"Local" is new norm for the Army Field Band

By Jonathan E. Agee
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: Jonathan E. Agee
Staff Sgt. David Parks works with a saxophone student at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City, Md. April 11.
ELLICOTT CITY, Md. -- For several weeks, members of the Army Field Band have been sharing the Army Story with community members in the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. From performances at the Smithsonian National Museum of Air and Space, to small elementary classrooms, and universities, the Soldier-Musicians of the Army Field Band are inspiring, educating, and entertaining those around the Fort Meade area.

A recent trip by the Saxophone Quartet to Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City highlights the importance of the Soldiers’ local mission.

“The true benefit to the students is to see the level to which the performance of music can be taken,” said Daniel Pendley, music instructor at Mt. Hebron High School. “The Saxophone Quartet gave the students a sample of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication over the course of years. I have had various chamber groups from The United States Army Field Band out to play for and work with my students over the last few years. The performances have always been very well done and the students have learned quite a bit.”

The Soldiers spent a couple of hours at the school April 11 where students had a chance to hear a performance and attend a master class.

“The most important thing is to be honest and to be yourself,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Sacawa, alto saxophone. “High school students have an amazing nose for insincerity and if they detect any sort of pandering or disingenuousness you lose all credibility. I love playing music and I love sharing my passion for it. Whether it's while I'm performing during a recital or encouraging a student to push their boundaries during a master class, I always try to let that genuine passion show. It inspires the student and is fulfilling to me.”

While the Saxophone Quart performed at Mt. Hebron High School, other small ensembles were also engaging the community. Throughout the week, the Army Field Band conducted a total of 38 community engagements.

“From an Army standpoint, it is important to make a connection to the community on many levels such as schools, retirement communities and other civic organizations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Stephens, educational activities coordinator. “It is very clear, based on feedback, that the professionalism of our musicians is directly correlating to the professionalism of the Army. From a music-education standpoint, it is important to help students see a potential end product for what they are working on in their music class. It is proven that music works both sides of the brain and students involved in music do better in school. So educational outreach is our way of getting into the community and helping make a positive impact on the community at large and the Army.”

Community members are not the only ones benefiting from the outreach efforts, the Soldier-Musicians of the Army Field Band also have a sense of accomplishment knowing they are helping to make a difference.

“My favorite teaching moments are always those ‘A-ha!’ moments--those times when a concept or an idea clicks right then and there for a student,” said Sacawa. “When it happens, you can see it in their eyes and their facial expression and it opens up a whole other realm for their musical curiosity to explore. We had one of those moments during our clinic at Mt Hebron HS. One student who performed for us was very talented, but her instrument or something fundamental seemed to be getting in the way of her ability to express what was clearly in her head. We eventually figured out that her embouchure was too tight. Once she was aware of that and made a small adjustment her sound opened up and she was able to better execute her musical ideas. That doesn't always happen, but when it does it feels great.”

Local engagements are the new “norm” for the Army Field Band, but members are hopeful they will be sharing the Army Story with audiences across the nation soon. Until that time, they have several exciting performances lined up. To see the full schedule of upcoming events visit: http://www.armyfieldband.com/pages/schedule/sched.html

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