Two Lincoln County students were among only eight high schoolers across the state picked to play in this year’s United States Army All-American Marching Band.
Students throughout the country will unite Jan. 4 on the Alamodome field in San Antonio, Texas, to play the All-American Bowl halftime show.
The game will broadcast live at noon on NBC and will also feature top high school football players from the East and West.
The halftime show will not be aired live on television but can be viewed online at banddirector.com, according to Ray Rice, U.S. All-American Bowl selection tour representative.
He noted the point of the game and halftime show is to showcase young talent.
“So kids can have a lot of recognition,” Rice said. “It’s a great deal; everyone comes together.”
Band students are selected by the National Association for Music Education (NAME), the All-American Games and Drum Corps International (DCI), according to the event site, usallamericanarmybowl.com.
While the U.S. Army All-American Bowl commenced in 2001, it wasn’t until seven years later that event sponsors and officials opted to add a student band to the event, the site said.
Over the years, Lincoln County has had a select number of seniors receive the special invitation, which West Lincoln Director of Bands Tyler LaDuke called the “the biggest honor…in the country for marching band (students).”
This is the first year a Rebel has been chosen.
Baritone and euphonium player Lindsey Wilson will suit up in black and yellow army colors for the show.
The 17-year-old has been playing the instrument since seventh grade, when she said her then-band teacher David Parsons, of West Lincoln Middle School, encouraged her to take it up.
“I would not be where I am today without him,” Lindsey Wilson pointed out in her acceptance speech Wednesday morning at her high school.
In addition to a crowd of students, teachers, school board members and Superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle, family members looked upon the spectacle with proud eyes.
“She’s really a humble person and hates all this attention,” Randy Wilson, her father, said.
He also praised LaDuke for his support over the last four years and being a “great asset” in helping both his daughter and other students grow in their love and talent for music.
Lindsey Wilson has been a member of the Rebels marching band since eighth grade, one of a select number of middle schoolers allowed to join the group each year.
Looking forward to following in LaDuke’s footsteps after graduation, the West Lincoln teen has plans to gain a doctorate in music education and obtain a job as a band director.
“He’s been with me through it all,” she said in her speech.
Lindsey Wilson first learned she had been selected for the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band in August.
Her initial reaction to the news proved memorable and priceless.
“I think we have a hole in our ceiling,” Randy Wilson said, joking about how high she jumped with excitement.
“I didn’t really believe it,” Lindsey Wilson said. “I thought Mr. LaDuke was trying to trick me.”
In order to be selected, applicants, which included more than 1,300 students this year — with only 125 named — had to submit a series of videos showing them playing their instruments or doing a color guard routine, event officials said.
Students also had to state why they should be chosen.
U.S. Army officials said students must possess four vital qualities for the role: marching achievement, character, leadership and musicianship.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Bernice Feagins, also a recruiter, compared the exclusive group to soldiers in how both sets of people exhibit dedication and motivation.
She also touched on how both band students and soldiers have duties that strengthen them emotionally, mentally and physically.
In addition to the Rebels, Lindsey Wilson has been a member of three different prestigious band groups during her high school career.
LaDuke said she’s been a part of Lincoln’s All-County Band for six years and three years apiece for the state’s All-District Band and University of North Carolina at Greensboro Honors Band.
“I just love music,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything else.”
For North Lincoln High School senior Summer Dietz, the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band wanted her for their elite color guard, only 25 members in all.
She received word of her official selection this past summer during band camp.
“I jumped for joy; I cried a little bit; I was thankful,” she said.
More specifically, Summer Dietz was chosen as only one of eight color guard students to be on the rifle line.
When commenting on her responsibilities as rifle guard, she downplayed the job’s challenging requirements.
“You just have to have coordination,” she said. “It’s not that difficult.”
After witnessing a fellow band student make the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band several years before her, the then-freshman Dietz set her mind on the same achievement.
Because she felt she wouldn’t be chosen for her role as a saxophone player at the time, she joined her school’s Winter Guard that year.
It seemed Dietz was a natural from the start.
“She took to it like a fish in water,” Amy Dietz, her mother, said.
The North Lincoln teen is not only looking forward to participating in the once-in-a-lifetime event but also catching up with two friends who were also selected from their high school in Pennsylvania, where she grew up.
“I haven’t seen them in six years,” Summer Dietz said.
Director of Bands for the Knights, Neil Underwood, remembered making the trip to San Antonio with his family in 2008 — the All-American band’s inaugural year. At the time, his daughter Molly had been chosen.
Since 2008, a North Lincoln student has been chosen annually, except for one year, Underwood said.
“It’s a big honor,” he said, “because some schools never get anybody in. We feel especially honored to have two Lincoln County students this year.”
Knights Color Guard Director Justin McDougal also praised the color guard student for the achievement.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” he said.
The Band of Knights has received multiple honors already this school year for three Grand Champion titles from Avery County’s “High Country Band Competition,” North Gaston High School’s “Wildcat Invitational” and East Lincoln High School’s “Carolina Classic.”
Underwood said his elite group also secured a Runner-Up Grand Champion award at Havelock High School’s “Crystal Coast Classic” and sixth place at “Bands of America Super Regional” competition.
West Lincoln also received a Grand Champion title earlier this month, LaDuke said.
Following high school, Summer Dietz has plans to join DCI’s Phantom Regiment the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college, she said.
Nominations for the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band are currently being accepted at musiced.nafme.org/usaaamb/audition.