Downers Grove South senior Josiah Williams joined an elite class of high school musicians Tuesday—one reserved for only 125 students across the nation.
Williams, 17, was selected by the United States Army to join the 2013 All-American Marching Band, which will perform at the Alamodome San Antonio, TX, on Jan. 5 during halftime at the All-American Bowl.
He is one of just 8 trombonists selected from across the nation. In total, there were 1,300 nominees for the position from 47 states.
Band students, faculty and Williams' family were joined at a special assembly by Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL), State Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Westmont) and Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully as the U.S. Army made its official announcement.
"This young man has just put Downers Grove on the map," said Sgt. Jeremy Towal, a recruiter for the U.S. Army. "What does it take to be an All-American? He's representing the strength of nation, and not just anybody can do that. It took hours and hours of discipline at home ... and being a leader. It's that kind of leadership that we recognize and invite to come represent us, the strength of the nation, on a world stage at the All-American Bowl."
The selection process for the All-American Marching Band is rigorous, and begins during the fall of the applicant's junior year with a nomination by his or her band director. Each applicant is required to submit an online application and multiple videos showcasing their performance abilities.
All-Americans are then selected by the National Association for Music Education, in cooperation with Drum Corps International and All-American Games. Members are chosen based on their performance ability, grade point average, community service and demonstrated leadership within their schools.
"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," Towal said. "U.S. Army All-Americans not only possess the strengths of a soldier, they live the army values, which are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage."
Williams was cheered on by his friends and fellow Marching Mustangs as he received his official invitation.
"What an immense honor this is. I can hardly believe it," Williams said. "What's great, though, is anyone can do this. What I've done is take the opportunities given to me by all these people here. I set a goal and worked to achieve that goal."
Williams is a member of the Downers Grove South jazz ensemble, serving as lead trombone, and was drum major for the school marching band. He won "Most Outstanding Drum Major Captain" at a local competition, was a member of Masterworks Orchestra and played assistant principle tenor trombone in the Illinois Music Educators Association District 1 Orchestra.
As far as his musical inspiration, Williams cites his father, Glenn Williams, who teaches music at Downers Grove South and serves as the chairman of the Fine Arts Department. Glenn was honored by the U.S. Army on Tuesday with an American Family Insurance Dreams Protectors Award for his positive contributions to his son and the entire Downers Grove community.
"My parents have always been my greatest support," Josiah Williams said. "They helped me become the musician and person I am today."
Williams is also a standout outside of band. He's a straight-A student, an AP Scholar and a member of South's conference champion boys volleyball team.
"Josiah does everything with passion," said Steve Bild, principal of Downers Grove South. "He's just a great kid, who's extremely well-liked by his classmates and teachers. Everything he does, he does with intensity, whether it's his relationships with his friends, his learning or his music."
Williams said he plans to study to music in college. He has his sight set on several prestigious universities, including Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN.
For now, he's just excited to join his fellow All-Americans in San Antonio. He's also enjoying his time with his bandmates at South High, to whom he credited much of his success.
"The Downers Grove South band has been on an upward trajectory the past few years," Williams said. "I've learned so much from all of them, and they're all my best friends. It's been an honor to play with them."
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