Only 125 musicians and color guard members from across the country will play during the halftime show at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January, and two of them are from Athens Drive High School.
Amid cheers from fellow students, Athens Drive seniors Aaron Kerr and Jay Dineen received formal recognition from four Army officers Thursday. Kerr and Dineen were chosen from a national pool of applicants and will receive an all-expense paid trip to the game in San Antonio, Texas, which also features 90 of the best high school football players in the country.
Applicants for the marching band must submit three videos and have a character that reflects Army values.
“It takes a special person to be a soldier, just as it takes a special band member to be selected for the U.S. Army All-American,” Sgt. First Class Bernice Feagins said as she introduced the boys. All-American band members, she added, display the Army values of “loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, personal carriage, honor and integrity.”
The officers presented the boys with jackets, baseball caps and ceremonial helmets. After short speeches from both of the boys, in which they thanked parents, teachers and the Army, the crowd of teachers and students gave them a standing ovation.
Athens Drive High band director Jerry Markoch expressed his pride in the boys and his gratitude to the Army for providing the students with an opportunity to strive for excellence.
“Events like this remind us all of what we deeply want to get out of life,” Markoch said. “You’re looking at an organization, the U.S. Army, that demands the very finest. You’re here to protect your country. You cannot be mediocre.”
Kerr, who will be playing snare drum at the bowl, and Dineen, who will be on electric bass guitar, both said two previous All-American band members at Athens inspired them during their freshmen year to work toward the honor.
“I said, ‘I want that to be me,’” Dineen said.
Only seniors can apply, and when the time came, Kerr and Dineen worked for several weeks to put together their audition pieces. Kerr and his girlfriend, Melissa Novitskay, worked together to film him marching and playing on the practice field.
“We stayed there for like two hours a day, for several days,” Novitskay said. “He did a thousand takes of it.”
The bowl takes place Jan. 4, and the boys said they will miss two days of school.
“I’m not mad,” Kerr said with a grin.
Markoch described Kerr as “levelheaded,” and Dineen as “musically intelligent.” They are both quiet, he said, and never call attention to themselves. But both display excellence in their character and musicianship.
“Both of them are quiet leaders,” he said.
In addition to Kerr and Dineen, 12 other seniors from North Carolina will play in the bowl – eight in the band and four in the game.
NBC will broadcast the game at the Alamodome. Last year, it drew 40,133 fans.