Mechanicsburg student to play in U.S. Army All-American Marching Band
Sep 08, 2012 (The Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As soon as Jarrell Verbecken picked up sticks and started to play the base drum four years ago, he made it his goal to compete and be selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.
Now a senior at Mechanicsburg High School, Verbecken's dream has come true.
After many hours spent practicing and submitting applications and videos for the event, Verbecken was the first student chosen to play at halftime in the 2013 U.S. All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, which airs live at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5 on NBC.
The U.S. Army Marching Band selects 125 students from the country to participate in the event and announces the winners during a formal tour, which kicks-off Sept. 25.
Because Verbecken's father, Sergeant Stephen Angeles, a Pennsylvania National Guard Team Infantry Leader, is scheduled to deploy oversees for active duty next week, the notification of his selection to participate was moved up so they could all celebrate together. A formal ceremony was held at the high school Friday afternoon.
Members from the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, military leaders, school officials and the members Wildcats Marching Band were all in attendance for the announcement.
As Verbecken was recognized during the event, the entire crowd of his peers, teachers, district administrators and military personnel all gave him a standing ovation.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Verbecken took to the podium to speak to the crowd after the applause ended.
"I am grateful and it is an honor to have been chosen," said Verbecken.
"It gives me goosebumps to know what an awesome honor it is to be a part of something like this," said Diane Maclay, president for the seventh district of the Pennsylvania Music
Brian Prato, Director of Operations for the All-American Games, said that each student must submit an online application that includes the student's grand-point average, what community services projects they have done and three videos. The first video is a recording of a marching band performance, the second is a video of the student playing the instrument to a song of their choice and in the third video, the student talks about themselves.
"About 1,300 students from across the country apply each year and only 125 are selected. This year, five were selected from Pennsylvania," Prato said.
The family found out about Verbecken being selected for the band through an email while in the car returning from vacation.
"I thought my mom was pulling my leg when she told me," he said.
Then, "I was in shock and awe when I found out," said Verbecken.
He didn't think he was going to be selected since another student from the district had applied in the past but was not chosen for the game.
"I have put so much work and tried so hard to get there," he said. He credits his mother, Michelle Verbecken, for encouraging him to join the band and later be selected for the prestigious event.
Proud parents, director
Angeles is proud of his son and will miss his whole family while he is on a year-long deployment overseas, his first with the National Guard, but he was deployed twice with the Marines, he said.
"It will be a little different now; before I was single, now with a wife and kids, it is different,"
"It's starting to hit me now, that I am not just by myself anymore, I have a family now."
During the ceremony Friday, Angeles said that the event was humbling; he wasn't expecting it to be a huge event. "It's all for my son, who I am very proud of," he said.
Michelle Verbecken said that she is sure that marching band saved Jarrell's life.
"He had been bullied while on a school sports team and wasn't doing well. I told him to quit, but wanted him to find something else," said Verbecken.
"His life could've taken a much different path, some kids never get past the bullying and take their own life, but something negative turned into something positive for Jarrell."
She explained after the event that he was excited when first joining the band and that the first year he was a member of the band, they won the Group 3 Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championship.
"He was a winner right away," she said.
Wildcats Marching Band Percussion Director Jim Weaver said that when he first met Jarrell, he didn't think he was going to make it past the first six months.
"It means a lot for him and to look at how far he has come, and what he has accomplished, being one of the leaders here in the band -- he inspires me," said Weaver.
That dedication that Weaver described is what brought Verbecken to the event today and will lead him to his performance next year.
He will be sent music that he needs to learn for the game and will practice on his own until traveling to San Antonio on Dec. 31 where he will join the other members of the U.S. Army All-American Band.
Angeles said although he can't be at the game, he plans to watch it on television, from wherever he is sent to serve in the military.
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