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(Enlarge) Tuba player Eric William Black, a junior in South Hill, Va., was selected as the winner of the U.S. Army All-American Young Artist Competition on April 27. The 16-year-old was among three finalists selected to perform before the U.S. Army Field Band panel at Fort Meade. (Photo by Master Sgt. Robert McIver)

A panel of 14 Soldier-musicians watched as Eric William Black performed his solo. It was something he had practiced numerous times, but now in front of musicians who have dedicated their lives to the craft, Eric was nervous.

His hands were sweaty as he picked up his tuba, but Eric stayed focused on the music he rehearsed. He began to play, and what the Soldiers-musicians heard was exactly what they were looking for - a young musician with outstanding skills and musicality.

"When I was about to perform, my mindset was, 'I'm going to go in and rock their socks off. I don't care how the other guys did, I only care how I do, and I am going to play to win,' " said Eric, a South Hill, Va., native and junior at Park View High School. "As I walked through the door all I could think was, 'Come on Eric, don't make a fool of yourself.' "

The 16-year-old was selected as the winner of the U.S. Army All-American Young Artist Competition on April 27. He was among three finalists selected to perform before the U.S. Army Field Band panel at Fort Meade.

Although all three contestants presented a high level of musical ability, Eric's performance stood out from his peers.

"We thought Eric would be an excellent winner this year. He blew us away with his musicality," said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kanowith, Young Artist Competition coordinator. "In addition to performing his piece from memory, he had a beautiful warm sound, clear musical ideas, and presented himself in a way that we would be proud to put in front of our stage."

Kanowith quickly noted that all the finalists were excellent; the fact that they made it to the finals speaks volumes for their musical ability.

The Young Artist Competition was started five years ago by the Army Field Band to highlight and feature extremely talented young musicians.

Each fall, the competition is advertised through a variety of networks that reach high school music students. Juniors then have a chance to submit an application and recording to be reviewed by Army Field Band senior leaders.

Once selected, the young musicians are invited to the Army Field Band to perform their piece in front of a panel of premier Soldier-musicians. For high school juniors, the experience can be the highlight of their musical career.

As the winner of the Young Artist Competition, Eric will now have the chance to perform his solo with the Army Field Band during a public performance. When the exact location and performance are determined, they will be posted on the Army Field Band website.

"This is a core element of our educational mission," Kanowith said. "We are teachers. We are committed to music education. What we didn't have before this competition was something that highlighted exceptionally refined and accomplished high school students. The Young Artist Competition provides that."

Eric is looking forward to performing with the Army Field Band, but also has his sights set on college. After his senior year, Eric plans to start his undergraduate work to become a music teacher or professional performer.

Editor's note: For up-to-date information on next year's Young Artist Competition, visit ArmyFieldBand.com.

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