New All-American Band Director Plans Dynamic Show for January 9

Members of the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band (USAAAMB) are preparing to take to the field of the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, January 9, 2010.

MENC partners with Drum Corps International, the U.S. Army, and SportsLink in presenting the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. The band performs each year during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Live Webcast of Halftime Show
On Saturday, January 9, MENC members, parents, family, and friends are invited to watch online as the marching all-stars take the field at halftime of the All-American Bowl, which begins at 12 noon CST.  View the live Webcast at (MENC regrets that the previously-announced Webcast of the dress rehearsal has been canceled.)

Nola Jones, director of bands at the University of Tennessee at Martin, directs the USAAAMB in San Antonio this year. Prior to rehearsals for the big show, Jones answered a few questions about her preparations for the 2010 USAAAMB.

  • This will be third year for the band, but your first as director. Are you making any major changes this year and if so, what?

No real major changes. Bob Buckner, his staff, the US Army Field Band, Earl Hurrey of MENC, and SportsLink did a marvelous job of setting up a system for success. For next year we are working to hopefully streamline the audition process. The “catch 22” is managing how we accurately assess hundreds of auditions while making the application process “user friendly.”  We want to be sure that the process selects the best “All American” marching musicians in the United States.

The personal challenge for me is the responsibility of continuing the tradition of excellence achieved by the first two US Army Marching Bands. Bob Buckner has been a mentor to me and I have the utmost respect for what he accomplished with the band during the first two years. He left me with big shoes to fill!

  • You normally work with college musicians in Tennessee. What is different or challenging about working with high school students?

Before I began teaching at the collegiate level, I was fortunate to teach band in public school grades 6-12. It has been my experience that while college students may be more musically and technically advanced, the desire to become better musicians is not exclusive to any age.

The USAAAMB members are clearly among the most talented and hard working high school students anywhere. Experiencing the chemistry the 2009 band and staff developed to achieve an outstanding performance in a matter of days was a highlight of my teaching career. The 2010 USAAAMB appears to be on a similar path to greatness.

  • Tell readers something about the marching program this year, such as the theme.

When we began the creative process of planning this year’s show, Tim Pierce and I decided that utilizing a western flavor was appropriate for the US Army All America Bowl’s San Antonio venue.

We also wanted to honor the US Army’s core values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. We are opening with a brief portion of Cowboy Troy’s “Buffalo Stampede” transitioning into Tim Russ’s “Stand Up and Be Strong.”  The second production will be a celebration of the freedom we enjoy as Americans. Jay Kennedy has done a terrific job of arranging readily recognizable melodies including Copland’s “Hoedown,” various patriotic motifs and John Cougar Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. in the USA.”  The outstanding all DCI color guard led by Tim Newbern and Ronnie Bynum will be particularly important to the visual excitement of band.

Because Bob Buckner is a wonderful drill writer and possesses first hand knowledge of the band, I asked him to design our drill and he graciously agreed. The amazing staff we have managed to assemble includes Andy Cook, Martin Dickey, Wayne Dillon, Andre Feagin, Jon Henson, Joann Hood, Jeff Prosperie, Joe Roche, Mohamad Schuman and Susan Schuman.

  • Can you describe for other band directors what it is like to take these students from all over the country, with different marching and playing styles, and turn them into one unit?

As I mentioned earlier, we have put together a staff of incredibly talented and accomplished individuals to instruct this year’s band. We have individuals on staff that specialize on each instrument and possess many years of instructional experience.  When we combine this dream staff with a group of the most talented and dedicated students in the United States, the result should be gratifying for everyone.

We all owe the MENC, the US Army (especially Colonel Thomas Palmatier) and SportsLink a huge debt of gratitude for their collective commitment to providing this opportunity.  We think the audience at this year’s US Army All America Bowl is in for a real treat!

As a reminder, band directors can nominate current exemplary high school juniors for next year’s band. January 15 is the last chance to submit nominations for the 2011 band. Students of MENC members will receive a certificate from MENC in February.

 —Roz Fehr, January 5, 2010. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education