By Mr Michael Scheck (USAREC)November 8, 2011
The U.S. Army 2012 All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, features some of the most talented high school students in the country and they won't all be wearing football pads.
An integral part of the week-long celebration features performances by the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band and color guard. Among the nationwide selectees are five Illinois high school musicians and one color guard member.
The six Illinois students were selected from over 1,300 candidates from 47 states. The 125 selected band members include 100 musicians, 24 color guard members and a drum major.
Representing Illinois high schools at the American Bowl are: Derrick Kolpanen, clarinet, Antioch High School; Helen Plevka, clarinet, Morton High School; Hanna O'Flynn, color guard, Lincoln-Way High School; Joshua Damore, Baritone, Romeoville High School; Richard Jett, trombone, Romeoville High School; Anthony DeMartinis, pit-marimba, Woodstock High School.
The process starts in the candidate's junior year by them completing an on-line application. Prospects are judged by the band's instructional staff, with guidance from the National Association of Music Education, on their academics, musical experience, awards and the depth of any community service projects they've participated in or sponsored. The applicant them must submit three videos including a standard marching and performing video, a 'show-off' video highlighting their musical skills and a self-introduction video. The applicant must also present a strong recommendation from their band director.
According to Brian Prato, director of operations for the All-American Marching Band, the most important criterion for selecting candidates is their playing and marching ability. "This is a 'best of the best' program since we only have four days to rehearse for the show on game day," Prato said.
Senior Anthony DeMartinis, a Woodstock North High School pit-marimba player, says he's excited about the opportunity of representing his school at the All American Bowl. "Although my school doesn't have the largest or strongest band program, we do have many good musicians and vocalists," DeMartinis said.
DeMartinis says his parents steered him toward drum lessons in pre-school because of his incessant drumming on the kitchen table. He began playing mallets in sixth grade and now spends about three hours a day practicing. DeMartinis says his best band experience so far was playing with the Chicago Youth Symphony. "I had the privilege to play at Ricardo Muti's welcome concert at Millennium Park when we opened for the Chicago Symphony," DeMartinis said.
For Morton High School senior and clarinetist Helen Plevka, being selected for the All-American Bowl Band is a reflection of the Morton Band program. "I am proud to represent the hard work that my fellow band members, directors and I have put in over the years," Plevka said.
Plevka says she started playing the clarinet by default because there were too many flute players in the sixth-grade band. "The band director said that there too many flutists and ask if anyone was willing to switch," Plevka said. "Deciding to learn the clarinet was one of the best decisions I have made because it sounds so beautiful and has such a broad range of styles."
Plevka says she comes from a very musical family.
"My parents both played in the school band and have always filled our home with music throughout my life," Plevka said. She said that her fondest musical memories and influence came from her grandfather. "He was an incredible accordionist and played in a polka band. Some of my earliest memories are of him sitting on the steps of our house, playing the squeeze-box and me dancing around," Plevka said.
Plevka says she plans to minor in music in college because of its limitless opportunities.
"No matter what I end up doing as a job, I want to always continue creating music whether it's alone on my ukulele, playing gigs at a local venue or on a world stage as a member of a symphony," Plevka said.
The All-American Bowl festivities are set to kickoff on Sunday, Jan.1, with the game scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Alamodome. The week-long event includes a welcome BBQ, a football combine, press conference, a parent seminar and an awards dinner. The All-American Bowl Band performs at halftime on Saturday.
The All-American Bowl Bands have been performing for the past five years and have over 612 alumni, according to Prato.