December 30, 2007

Army adds new wrinkle to this year's game

SAN ANTONIO - Each year the U.S. Army All-American Bowl tries to find new ways to make their event bigger and better.

In 2008, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio has added a whole new wrinkle that will recognize 91 of the nation's top musicians from 36 different states.

Using the same format as the football game, the U.S. Army traveled around the country and honored each band member at their respective high schools with a special ceremony. And just like the football players, all of the expenses for this week's Band All-Americans are paid for by the U.S. Army.

The applicants were selected based off a 10 page application process, along with a video evaluation done by this year's U.S. Army All-American band director Bob Buckner of Western Carolina University.

Brian Prato of Sports Link helped organize this year's first annual Army Band All-American event, and he see's big things for it in the future.

"I think for the first in the history of this game we are going to have a component that mirrors what the high school football players are doing," Prato said.

"We have the top 91 high school seniors in the country performing something they traditionally know and love, which is marching band."

The most challenging thing for Buckner and his staff this week will be choreographing an entire performance in just 16 hours and 45 minutes of practice time.

Typically, a band would have two weeks to put together the type presentation the Army All-American Band will perform during Saturday's 5 minute halftime show.

"That will probably be the biggest challenge I've ever had," Buckner joked. "It's pretty amazing. They've had the music for about three or four weeks and that's not a problem, they can memorize that music. They can come in and that should go together pretty quickly. The real challenge is going to be to learning the actual show and having enough confidence to perform it well."

Buckner has been the band director for 17 years at Western Carolina, and before that he worked in the high school ranks for 13 years.

As this event grows each year, Buckner said he would like to see the size of the band go from 91 to 150 members. Buckner has been asked by the U.S. Army to be the director of the band for both the 2008 and 2009 games.

"This is such a worthy endeavor," Buckner said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and it's so important that we do this. These kids are great students, their grade point averages are suburb and they are leaders in their schools.

"Most people don't realize it's a lot harder to get professional musicians job in a major orchestra than it is to get in the NFL. So as a result of this is it gives them kind of head start of what that preparation is like if that's something they want to look at. Producing professional musicians is not necessarily the job of high school bands, what we try to do is produce really strong teamwork and individuals."



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