On a High Note
Army's All-American Marching Band Enlists Bristol Clarinetist
By ROGER BROWN | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | November 08, 2010*** Published Tuesday, Nov. 2 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
BRISTOL, Va. – With a laugh, John S. Battle High School senior and clarinetist Jonathan Hilgendorf said Monday he'll never forget his reactions when he learned he'd been selected for the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.
"My first reaction was total shock and my jaw dropping to the floor, because I knew hundreds of talented musicians were being considered," said Jonathan, 17. "My second reaction was, "Well, OK, I guess this means I must be pretty good.' "
There was no question about that Monday morning, when Jonathan was officially welcomed as an All-American band member during a spirited assembly hosted by Army officials and attended by the musician's classmates, family, instructors and other supporters at the school.
On Jan. 8, Jonathan will be among 125 band members performing during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Game in San Antonio, Texas. The annual football game features the nation's top high-school players – athletes and musicians alike, said Stacey Craighead, an All-American game spokeswoman.
"We're here to celebrate a talented student and musician," Craighead said of Jonathan, as his classmates whooped and applauded. "It's not just anyone who can be an Army All-American. It's a great honor."
Jonathan, who began playing clarinet at age 8, is the first Tri-Cities student to win selection to the national band. The Bristol teen was picked after a tough, months-long process that included submitting numerous videos – including one of his musical work and a personal presentation on why he wanted to be a member.
"It was a pretty rigorous process, so Jonathan certainly deserves every bit of this honor," said Mark Collins, director of Battle's 95-member band. "He really embodies everything you'd want in an All-American band member. Not only as a young musician, but as just a really good kid."
As part of the honor, Jonathan's full expenses during his four days in San Antonio will be paid by game organizers. And he won't even have to tote his own clarinet to Texas – the Army will provide all band members with instruments.
"It really is the equivalent of being an All-American athlete," said a proud Collins.
At the ceremony, during which Army representatives presented the musician with an official band uniform hat and jacket, he thanked fellow band members for helping him earn the honor.
"Lord knows I wouldn't have made it here without them pushing me, telling me I could do it," said Jonathan, who plans to study arts education in college.