anything.


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say, whether it is about USAAAMB, marching, or just about music in general?

Marching band is one of the most unique forms of music performance. A marching band requires every single person to perform in sync together. It creates a family of more than one hundred members. That is why I love marching so much.

Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Cooridnator, April 21, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (