DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. -- -

Jonathan Vance started playing drums at 10 years old.

"My uncle gave me his first drums, a hand-me-down set," Vance says, "I got my first pair of sticks, and went off."

Fast forward seven years, the senior at Desert Hot Springs High School is the only student in the city's history to play for the United States Marine Corps Band.

He is one of only 700 men and women that get that honor across the nation.

"I had to show my capability and knowledge of all the American standard rudiments," Vance says of the audition process. "I had to cite read, I had to look at a piece -- I can't touch it, I just had to read it -- I had thirty seconds, and then play it."

After weeks of interviews and tests, Vance played a medley of percussion instruments. For example, he played a standard drum set, the snare drum, and the marimba, among others.

"He started out telling me all the things I did wrong," Vance says, recounting the moment he learned he was accepted into the program, "but then it turned out, "I have you passing!" and I was like, oh my gosh this is really happening?"

He says it was hard to keep his cool, knowing how proud he would make his family and his city.

"I wanted to be respectful so I just kept my posture and said thank you so much, and when I got out of the building I was just like WHOAAAHHH, super happy!"

Director of Bands Dr. Brian McDaniel says Vance has always shown excellence in leadership. He's one of two drum majors for the State Champion Golden Eagles.

"Jon has been outstanding in his musical and academic endeavors," raves McDaniels, "He's one of the hardest working kids on campus."

As a freshman, Vance made drumline. A feat, not for the faint of heart. Much like the Marine Corps.

"Everyone thinks that because you're in the band, you're not a marine," Vance says, "No. If there's a war, I'll put my drum down and go out like everyone else."

The blonde-haired teen says this moment is a combination of two life-long dreams.

"I'm serving my country like I had planned to do when I was little, and I'm also being a professional musician. What could be better than that?"
 

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