DeRidder High School celebrates, for the second time ever, a student who was recently selected for the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.

Colten “CJ” Denning officially joined, on Monday, the elite group of musicians who will perform in the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

CJ has been playing the euphonium since he was in sixth grade. “My naiveness lead me to where I am now,” he said as he recalled first seeing the instrument was “shiny and cool.”

The military has been a big part of CJ’s life and family. His great grandfather, grandfather, and father all served in the military. “Even though I’m not going into the military, I’ll still be able to represent what we’ve always stood for an acted for,” he said. “I can make my past generations proud, as well as my dad.”

CJ’s father, Shane Denning, is a combat veteran who retired from the military in 2014, after 23 years of service.

“To sum up our experience with the military through this honor is just tremendous,” Shane said. “This is probably his greatest achievement.”

Shane pointed out that CJ is also the kicker for the football team and varsity goalkeeper for the soccer team, as well as in the running for class valedictorian.

CJ was selected to be one of just 125 nationwide All-American band members, and one of two from the state of Louisiana. “When I first found out that I was chosen for such a big honor coming from such small humble roots, is was surreal,” he said. “It’s just me and a friend from Sulfur.” That friend is Sulfur High School senior and sousaphone player Ethyn Evans.

CJ has been awarded a scholarship from Northwestern State University where he will be a part of the marching band starting next fall. He plans study music education.

Carolyn Herrington, who was one of CJ’s band directors along the way, is proud of, and excited for, him. She called him the “gold standard for musicians.”

Herrington remembers CJ when he was just getting started in sixth grade. “He was easy to teach because he was so driven to get everything perfect,” she said. “That drive for perfection has stayed with him and made him the tremendous musician he is today.”

DeRidder High School band director Aaron Theall nominated CJ for the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.

“Being a successful band member not only requires great skill, but also a commitment to teamwork,” said Mark S. Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing. “To be an Army All-American requires students to excel musically and academically, but most importantly, as young people of character. The U.S. Army is proud to honor all of our talented 2018 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band members and commend each of them on their selection to this elite group.”

David Ifland became the first DeRidder High School All-American in 2014, which opened many doors for him in his music endeavors. “It has been a stepping stone to many of my musical pursuits throughout my college career,” he said. “I have been a four-year member of the LSU Tiger band and have spent four summers in DCI (Drum Corps International), two years in the Louisiana Stars (2014, 2015), and two years in the Bluecoats (2016, 2017) where I experienced the thrill of being a member of the 2016 World Championship Bluecoat season.”

CJ’s experience as an All-American will likely open similar doors of opportunity.