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  Boardman Native Anthony Colella Named To U.S. Army Field Band  
  July 9, 2020 Edition  
      As a youngster while growing up in Applewood Acres, Anthony Colella was always immersed in music.
      It’s a family trait that he inherited from both the paternal and maternal sides of his family.
      The son of David and Sharon (nee Bradley) Colella, who still reside in Applewood Acres, Colella received word recently that he would, in fact, become the fourth member of his family to be part of a military band when he was chosen for the trombone section – he is one of just four trombonists – of the U.S. Army Field Band, an elite 65-member instrumental ensemble that has played in all 50 states, 25 foreign countries and in front of an estimated 100 million persons.
      He went through a grueling national audition of which he prepped day and night for over an eight-week period, a time that he says was well spent.
      “This is truly a dream come true for me, Colella said. “My brother, D.J. and I would spend our summers as my father’s little equipment helpers and we would go to every single gig he had. Anytime we were in the car with him we were listening to the classics.
      “We learned at an early age from such noted musicians as Beethoven, Strauss, Louie Prima, Brahms, Copland and Frank Sinatra. They were the very best of the best and now, being a professional musician, this is all that I ever wanted.”
      To say that music is in Colella’s blood is an understatement.
      He had the best of all possible music worlds in that his father remains an active local musician – he is also a former band director – his brother, D.J. is the current band director for Girard City Schools while five extended family members on his father’s side have been band directors, three of whom were military musicians – two in the U.S. Army and another in the U.S. Navy.
      He said family gatherings during his formative years always had a musical theme.
      “At our family gatherings, those that could would bring their instruments and play various waltzes, mazurkas and polkas,” he added., “It all came from my great-grandmother, Giovanna. She loved Italian opera and loved music. All four of her kids were raised to play music and the tradition never stopped.
      “My mother is also a trained pianist and church organist. She would always accompany me on piano for my solo during high school. I just found her father’s discharge papers from the Navy and it had a section listed for hobbies. They had listed musician, plays clarinet.
      “Everyone on both sides, even if they didn’t go into music as a career, at least played an instrument in high school band. No matter where I went there was always talk of music.”
      While in grade school, Colella took to playing the trombone and he has never looked back.
      “Coming from a very musical background, I got an early start on trombone when I was in second grade,” he stated. “My dad’s brother, Michael, played trombone and I just thought that was the coolest thing. I used to borrow the instrument from him and just practice.
      “Last summer, my uncle gave me the trombone [a 1975 King 3b] that my grandpa, Vito, had bought for him. I play it every day and it remains one of my most cherished possessions.”
      Colella began taking trombone lessons when he was in fourth grade, doing so with his first primary teacher, Michael Niro.
      “My brother and I would go over together and each received a 30-minute lesson from Mr. Niro,” Colella noted. “I can still remember my first lesson with him. To this day, he remains one of my biggest influences and there’s a direct connection from studying with him to playing professionally, like I do now.
      “He would get me so excited about playing the trombone and I loved going to lessons with him. He was always very good to us and still remains a great family friend.”
      Colella said Boardman Schools were the perfect fit for him as he began to hone his craft.
      “Starting at Boardman was really where the perfect storm collided,” he said. “To come from such a musical background, have a head start and then start with a program like Boardman was absolutely fantastic.
      “Every educator was always so encouraging towards me. The performance experiences I would have in high school, whether it be with the band, jazz band or orchestra, were experiences that only a fraction of a percent of high school students could ever receive.”
      Colella’s final three years of high school were very busy as he was playing trombone three times a day while also rehearsing with the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra.
      “From my sophomore to my senior year, I was playing trombone three times a day and loved every minute of it,” Colella added. “The level of playing there was exceptional then on Monday nights, I would rehearse with the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra, which was under the direction of Dr. Stephen Gage of YSU.
      “It was there that I was playing with the very best high school students from the Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania area. I was the third Colella in the orchestra my first year, my brother was also on trombone and my cousin Victor was on trumpet.
      “Years before my other cousin, Gianna, played clarinet in the orchestra but had graduated by the time I got there. One of the other students in the orchestra, Josh Kauffman, is now lead trumpet with the Army Blues just down the street in D.C. The talent I was around raised my own level of play substantially.”
      The 2012 BHS graduate was the recipient of the Donald V. Clark Memorial Scholarship – named in honor of the BHS band and orchestra member who was killed in a helicopter accident while serving in Iraq in 2008 – and upon graduation, enrolled at Youngstown State University where he studied under the watchful eye of Dr. Michael Crist.
      “I had taken lessons with Dr. Crist in high school so I was already familiar with him,” Colella stated. “He really believed in me and told me that I could do this professionally, if I worked hard enough.
      “I look back very fondly at my time spent at YSU as I was around such great teachers and high-level musicians all the time. Everyone was so passionate and Dr. Crist pushed me to be the best I could be, which I always appreciated.”
      It was during his second year at YSU that Colella’s musical path began to take shape.
      “During my second year at YSU, I received an e-mail from an Ohio National Guard recruiter saying the 122nd Army National Guard Band of Ohio had a few positions open and would be taking auditions,” he noted. “I’m not sure how, but I just knew that this was the right thing for me at that point in my career.
      “I auditioned, was accepted and shipped off to basic training at Ft. Jackson [South Carolina] and the Army School of Music during the summer of 2014.”
      Colella said it was during his stay at the Army School of Music where he met yet another incredibly influential teacher.
      “I studied with Philip Bleinberger while attending the 10-week course in Norfolk, Virginia and told him during my first week that I wanted to play professionally,” he said. “After that week, when I wasn’t getting enough practice hours in, he called me into his office and gave me the kick in the pants that I really needed.
      “When I came back to Ohio that fall, I decided to continue my education at The Ohio State University. It made more logistical sense since the 122nd Army Band worked out of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus.”
      Colella graduated from OSU with a Bachelor of Music in trombone performance and last August, began work on his MA at Western Michigan University.
      “While at Ohio State, I studied with Professor Joseph Duchi,” Colella added. “I spent six years with the 122nd Army Band and I must say, it was one of the hardest working organizations of which I have ever been a member. They have some of the most dedicated service members in its ranks, were always supportive of my further career goals and would accommodate me any way necessary.
      “Leaving them to go to the Field Band was bittersweet. I then started at Western Michigan University last August and began studying with Dr. Steve Wolfinbarger.”
      To say that his first month at WMU was action-packed is an understatement.
      “During my first month there, the Field Band posted a vacancy for trombone,” Colella stated. “The U.S. Army Field Band is considered a military premier ensemble with just 10 such premier bands across the five services so I was very interested.”
      Auditions for premier ensembles, while fierce and competitive, didn’t deter Colella.
      “After the vacancy is posted, the audition happens one of two ways,” he noted. “The first way is by ‘cattle call’ where everybody who applied for the vacancy shows up on audition day and performs from a set list of excerpts, solos, etudes that were given to the candidates at an earlier time. The audition committee then determines the winner through a series of rounds, eliminating candidates each round until only one remains.
      “The second way is similar, however, the first round is done by tape from an earlier date. The audition committee will put out a list of excerpts, solos, etudes to be recorded and then sent in. They will listen to all the tapes and then send out invitations to those who advanced.
      “On the day of the live audition, it is conducted the same way as a cattle call but there are far less people. This is how the Field Band conducted their last audition. I’ve done both types of auditions with this my fourth for a premier band.
      “It is not uncommon for members in these types of ensembles to go through many more auditions. One member of the Air Force premier band told me that between professional orchestra and premier band auditions, he took 17 before he won so I was very lucky in that respect.”
      The hard work paid off for Colella while the waiting game was nerve-racking.
      “I sent in my tape in last November and found out the first week of December that I had been invited to the live round, which was to be held in February,” Colella said. “A week later, I received the list of excerpts from which we were going to be asked to perform.
      “I later found out that for this audition they received somewhere between 60 and 70 tapes. From those tapes, they sent out six invitations for the live audition with three candidates disqualified through medical processing before the day of the audition, which left three.
      “For the next eight weeks I was obsessed with my preparation. All through college I would practice anywhere from four to six hours a day but this type of preparation was on another level. I was so obsessed with winning and wanted it so bad. It was all I could and would think about.
      “A few weeks before the audition, I started playing the entire list of 22 excerpts for a different person every day. These would be my professors at Western Michigan University, professors at different colleges, fellow students or anybody else that would listen.
      “I think I ended up playing for 20 different people. I would record these performances and when I listened back to the recordings, I would slow them down to half speed and follow along with my music, marking every note that was out of tune, out of time, played with a bad sound or anything else I thought might have been wrong.
      “That’s what I would then practice before playing for the next person. I don’t know how many hours I put into this audition throughout the entire process but by the time the audition was over, whichever way it went I was ready to move on.”
      Colella’s audition was held at the First U.S. Army’s headquarters Ft. George G. Meade, Md. on February 4.
      “I played one round for the committee with a curtain up. That way, the committee didn’t know who was playing,” Colella added. “I think there were seven excerpts, sight-reading and a solo on that round. For the second round the curtain came down, I played six more excerpts and then they had me sit in and play excerpts with the current trombone section to hear how I blended with them.
      “This part of the audition was the most fun. I remember playing with them and the hair standing up on the back of my neck. I’m so very lucky to get to play every day now with the same guys.”
      The second round included an interview.
      “After the second round, I had an interview with the committee where they all took turns asking me different questions,” he stated. “After that interview I had a second interview, a one-on-one with one of the officers in the band. Due to extenuating circumstances, they couldn’t name a winner at that moment as only the commander of the band retains hiring authority. That morning, he was told he had to go to a D.C. for a meeting.
      “They sent us back to the airport and told us to hang by our phones and await a call. I found out I had won around 8 p.m. that night and during my layover in Detroit. It’s somewhat uncommon for prior service military personnel to win these auditions. There are a few reasons for that but the main one is that the competition is so fierce and there are so many great players that aren’t already in the military.
      “Another stroke of luck, I guess, was I finished my semester at Western Michigan, transferred from the National Guard to the Active Duty Component and moved to Fort Meade on June 13 to start work.”
      Colella, who was a Sgt. E-5, is now an SSG.
      “Being a professional musician is all I ever wanted, since I started practicing on my uncle’s trombone in first grade,” Colella noted. “Even with all my advantages, it still took an extraordinary amount of hard work, perseverance and luck to make it happen. I ate, drank and slept audition, morning to night.”
      To say that Colella is appreciative of the opportunity is an understatement.
      “This wouldn’t have been possible without my parents, who sacrificed everything they ever wanted to support their children,” he said. “Also, a special thank you to every teacher that took an interest in me out of the goodness of their heart.
      “Nobody does this alone. I am merely the culmination of so many great people who cared about me, loved me and supported me without ever asking for anything in return. The day after I won my audition, I called all my former teachers to thank them because they all had a hand in my development.
      “There were so many other people that I wanted to call but couldn’t because they are no longer with us. My mother’s father, Jack, was a pipefitter for over 30 years while raising six children. He never took a shortcut or the easy way out.
      “He had a hard life and died young. It’s only because of people like him in my life that I’m able to sit here and do what I do. I owe it to people like him to continue to work hard and do my job to the best of my ability.
      “To be able to do that while serving this great country and playing music is truly a blessing. For that, I consider myself very, very lucky.”
      Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), things are still up in the air as to when Colella will first play while one of the Field Band’s stops, a concert at Boardman Park, already has been cancelled due to the current pandemic.
      “Our tour of the South in the fall has not been cancelled just yet,” he added. “We have, however, put out a lot of on-line content to keep connected with the public.”
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