Marching Band

Army All-American Band Diary: Jordan Morack's inspiring story after Hurricane Katrina's devastation

The Army All-American Bowl is about more than the football game. The top musicians from across the country have been in San Antonio all week, preparing for their performance at the Alamodome during Saturday’s game.  We also want to share some stories of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.

This diary entry is from Jordan Morack, an alto sax player from Cookeville, Tenn., about an hour east of Nashville. Morack and his family relocated from Biloxi, Miss., after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. 

I was the first person to get here in San Antonio so it was nice to welcome and meet all my fellow All-Americans as they were getting here.

On Tuesday, we put in three rehearsal blocks so about eight hours of rehearsal and had the whole opener on the field and all memorized. I think the football guys are putting in three hours a day on the field each team and we’ve been putting in eight hours a day. It’s a lot of work.

The whole idea of being a musician is practicing perfection so I felt like I was in my natural environment. In music, there are not second run-throughs of anything on stage. The first time has to be perfect every time out there, every performance. That’s the idea here. We’re all working together to get that perfect performance.

In my freshman year of high school, a student teacher, Ryan Ramsey, at my high school had been an All-American in the saxophone section when he was in high school. He told me about this and served as a big mentor for me. From freshman year, I set my sights on wanting to be an All-American someday. Since then, I’ve been working and practicing every day. I put in four to five hours a day practicing to get ready for these types of events. Last year, we submitted our audition tapes – you had to play a solo, then march and play something by memory, and a little video interview. I was blessed and honored to be accepted.

I chose band because I was terrible at sports. Like every middle school kid, I was trying to find my place. I picked saxophone because I liked listening to lots of jazz music and ‘80s rock and roll. As soon as I started playing, I knew that was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. We did a lot of traveling between Mississippi and Louisiana when I was growing up so I was in that Cajun culture where there’s lots of jazz and Dixieland. That was the environment I was around.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, we lived in Biloxi, Miss. I had a just turned 7 a week before. The company where my father worked was destroyed so the company relocated to Tennessee and that’s why we moved there.

I get a lot of my inspiration from my parents. We lost our house. We lost everything. They had four kids, and seeing how they were able to recover from something so devastating through love and hard work taught me I can get anywhere, and I did with the All-American Band.

Both my parents graduated from Tennessee Tech within the last three years after we moved – my father in computer science and my mother in accounting – and they did it in 2 1/2 years. We were not really well off and on welfare. With four kids, they decided they were going to change how we lived. They got those degrees with honors – my mom with a 3.9 GPA.  If they can do that, I can play saxophone well sometimes.

After Hurricane Katrina, a lot of people didn’t realize that nobody had anything, especially in the coastal area where we lived. A lot of what went down was corruption and people doing bad things. It was sad to see. We didn’t live in a wealthy area of town. There were not successful people. My parents and myself decided then that we were going to be successful. I don’t want my children or anyone else to live by that standard. I want my kids to be proud of me, I want to be proud of myself. I’m proud of my parents. They put that into me. I gained inspiration from that and that’s taken me to where I am.