SOMERSET, Mass. — Aaron Couto is marching to his own beat.

At the same time, the Somerset Berkley Regional High School senior alto saxophone player extraordinaire can appreciate his family’s love of music that lit his path.

Representatives from the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band came to SBRHS on Monday to officially present Couto with his designation into that prestigious 125-piece band. He is the only designee in New England.

On Jan. 4, the 2014 U.S. Army National Marching Band will perform in San Antonio, Texas, 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 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,” C said. “I like playing jazz a lot. Jazz is my big thing.”

The son of Cheryl and Carlos Couto, he 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, clarinet, a little flute. About the eighth grade he joined the marching band, and his plans started to meld.

He aspires to be a high school music teacher, he said, and has several colleges lined up.

Participating and excelling in music can open opportunities far and wide. This past summer Couto 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 stress 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 learn 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.

On 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.”

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