Published in The Miami Herald on Nov. 24, 2011
By THEO KARANTSALIS
He blew his whistle, raised his baton and sent a few hand gestures on a DVD to the Army, which raised eyebrows and caused officials to tap their feet. Soon after, the military sent him a white coat, a signal that he would lead the jam.
Michael Thompson, a drum major who attends Sunset High in West Kendall, has been selected by the U.S. Army’s All-American Bowl Selection Tour to lead its marching band.
Recently, the Army honored the 17-year-old senior at his school’s auditorium in front of other band members, school officials and classmates. Officials issued him an official band jacket.
“I am honored to represent my band and the United States,” said Thompson, who will lead the band during the halftime performance.
The Army selects just 125 high school band members annually, among thousands throughout the country, to join this elite group. Thompson was one of only two in Miami-Dade to be selected this year. The other was trumpet-player Trevor Lundquist of Pinecrest, a senior at Palmetto High.
He was also tapped for the band’s highest honor, drum major and lead conductor, from nearly 500 applicants.
"Michael is just one of a handful of musicians who have this opportunity,” said Adam Liberman, spokesmen for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “He has earned it through his hard work and character.”
Thompson, who exudes confidence, sent the Army a DVD containing a personal interview and a “show your stuff” performance video of him conducting, which he filmed himself. Then, one by one, the entire talent pool had to be evaluated by a nationally renowned musician.
“Michael stood out to me for his energy, outstanding leadership qualities and his dedication and pride in his craft,” said T. Andre Feagin, director of athletic bands at the University of Texas, who reviewed each candidate. “I think this will be an opportunity of a lifetime for him and we could not have a better leader for the 2012 United States Army All American Band.”
Thompson, who lives in West Kendall, will march at halftime during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl scheduled for Jan. 7, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Last year’s Army bowl game was one of the most watched sporting events on television.
As drum major, Thompson will be positioned up front where he will lead the ensemble on its march and on what time to keep. When necessary, he will give verbal and hand-gesture commands to keep everyone on track.
“My job is to hold everything together,” said Thompson, who is also an ROTC major at Sunset High and is active with volunteer work and community service. “I also want to set a good example for my younger brothers, Stephen and Brandon, and honor my parents, Sharon and Rajive.”
After high school, Thompson plans to attend the University of Miami and study medicine.