Have Sousaphones, Will Travel

By Jerry Harben
Editor, Mercury Newspaper, an Army Medical Department publication

News story photo
Photo credit: Courtesy Photo
The MEDCOM band's latin group 'Fuerza Latina' entertains music students at Brigham Young University during performances in Hawaii.
Have sousaphones, will travel.

That's not exactly the motto of the Medical Command Band, but the
musical group does want units throughout MEDCOM to know they are
available for morale-boosting performances and outreach efforts far from
their base at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

"We're not just a marching band," said SFC Jesse Bolanos, who sings and
plays euphonium for the band. "We offer music to fit whatever situation.
We have a rock band playing Top 40, classic rock, country and R&B; a latin
band playing everything from salsa to meringue; a jazz group and two
brass quintets. We pride ourselves on being as diverse as the population
we support."

As an example, Bolanos said the band traveled to Hawaii in February.

"The highlight was a concert for the Warriors in Transition at Scholfield
Barracks. We called it 'Freedom Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.' We
had folks dancing in the aisles. I think some people who came to hear a
military band got more than they expected," he said.

The band can play for dining outs, warrior transition units, Soldier and
Family support centers, humanitarian aid missions and recruiting efforts, as
well as traditional military ceremonies.

"We played at Lanier High School [in San Antonio] recently," Bolanos
said. "We used the rock band and latin band to reach out to these
students. It's an eye opener to them there are jobs in the Army that are
very attractive. The recruiter got excellent feedback."

Bolanos said any unit that needs musical support should check the band's
Website at www.cs.amedd.army.mil/323band.

"On the site you'll find information about every ensemble we offer and a
request page," he said.

As of now requesting units will have to pay expenses for the band to

"We are trying to enlarge our budget so we can pay for it ourselves, but
currently our budget has not grown with our mission," Bolanos said.

Bolanos is a 16-year Army veteran who recently was selected Senior NCO
of the Year for the entire Army band system.

"I like the ability to bridge gaps with music," he said. "I served 15 months
in Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division Band. The jazz combo was playing
jazz standards, when a platoon of dirty, weary Soldiers came in off patrol.
Someone requested 'Georgia On My Mind.' I could see all the Soldiers'
shoulders relax. I could see guys taken out of their situation and back
home. That's the kind of thing music can do."

The band is recording music that soon will be available on the Website,
and hoping for more trips as they undertake their world-wide mission.

"We are a Medical Command asset. We look forward to providing support
anywhere in the world," Bolanos said.

From the May 2009 Mercury, an Army Medical Department publication.

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