Herndon High School band drum major Blake Morgan had a reputation as a student to watch before even starting his freshman year, according to Herndon band director Kathleen Jacoby.
Morgan will soon receive recognition on a national stage, as he conducts the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band in January, during the halftime of the All-American Bowl football game.
More than 1,000 students nationwide were nominated for the All-American band and 125 are selected, including 101 band members and 24 color guard members. The National Association for Music Education selects the band members.
The application process includes a nomination from a teacher, performance videos and a written application.
“I was surprised,” said Morgan, a 17-year-old about to start his senior year at Herndon. “I am excited I get to have this experience.”
Morgan, a percussionist, has participated in band programs since fifth grade. He was able to begin marching band in middle school, as Herndon Middle has one of the only middle school marching bands in the county.
While he is heavily involved in many aspects of Herndon’s music department, including choir and theater, Morgan said he prefers serving as drum major to playing his instrument.
“It’s kind of an adrenaline rush when you’re on the podium in front of 100 other musicians conducting them,” he said.
While Morgan may have been surprised by his selection for the prestigious band, his band teacher was not. He is a talented and driven music student, Jacoby said.
“It is not surprising that he got this opportunity,” she said.
Jacoby said she first heard of Morgan when he was in eighth grade because he wrote a drum line cadence for the middle school marching band, something that she said maybe a top-level percussionist would do as a high school junior or senior.
“He made our top group as a freshman and he was already trying out for drum major his freshman year,” Jacoby said.
When Morgan learned that his school did not have a chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, he took the initiative to go through the application process, wrote the bylaws and now serves as president of the school’s chapter.
“Blake is like that in everything he does,” Jacoby said.
In addition to preparing for Herndon’s marching band season, which will include a trip to Hawaii in December to perform in the parade and other commemorative events for Pearl Harbor Day, Morgan will be learning scores in preparation for the All-American Marching Band performance.
Band members are expected to show their fellow bandmates that they’re learning the new music by sharing videos, Morgan said. They will spend the week leading up to the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, rehearsing the performance.
All band members’ travel expenses, uniforms and equipment are paid for by the Army and other sponsors.