Unity Through Music

By PFC Alisha Nye
14th Public Affairs Detachment, Task Force Iron PAO

News story photo
Photo credit: PFC Alisha Nye
BAGHDAD - Victor Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” This is an ideal that the 1st Armored Division band members brought to Iraq with them, making unity their musical expression.

The 1st Arm. Div. band members put on a concert in the Diyala province at the Diyala government center, Oct. 1, 2008, as part of a tour they are conducting in the seven provinces of Northern Iraq.

“The theme of this concert is ‘Unity Through Music,’” said Chief Warrant Officer Jason Mulhall, sphere of influence officer, Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. “It’s to bring Americans and, most of all, Iraqi citizens together.”

This is a task, however, that has only been made possible recently. The ability of 1st Arm. Div. to hold the concert tour shows the citizens of Iraq that the security situation in the country has improved.

“What we’re attempting to do is show the citizens of Diyala that the security situation has improved and allow citizens to come in and hear the history of American music as it’s played by the 1AD band,” said Mulhall.

“If the security wasn’t good enough, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” said Chief Warrant Officer Gary Dorrell, band master and commander, 1st Arm. Div. Band.

“This is the first time since our entrance into Iraq that a performance like this has taken place,” Dorrell said. “This concert is going to all these different places and this is the very first time this has happened.”

The concert is not only meant to unify the people of Iraq with Americans, but with each other, as well.

“It’s going to be a good show for the Iraqi people,” said Mulhall. “And that’s who it’s all for. Hopefully, this will bring some of the Iraqis closer together so they can start working together to start improving the situation in the country. Hopefully this is, at least, the start of unity for the Iraqi people.”

Unity may be the most important theme to the concert, but it is not the only one, however. The concert was started as a gift to the Iraqi people from Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division - North and 1st Arm. Div., and showcases the history of American music.

“This is General Hertling’s gift, sort of like his farewell gift to the Iraqi people, before we return to Germany,” said Dorrell. “The music goes everywhere from Yankee Doodle, at the very beginning of American history, all the way to alternative rock and roll.”

The selection included “American Folk Suite,” “Royal Gardens Blues,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Mr. Pitiful,” and “Ghost Rider in the Sky” as well as music from “The Jungle Book” and “West Side Story.”

“We have all these small groups that are playing as well as the big concert band together,” said Dorrell. “Each one of those groups was assigned a certain music type and we put it all together so that it is chronological. What we are doing is reaching out to the general population of Iraq just to give the people and idea of what we are all about musically.”

So far the concert tour has been successful, said Mulhall.

“They’ve played in other provinces which have been extremely successful, with up to 700 people attending,” Mulhall said.

With hundreds of people attending, the reception of the band members and their concerts has been good.

“The reception we’ve been getting has been superb,” said Dorrell. “There has been a lot of picture taking, a lot of hand shaking. It’s just been great.”

Playing these concerts has meant as much to the band members as it has appeared to be to the Iraqis attending them.

“To the band members, I think, it’s extremely important for them to come play a situation like this,” said Mulhall.

Dorrell agreed.

“This is what I do,” said Dorrell. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years. Putting on concerts is what I’m all about. So, doing it here is a great thing.”

Dorrell said the effect of the concerts on the citizens in attendance is visible.

“We get to see their expressions, what it’s doing for the people of Iraq and how it’s affecting them and I think it’s a good effect,” he said.

“No matter where you go in the world, you’re going to hear music,” Dorrell said. “I think it’s a great way to pull people together. Music is a universal language.”

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