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After a long day of band practice this summer, Athens Drive High senior Brian Holtshouser came home to an email that had him jumping out of his chair.
His parents had already gone to bed, but that didn’t matter.
“Immediately, I ran into my parents’ bedroom and shouted, ‘I’m an All-American,’ ” he recalled.
Holtshouser is no football player, but for high school musicians like him, the title carries the same prestige. Holtshouser, a tenor saxophone player, will perform in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl’s marching band on Jan. 5 in San Antonio. His audience: nearly 40,000 fans in the stadium and countless viewers on a national broadcast.
On Tuesday, he got to celebrate with Athens Drive classmates during a special assembly as Army members presenting his All-American jacket.
“I’m truly honored to be a part of this elite group of band and guard members,” he told the crowd.
Holtshouser was among 125 high school band members from across the country picked for the honor. More than 3,000 students send in audition tapes each year; seven students from North Carolina were chosen this year. Holtshouser and three others make up the Triangle contingent: Samantha Gonzalez and Cliff Johnson of Smithfield-Selma High and Tucker Vaeth of Clayton High.
Preparing the long-distance audition was no easy feat. Holtshouser said he practiced his sax solo for two months before making the DVD, which took nearly 15 hours to put together. He also had to be nominated by band director Jerry Markoch, known simply as “Doc” to students.
“He’s a very accomplished musician,” Markoch said. “He can also sing and act. … He was the Music Man in the school musical. He’s a well-rounded artist.”
Holtshouser fared well in a part of the audition that had little to do with musical technique. All-American Band hopefuls also submit a prepared speech about their lives and goals. “That gives you a window to see his character,” Markoch said, and few organizations can judge character better than the military.
The All-American Band’s selection team is a frequent visitor to Athens Drive. Holtshouser is the eighth band member at the school to make the cut in the past five years. “I was inspired by the other students that made it,” he said.
During his years in band, Holtshouser has served as woodwind captain, leading his section of the ensemble at events. He hopes to study music education at UNC-Chapel Hill or Appalachian State after graduation.
Come January, Holtshouser will spend five days in San Antonio, often rehearsing from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Until he catches a plane, he will be practicing at home and sending video samples for feedback. The big game kicks off at 1 p.m. Jan. 5 on NBC stations.