Remembering Valley Forge Military Academy



Later this month, another alumni weekend will be celebrated at the high school I went toValley Forge Military Academy. For me it will be nearly twenty years since graduating and the same amount of time since stepping foot on campus.

I had every intention of attending this year’s festivities, but, as it turns out, I won’t be going. Nevertheless, it’s made me reminisce about my high school years, which began at all-male Catholic boarding school and ended at one of the most distinguished pre-college military academies in America.

The  picture above was taken during my first year at Valley Forge, when I was in both of the school’s musical companies, the band and the field music unit. By the end of the year, I settled in the band and stayed there for the rest of my high school career.

Being in the band was not just something one did, it was a full-time job on top of going to school. As a result, we did a lot of performing on and off campus. I can remember playing for the King and Queen of Sweden while they were in Delaware, in the inaugural day parade for George Bush (the elder), for Lech Wałęsa while he toured America, and for many events (political or otherwise), to name just a few.

Valley Forge was the kind of place that instilled mixed feelings. On the one hand, it had a rich military tradition (a mixture of British and American disciplines), a  strict and rigorous environment, and many fine role models within in its leadership. On the other, it could also be a scary place, it’s own intensity and seriousness of purpose getting the best of you and those around you. And, let me tell you, it sometimes did get to me. But that was all part of its design.

Two decades on, I can look back at my high school alma mater with pride. For all the ups and downs I experienced, it helped to shape the person I’ve become. More than anything, it taught me a sense of discipline that has profoundly affected the way I make music.

The final picture was taken during my senior year. I honestly can’t tell you who that person is because it’s difficult for me to step back into those shoes. It’s me, of course, but a seventeen year old version I barely recognize. He was pretty naïve, had little understanding of the world beyond his immediate experience, and all he wanted to do more than anything was to perform. The first two have changed dramatically, but the third remains the same, as it should.

I don’t think I was made to be in the military or to be immersed in a military environment like Valley Forge. But I do not, for one second, regret attending the school. It was an experience to be treasured and one I will forever remember. (E.T.S.U.D.)

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