Marching Honors: Rockville High's Kirk is All-American
Eddie Kirk performed last month with the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.
Rockville High School senior Eddie Kirk will remember the Alamodome.
It was there that Kirk had the thrill of taking the field before more than 30,000 spectators and a national television audience on NBC.
The recognition, which Kirk called “amazing, exhilarating,” left him “proud of myself, and my director and everyone who’s pushed me.”
The 125-member band performed on Jan. 7 in San Antonio at halftime of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl , a high school all-star game that has featured the likes of NFL stars Adrian Peterson and Tim Tebow.
Marching through San Antonio
If the baritone were a football player, it’d be a linebacker.
“It’s big—and valved—like a trumpet, but [has the] same sound as a trombone,” Kirk said. “It’s for the stronger people.”
It made for some grueling practices in San Antonio. The band had just 24 hours of practice over four days—including a nine-hour first day—to learn what their high school bands would spend weeks preparing.
“It was a higher level since it was all the best marchers in the nation,” Kirk said.
Practices were difficult, Kirk said, but he drew energy and motivation from his fellow marchers.
In between practices, band members enjoyed a boat tour of San Antonio’s River Walk and visited The Alamo. (Yes, the tour guide mentioned to band members that Ozzy Osbourne once made his mark at the famous landmark, Kirk said. After all, “Crazy Train” is now a marching band song.)
The all-expenses paid trip was the first time Kirk ever flew and “the farthest I’ve ever been from my house,” he said.
But the highlight, he said, was the five-and-a-half-minute performance of "Rhapsody in Red, White, and Blue!"
(The performance can be viewed by clicking the video at the upper right corner of this article.)
“I love playing music and getting the crowd hyped,” Kirk said. “Doing it at the national level was inspiring.”
A spirited routine
Kirk’s love of energizing a game day crowd extends to his other pursuits.
He also plays trombone in the school’s jazz band, euphonium—an instrument similar to the baritone—in the symphonic band and electric guitar in Somewhat Superhero, a rock band with other Rockville students.
Kirk’s pursuits aren’t all music. The National Honor Society member also runs cross-country and track and swims for Rockville. “Spirit is one of my favorite things about the activities I do,” he said.
It leads to a spirited daily routine. In the fall, Kirk would attend class until 2:10 p.m., attend cross-country practice until 5 p.m., and hustle to marching band practice at 5:30 p.m. before heading home at 8 p.m. to do homework. Then he’d do it all again the next day.
Kirk followed in the footsteps of former U.S. Army All-American Marching Band member Laura Weiss, a 2009 Rockville High graduate, who is now a section leader playing French horn in the marching band at the University of Florida.
Kirk's All-American selection was the culmination of five years as a member of the Rockville High marching band. Kirk and a friend joined the band as Earle B. Wood Middle School eighth-graders during the first year of an effort by music teacher and band director Phil Barnes to reach out to middle school students.
Rockville is the only school in Maryland to ever have two All-American band members, said Barnes, whose resume includes two years as the drum major of the marching band at the University of Maryland, College Park and performing with Baltimore’s Marching Ravens.
In nominating students for the All-American band, Barnes—in his ninth year at Rockville High—said he looks first for musical talent. “Because in the end it’s a band,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to play.”
Second, he looks for enthusiasm. Barnes tries to foster that enthusiasm early on.
“Give me one day,” he said he tells students interested in the band. “Just come out and try it for one day.”
Maybe students end up becoming an All-American, he said. “If nothing else they gain a group of friends,” he said.
They also gain exposure to something that’s part music, part sport and part visual art, he said.
“We don’t have a bench,” Barnes said. “Everyone ‘starts.’ Everyone plays the entire time.”
Kirk said that marching band offers something different than the individual sports in which he participates. “It’s an activity that really connects you to other people,” he said.
“It’s everyone more than you,” he said.
The unifying nature of a marching band led to new friendships that started before San Antonio. Kirk made friends with marchers from as far away as California on Facebook after the band was announced in August. A map in the hotel lobby in San Antonio featured photos of band members matched to their hometowns.
“Playing music with all those people was making a new family,” Kirk said.
It was a family with impressive credentials: Straight-A students. Athletes. “An elite group of people,” Kirk said.
Kirk plans to study math at Towson University or the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall. “Both good marching bands,” he said. (Salisbury University came off his list because they don’t have a marching band, Kirk said.)
The young man who has a "be true to your school" spirit has a "be true to yourself" outlook on life.
“Never be afraid to try something new or that you might think is not cool," Kirk said. "Do you, not what other people think you should.”