Over the course of four years, the George Walton Academy marching band has sent six different students to the ranks of the U.S. Army All-American Band.
Two of those six were siblings, making the annual selection one with a distinct family feeling to it in the halls of GWA.
For the school’s latest inductee, Michelle Miles — called Shelly by most everyone who knows her — marching band is a family affair in more ways than one.
Miles said the GWA band is a close-knit group in many ways, making them an ensemble bound through shared experiences, interests and love.
“I have to thank my band family for being there with me,” Miles said. “They accept me for who I am and make me better than I would believe I could be.”
But Miles also has marching band in her blood — her older siblings were marching in the GWA band when she was hardly more than a toddler.
“When her oldest brother was marching, she was there at all the practices and games, watching from a stroller,” GWA band director Christian Smith said.
That legacy of marching band has culminated in Thursday’s ceremony in the Nicholson Center on the GWA campus, where the mellophone and French horn player was announced as the latest selection for the U.S. Army All-American Band.
The U.S. Army All-American Band is made up of 125 high school band students chosen from schools around the country for their musicianship, leadership and dedication. The band will perform during halftime of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a high school all-star exhibition game to be held Jan. 6, 2017, in San Antonio.
For Michelle, earning her way into the band was destiny, in a way, forged by strong connections within her family and within her band.
“I would have to thank two of our former All-Americans, Grace and Murphy Pulliam,” Miles said. “They both helped me put together my audition tapes and made them much better than I could have alone.”
But being a part of the Army ensemble involves a family legacy even more lasting than its tradition of band membership.
“As the granddaughter of an incredible man who served in the U.S. Army Corps, I would like to thank all the men and women who serve our nation,” Miles said.
After receiving the jacket that marks her as one this year’s 125 band members, Miles thanked many others, including her family, her band directors and many others who she said helped make her a better musician and a better person.
“They are always there for me,” Miles said. “They encouraged me to audition and saw more in me than sometimes I could see in myself.”
Smith said Miles had more than earned her role in this year’s iteration of the band.
“She’s had a wonderful journey,” Smith said. “This is a fantastic experience and I am so glad she will be able to be a part of this. I am super proud to be a part of this school, which has sent six people to this band in the past four years.”
Overall, Miles said she was thrilled to be chosen for the marching band, not only looking forward to traveling to Texas early next year for the bowl game and playing before a vast audience, but also doing so as a representative of GWA.
“I am so honored and proud to represent George Walton Academy this year in the U.S. Army All-American Band,” Miles said.