By Michael Holtzman, The Herald News
SOMERSET, Mass. — Aaron Couto is marching to his own beat.
At the same time, the Somerset Berkley Regional High School senior saxophone player extraordinaire can appreciate his family’s love of music that lit his path.
In the upcoming weeks and months, a representative of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band will come to SBRHS to officially present Couto his designation into that prestigious 125-piece band. He is the only designee in New England.
After the new year, on Jan. 4, the 2014 U.S. Army National Marching Band will perform in San Antonio, Tex., at the Alamodome during halftime of the U.S. Army American Bowl between top football players from the East and the West. His expenses will be fully paid.
To grasp Couto’s level of achievement, one first must roll back the clock to his early school days. His grandfather, Tony Borges of Somerset, a graduate of B.M.C. Durfee High School and lifelong clarinet player now in his 60s, was his biggest influence.
“He’s the one who started me on sax in the second grade,” Couto said.
“I just love it,” the alto sax player said. “I like playing jazz a lot. Jazz is my big thing.”
The son of Cheryl and Carlos Couto also said his mother and two of his aunts participated in Somerset High School’s chorus and color guard during the 1980s and 1990s, and lend support.
Sitting in the music room with band director David Marshall, Couto spoke as smoothly as he plays, describing his evolution that’s bolstering his career dreams.
By middle school, he was “practicing a little more,” picking up the guitar, bass guitar, his grandfather’s instrument the clarinet, a little flute. About the eighth grade he joined the marching band, and his plans started to meld.
He plans to be a high school music educator, he said with conviction. He has several colleges lined up.
People say participating and excelling in music can open opportunities far and wide. For Couto it’s been no different.
This past summer he was on tour with the competitive Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps of Nashua, N.H., that earned a national championship competition invitation to Lucas Oil Stadium where the Indianapolis Colts play. Couto played in the drum line.
As he had with the Spartans, which stresses competition, a good attitude and marching ability, Couto last spring applied for the All-American Band, submitting a videotape of himself marching and playing after Marshall nominated his as one of the school’s elite musicians.
How did Couto learned he’d been selected from among thousands of students across the country?
“This summer I was on tour with the Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps. I was on the bus. I looked at my phone. I saw that I had an email. And I was in disbelief,” he said, “because it said that I was accepted into the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band for the 2014 season.”
The hardest thing? He couldn’t tell anyone right away, traveling on a bus with his closest music friends.
Last Monday, Army band representatives came to SBRHS to tell the world with a special presentation.
Marshall had an extra reason to be proud: Couto is now the second All-American band member from Somerset’s high school. Kevin Goddu, a drum major, was chosen two years ago to play tenor saxophone.
“I really feel like lightning has struck twice. It’s incredibly exciting,” Marshall said. “We couldn’t be more proud of Aaron and his accomplishments.”