The 126 Army Band of the Michigan National Guard, "The Governor's Own" as of 2013, has been entertaining the citizens of Michigan for more than 50 years. Based in Belmont, Michigan, the band has earned praise from music critics and audiences alike. The band is assigned to the Michigan National Guard Headquarters in Lansing, Michigan.

The tradition of military music in the Michigan National Guard dates back to colonial militia units at Michigan’s frontier forts. Colonial regiments stationed at Ft. Detroit, Ft. Mackinac, and Ft. Michilimackinac all employed drummers, fifers, or buglers as signal musicians as early as the 18th century. At the beginning of the Civil War, State Militia Regiments were each assigned a Regimental Band which was often uniformed and outfitted at the expense of the regimental officers. Many Michigan artillery, infantry, and cavalry regiments marched to war with such bands. During the Civil War, General George A. Custer, Commanding General of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade, even went so far as to order the band first into battle in a famous engagement at Brandy Station. By the middle of the war, it became apparent that the large number of regimental bands was taxing the pay, personnel, and support systems of the army in the field. General order 91 (July 29, 1862) disbanded regimental bands and allowed one band of sixteen musicians each per brigade.

The 126th Army Band can trace its direct heritage back to the Headquarters Battery and Band of the 119th Field Artillery in Lansing. The Band of the 119th was active with the Headquarters unit during the Spanish-American War (at Santiago), World War I, and World War II.

In 1941, the 119th Field Artillery’s Headquarters Band was federally recognized as Band, 119th Field Artillery and inducted into Federal service on April 7 in Lansing. By 1943, personnel constraints in the U.S. Army once again caused the disbandment of all regimental bands and the 119th Field Artillery Band was disbanded on March 15, 1943 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. The 119th Field Artillery Band was then reconstituted and redesignated as the 46th Infantry Division Band on August 25, 1945. The 46th Infantry Division Band received federal recognition on December 16, 1946 and was commanded by Warrant Officer JG James H. Jennings.

In 1956, the 46th Infantry Division Band was disbanded, reorganized, and moved to the armory at 7 Michigan Avenue NW in Grand Rapids. Thus began the history of our present band. Warrant Officer Charles R. Berry was chosen to command the new 46th Infantry Division Band which was made up of members of the Lansing band and members from the band of the 126th Infantry Regiment which had been stationed in Grand Rapids before their disbandment and subsequent reassignment to the U.S. Air Force.

In 1965, the 46th Infantry Division Band was moved to the armory in Wyoming, Michigan. Two years later, on July 24, 1967 the band was ordered into active Federal service for the Detroit Riots and released from active Federal service on August 2, 1967.

On February 1, 1968 the 46th Infantry Division Band was reorganized and redesignated as the 126th Army Band and was relieved from assignment to the 46th Infantry Division. In 1973, Warrant Officer Paul Walters assumed the command of the band and held that position until his retirement in 1999.

From 1999 to 2003, the band was under the command of Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Bruinsma and directed by First Sergeant Jim Zwarensteyn. From 2003-2017 the band was under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jon Montgomery. Upon his retirement in 2017, the band changed command from Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jon Montgomery to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kimberly Ferrante, the current bandmaster and commander. 1SG Andrew Schwallier is the current senior enlisted First Sergeant.

As the only National Guard Band in Michigan, the 126th Army Band has the privilege of carrying on the musical heritage of all Michigan regimental, division, and civic military bands dating from before the Civil War. The 126th Army Band is proud to serve the citizens of Michigan as representatives of the Michigan National Guard and will continue to provide the best in musical entertainment for many years to come.

For more information visit www.126armyband.com

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