ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eliana O’Brien’s love of music and ambition for playing different instruments started with piano lessons at age 7.
In sixth grade Eliana learned to play the trombone and picked up the baritone in ninth grade for the La Cueva Marching Band. She also played in a jazz band as a pianist and trombonist in high school. This passion for music took her to the top during her senior year as the only high school All-American marching band member selected from New Mexico.
In December, the U.S. Army All-American Selection Tour selected baritone player O’Brien to the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. She was given this honor, along with an honorary jacket during a special recognition event at the school. O’Brien is one of 125 high school marching band members among the millions in the United States to be selected.
O’Brien has been drum major in the La Cueva Marching Band for two years. She also plays euphonium in the wind symphony, trombone in the jazz band, and works as a pianist/keyboardist at a local church. She is also an All-State musician and a member of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony.
“I’m so honored to represent my community and New Mexico; there are a lot of really amazing musicians in the state, especially in Albuquerque and at my school,” she says during an email interview.
O’Brien believes her award has “inspired people to research and learn more about both the All-American band and the U.S. Army, so hopefully my accomplishment is motivating other students to try out in the future.”
About her passion for music, she says, “Music, for me, is a hobby as much it is something I seriously work at.” She also credits her parents for supporting her love of music. “My parents are very supportive of my musical pursuits, so I grew up constantly encouraged to practice.” She spends about an hour a day playing a combination of instruments.
With her busy schedule, O’Brien finds time for other interests. She says her hobbies are mainly art-related. She spends a lot of time doing watercolor and acrylic paintings and is taking two ceramics classes this year. Other hobbies include writing and baking cookies, as well as “crocheting really bad socks.”
She believes she has been successful in marching band because she worked hard. She compares marching band to riding a bicycle. She says that “it’s grueling, and everyone suffers a little in the beginning, but the work becomes habitual and the reward is worth the effort. Everyone in La Cueva’s band works hard – especially our staff – and the atmosphere of positive contribution within the program is intrinsically motivating.”
She wanted to be a part of the leadership that encourages a productive attitude, so she auditioned for drum major her sophomore year. “Being part of a team that is equally as motivated as I am is a success in itself.”
O’Brien feels very privileged for the many opportunities she has had, saying that she has “been given a lot of opportunities to be part of amazing ensembles and programs, like New Mexico All-State and the Albuquerque Youth Symphony.” She believes that “everyone should do what they love, if at all possible.” She is thankful to have a passion such as music and is “looking forward to a career, and not just a job.”
About choosing a college, she says, “I have not decided on the college I’m attending yet, but I’m looking at a range of schools in the Southwest and a few that are farther away. I haven’t auditioned anywhere, so any scholarships I’ve received are academic.”
She says that she’s applying for different scholarships. O’Brien plans to get a music degree and to be a band director or a private teacher. She then wants to “continue school to get a conducting degree so I can direct band or orchestra at a higher level.”
She adds, “I really hope to be involved in music programs for the rest of my life. I’d like to continue collaborating with other artists, whether that means being in community band, symphony, or accompanying other musicians.”
On Saturday, Jan. 7, O’Brien will perform with the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, earning an all-expenses-paid trip to San Antonio, Texas.
The U.S. Army All-American Marching Band performs each year at halftime of the nationally-broadcasted U.S. Army All-American Bowl for high school players. The game will be televised live on NBC.