A Lambert High School senior who was recently selected to play clarinet in the United States Army’s all-American marching band was honored at a school ceremony Monday.
Patrick “P.J.” McBrayer, 17, was named all-American in late July after Lambert Director of Bands and Orchestra Scott McCloy nominated him nearly a year ago.
In early January, McBrayer will travel to San Antonio, Texas, to march in the halftime performance of the U.S. Army all-American Bowl at the Alamodome.
The game, which will be held Saturday, Jan. 7, is “the premier high school football game in the nation,” its website says. “Produced by All American Games, this Bowl features the nation’s top high school senior football players and marching musicians.”
McBrayer is one of 125 students nationwide who will play in the 2017 halftime show and one of 11 selected from Georgia.
“The marching band, like the Army, provides young Americans with training and discipline and experiences that make a [band member] versatile and courageous,” Sgt. 1st Class Jimmie Lawson said. “Only the best and brightest can be an American soldier, just as only the best are selected to be U.S. Army all-American marching band members. U.S. Army all-Americans are dedicated, motivated and know how to be a member of a team, as well as a leader.
“They not only possess the strengths of a soldier, they live the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, selfless courage and personal integrity. By embracing these qualities, they are able to rise to meet any challenge and become greater than they were before. It is these qualities that have earned them the right to wear the colors of the U.S. Army.”
McBrayer has been playing the clarinet since sixth grade, his father, Patrick McBrayer Sr., said.
To be selected, students auditioned for a spot in the marching band after being nominated by the director of their high school band or music program.
“I nominated a couple of students who I thought were at the peak of what they do in our activity and gave them the option of, ‘I’d like to nominate you, is this something you’d be willing to accept?’” McCloy said. “Patrick said yes, so it involved an audition process, a recommendation process [and] proving student leadership. It’s not just the performing aspect with the U.S. all-American band, it’s also [showing] leadership qualities, academic qualities, the whole gambit of really what the Army looks for in a recruit.”
After being nominated, McBrayer made three videos as part of his audition.
The first, a solo video, allowed judges to assess his ability as a clarinetist.
The next, a marching and playing video, was to showcase his work as part of a team.
The third video was to introduce who he is, as a student, young adult and clarinet player.
“He’s a wonderful student; he works incredibly hard,” McCloy said. “He’s a well-respected leader — there isn’t anyone in our program who doesn’t respect and truly admire P.J.”
McBrayer said he never expected to be chosen.
“Last year, I had a lot of things going on,” he said. “I was trying out for Governor’s Honor Program and this and all-State and all that kind of stuff. It was something I wanted to strive to do but I never thought I could achieve this. I mean, they only pick 125 people out of the whole nation, so I didn’t think I could get there.”
But his doubt didn’t stop him from trying.
“I worked my hardest and I tried and I filmed my videos hundreds of times, trying to be the best I could,” he said.
And his work paid off.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” McCloy said. “It’s such a great and worthy accomplishment for him. He does multiple things with our program, not just what a normal student does, and to see him being rewarded for the extra time, the extra practice, the extra effort that he puts in, is great for him as well as I think it sets a great example for other performing arts students that hard work and determination pays off.”
McBrayer will travel to San Antonio Jan. 2 to meet with fellow all-Americans and practice for Saturday’s halftime show.
He hopes to attend Georgia Tech next fall.