By JESSICA LOPEZ
In January 2018, Citrus Valley senior Dante Dullas was given the opportunity to perform to a national audience in the United States All-American Marching Band. The band consisted of 125 of the best high school band members in America and performed during the All-American High School Bowl halftime show. Potential band members must send in their video auditions directly to the program organizers. After a long and rigorous audition process, Dullas was chosen to play piccolo with the top high school players in the nation.
Q: Tell me about your experience at the US Army All-American Bowls.
A: The US Army All American Bowl is an event where 100 of the nation’s top football players and 125 of the best marching musicians and guard members are showcased. The trip was all-expenses paid, including the flights to and from San Antonio, the hotel rooms, the food and the rehearsal gear that we wore throughout the week. The marching band rehearsed and performed in the Alamodome and had one outdoor rehearsal at the University of the Incarnate Word.
Q: How did you receive the prestigious honor? How did you prepare?
A: I was selected through a rigorous audition process: three audition videos consisting of a solo performance, a marching and playing audition, a self-introduction and a few short essay questions. I prepared the same way I would for any audition. I practiced all of the repertoire until I felt comfortable to audition. After my selection, representatives from the US Army and the All-American Games stopped at Citrus Valley for a ceremony where I was presented with the official All-American jacket.
Q: How much work was involved at the Bowl in preparation for the event?
A: A lot. Before arriving to Bowl Week the musicians were required to memorize the music, sending in video recordings of us playing the music from memory. The band had nine rehearsal blocks, each lasting three to five hours. Some days our schedule called for us to wake up at 5:30 just so we could have adequate rehearsal time. Learning the drill was incredibly fast-paced and we finished the show in just under three days of rehearsal. Our lead director Dr. T. André Feagin brought in some of the nation’s leading instructors as staff to help us perfect the show in the short timeframe that we had. Both the staff and students worked tirelessly to make sure the halftime show looked and sounded its best. We were provided with brand new instruments, uniforms and rehearsal gear.
Q: What was the most memorable experience during this whole process?
A: The entire week was so absolutely phenomenal that it makes it difficult to decide what my favorite moment was. 125 people became a family as soon as we stepped on the field together and played that first note. I will never forget the friendships I have made. However, the most exhilarating experience was marching out onto the field during halftime in full uniform and seeing a wall of camouflage and hearing the roar of forty thousand people cheering for the marching band. That moment brings me chills every time it comes to mind. It was an absolute privilege to be able to honor the men and women that sacrifice for this country and represent my country through making music.
Q: What was the experience taught you? How have you benefited as an artist and student?
A: Overall, being a part of Bowl Week has changed my perspective of the armed forces and the people that serve within them. Being able to interact with soldier mentors and members of the Army Field Band has shown me that the men and women that serve are regular people just like their civilian counterparts. They each have interests, families and hobbies outside of their military duties. As a musician, it was amazing to work with the most talented musicians in the country. It was astonishing to know that this level of talent exists throughout the nation and that I was also able to perform at that capacity. Having concerts and meetings with the Army Field Band opened my eyes to the different career possibilities in music and the Army. Finally, the group of humans I was able to spend a week with were absolutely amazing people. Being around them has proven to me that the future of society is still intact and many of the instructors and Army representatives noted that we have restored their faith in our generation.