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There was a time when Greg Thompson had a hard time playing even a note with a trumpet.
But that was years ago, when he first took up the instrument as a fourth-grader. Today, the Jefferson Forest High School senior is an accomplished All-American musician, lauded for his playing, work ethic and leadership.
And this January he will be playing on a national stage, having been selected for the 97-member U.S. Army All-American High School Marching Band. That band, which recognizes the finest high school senior band members in the country will perform at halftime of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl football game on Jan. 3.
“I'm really excited about going on this trip,” Thompson said Monday during a ceremony officially announcing his selection. “It's really going to be a defining moment for my senior year and for my marching band career.”
He said joining band as a fourth grader in Virginia Beach was probably the best decision he'd ever made.
Thompson will be flown to San Antonio, Texas in December for a week-long rehearsal camp in preparation for the performance, which will be aired live on NBC. “I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the leadership of my fellow band members past and present,” he said.
JFHS Band Director David Webb nominated Thompson for the honor.
“Obviously he's a good band member,” noted Webb, “but there's things about Greg that go beyond this and make him an All-American in every facet of life.” That includes being an excellent student — taking a “ridiculous course load” in addition to participating in band which dominates “your life for three and a half months out of the year,” Webb said.
Once nominated, Thompson had to complete a rigorous application process, which included a written application and a video recorded marching and musical audition.
Webb said Thompson is also a model citizen. Last summer the JF senior baritone player — he switched from trumpet last year because of a need in the band — noticed that the band members used a lot of plastic bottles and aluminum cans, so he set up recycling containers at the band field and band room to help collect those instead of wasting those resources. In addition, Thompson headed up the band's Relay for Life team, earning some $3,000 for the cause this past year.
“He's that kind of person,” Webb said. “If he sees something that needs to be done he goes and does it and doesn't let anything stand in his way. If that doesn't say All-American I don't know what does.”
Webb said that type of attitude can help others. “We will feel the influence of his leadership and his musicianship and his character for years to come around here.”
Webb said the honor can serve as a great motivator for other students to do their best. “It's way too easy for a lot of students to do just enough to get by,” he said. “Greg's work ethic is through the roof. That has a tendency to rub off on other people.”
JFHS Principal Tony Francis agreed.
“This is one of the days that makes being a principal all worth it,” he said. “One of the things that the band has always produced is those young men and women who go above and beyond and do all of the extras.”
Representatives of the U.S. Army All-American High School Marching Band were on hand Monday for the ceremony conferring the honor on Thompson. The ceremony was held at Forest Elementary School, following a preview performance for parents of the band's halftime show for this year.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is the premier high school football game in the country and has helped launch the carriers of such notable players as Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn. A record 30 U.S. Army All-Americans were selected in the 2008 NFL Draft, including six first-round picks. The nation's top 90 high school football players square off in an East versus West showdown and the 97-member band performs during halftime at the game.
The game will be held at noon on Saturday, Jan. 3. Being selected for the game is the highest honor a high school football player or marching band member an receive.