Tradition Marches On – OHS bandmates Headed To U.S. Army All-American Marching Band

OSWEGO, NY – The 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour recruited a pair of Marching Buccaneers Thursday night to the Army All-American Marching Band.

OHS student musicians Cassandra Hondro and Emily King said it took a lot of hard work to make the select group of musicians from around the country. They are, in fact, the only two musicians selected from New York State. Two students from different schools were also picked for colorguard.

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio will be televised live on NBC, from the Alamodome on Jan. 4, 2014. The band will perform at halftime.

Oswego band director Scott Ciesla is flanked by Cassie Hondro, left, and Emily King.
Oswego band director Scott Ciesla is flanked by Cassie Hondro, left, and Emily King.

Since 2007, Hondro and King are the 11th and 12th Marching Buccaneers to be selected for this honor.

“We actually found out in the beginning of August that we had been selected,” Hondro said, adding quickly, “But, we had to keep it hush hush!”

She did her auditions at home.

“But when I got to school to download them, it didn’t work. So I actually had to do it over again at the school. We used that tape,” Hondro said. “It worked out very well, fortunately.”

Her first reaction when she learned she had been selected for the band?

“Jumping up and down screaming,” she said. “I was that excited. It’s really an honor to be part of such an elite group.”

King agreed.

“I was really surprised, really surprised honestly,” she said. “You kind of think about it, it would be great to be selected. It’s kind of a dream. And then when you actually get the call and you have been selected, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. You don’t expect it really. And then you hear it and it’s like wow I am an All-American! You don’t know what to think.”

First the students had to get nominated, then they had to tape their auditions and fill out forms.

The auditions (a self introduction video, marching and music videos, too) had a time limit.

“That was the hardest part for me,” King admitted. “They all had to be like two minutes. That was not easy, fitting everything into the time.”

“They we had to wait,” Hondro added.

That was probably the most difficult part of the entire process, the young ladies agreed.

During a ceremony, immediately following practice for the Marching Buccaneers, US Army representatives officially announced the selection of Hondro and King to the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. They were honored before other band members, classmates, fans and family during the post-rehearsal event.

Chris Zeller, of the  U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour, thanked everyone for attending.

“We are here tonight to celebrate two talented students, who have been selected to be part of the 125 marching band members who will perform during halftime at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the nation’s premier high school sporting event,” he said. “Selected students exhibit exceptional musicianship, marching achievement, character and leadership.”

It takes a special person to be a soldier just as it takes a special band member to be selected as a U.S. Army All-American, he added. “To become either, it takes mental, physical and emotional strengths that few possess and even fewer employ,” he said. “It is these strengths along with dedication, determination and teamwork that allow Army All-Americans to succeed and excel in school, in training and most importantly – in life.”

“We would like to honor the entire Oswego High School band for the support and commitment that you have shown to each other and to your school. Well done!” Zeller said.

He then welcomed Hondro and King to the podium individually to present them with their official Army jacket and hat.

Sergeant Brandon Preston presented them with their hats and jackets while many in the crowd took photographs and cheered loudly.

The Army gave him the opportunity to do things he otherwise never would have been able to, he said.

“Marching band, like the Army, provides young people with training, discipline and experiences that make them mentally, emotionally and physically strong,” he said. “We’d like to honor the entire Oswego marching band for the commitment and support you’ve shown each other and your school.”

“I’d like to thank the US Army for supporting high school music,” King said. “And, I’d like to thank my parents … for being so dedicated and helping me achieve all my goals.”

She thanked band director Scott Ciesla “for watching me march in a block for about 600 times and filling out all my paperwork!”

She also thanked her other family members, her friends, and all of the Marching Buc staff for always being there.

“This is a huge honor for me and Cassie to have been accepted into a prestigious group like the All-American Marching Band. And, it’s even more special since we are the only two musicians from New York State.

She challenged the juniors in the band to strive to keep the tradition going next year.

“I’d like to thank my parents. My dad has always been my hero; but, I’d especially like to thank my mom for this one. She has always been involved in march band, guiding me,” Hondro said. It was her mother that encouraged her to stick with band when she was thinking of quitting in the sixth grade, she added.

She also thanked her sister, Jacqueline Hondro, a previous All-American. “She is a huge inspiration to me,” she said.

Hondro went on to recognize all her teachers, Marching Buc staff, and all her friends and family.

“This community has really supported music in our schools. It’s really been unbelievable,” Ciesla said. “It helps and it’s part of the family that we have here. It’s an honor to have you all as our special guests as we honor one of our students that like many are thriving in our music program here in Oswego.”

“We are ever grateful for your service and sacrifices. From the bottom, of my heart, thank you so much for everything,” he told the Army representatives.

He recognized three of Oswego’s former All-Americans in the audience – Gina Bartholomew, Chelsea Bartlett and Joseph Bertonneau.

“This is truly one of the highlights of the year,” he said. “These two individuals represent all that is right with Oswego High School, and all that is right in our music program. These two students are the perfect selection for this great honor. Every endeavor they pursue, they undertake with passion, integrity, dedication and a wonderful attitude. As an educator, I am inspired by students who can rise above everything and achieve something of this nature and truly set a fine example for what it means to persevere and strive for excellence.”

“I can only imagine the great pride the Hondros and Kings have for their children right now,” he added. “Their success is obviously the result of exceptional parenting that is rooted in very high expectations and a lot of caring and love.”

“This stuff doesn’t happen in any other school district. They try. But they can’t keep up. It’s an important thing to know, we are special, we have a lot of great things going on here,” Ciesla continued. “Marching band truly is a team activity, it’s a family unlike any other. I cannot do this job alone, it’s impossible. Each and every one of you (parents and staff) have had a hand in Emily’s and Cassie’s development – as well as all of the students in our program. Thank you, everyone!”

The five U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour teams travel across the country from late-September to mid-December to announce all 90 players and 125 marching musicians to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and log a combined 30,000 miles.

ARMY BAND BUCS  (Year denotes performance date)
Adam Dristle – 2008
Amanda Donovan – 2008
Heather Buske – 2008
Chelsea Bartlett – 2009
Kristen Bartholomew – 2010
Jacqueline Hondro – 2011
Thomas James – 2011
Gina Bartholomew – 2012
Jeffrey Murray – 2012
Joseph Bertonneau – 2013
Cassandra Hondro – 2014
Emily King – 2014