Elite Performance

By Debbie Bell
The Daily Record of Cañon City, CO

News story photo
Photo credit: Jeff Shame / Daily Record
Elite Performance

Debbie Bell
The Daily Record

A foot soldier in the infantry of musical diplomacy, MSG Patrick Lipphardt took the stage Thursday armed with a French horn and his megawatt smile to spread the message of the American soldier.
“This is the last night of our tour,” Lipphardt said before the United States Army Field Band & Soldiers’ Chorus performed at Harrison School. “I expect a high level of energy. This will be the pinnacle of performance for the entire tour.”

Pinnacle of performance, indeed. Lipphardt and the other 96 soldiers moved many in the audience of about 700 to tears with their rousing renditions of patriotic songs, prompting several standing ovations.

A graduate of Widefield High School in Colorado Springs, Lipphardt was the only Colorado native on the tour, which started the first of October in Washington D.C. The elite band performs 110 days a year, traveling each day and performing a free concert each night.

“We perform everything from small audiences to hundreds of thousands of people,” said Lipphardt, who will retire next year from a career with the band. They have performed with the Boston Pops on the Fourth of July for a national television audience, as well as the hundreds of thousands in attendance.

Like every soldier in the U.S. Army, Lipphardt and the others had to complete basic training after stringent auditions to join the band. Army life was no surprise to the 51-year-old — his father also was a career military man. His parents still live in Colorado Springs and manage to watch him perform almost every year.

Now living in Hanover, Md., Lipphardt said the audience’s emotional reaction sparks the thrill of the show.

“When the audience gets caught up in it,” Lipphardt said, “especially veterans, it’s very rewarding. We do this to honor them.”

During his 30-year career, Lipphardt has performed many times in every state in the nation, as well as in about 20 foreign countries.

“I have a map in my home,” he said. “I put a pin in every place I’ve been. It’s completely plastered.”

Like most soldiers, the life of these men and women is not a traditional 9-to-5 job. They travel in three tour buses that are part of a caravan along with an 18-wheel equipment truck, a smaller truck with electrical and sound gear, and five vans. They sleep in hotels along the way.

“We become extremely close,” Lipphardt said. “I’ve been rooming with the same friend for the past six or seven years. We probably know each other better than our spouses.”

He looks forward to retirement — and staying in one place for awhile — but Lipphardt and his fellow soldiers first have an important appointment Jan. 20. The Army Field Band will lead the Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C., following the presidential inauguration.

Commander and conductor Col. Thomas H. Palmatier said the group was now in its 4,360th mile of the tour.

“We travel to the grassroots of America to tell the story – the marvelous story – of the U.S. Army,” Palmatier said. “It is an easy story to tell, and an incredible privilege for each of us.”

The concert, sponsored by Cañon City School District and the Daily Record, closed out with a salute to each branch of the armed forces. Palmatier asked veterans to stand to be recognized while the band belted out the fight song of each branch.

Most of the audience stood for one or another of the five theme songs, while Palmatier faced the veterans and solemnly saluted them.

Many returned the salute.

“It is our great pride to be here with you as soldiers representing soldiers,” Palmatier said.

Debbie Bell may be reached at dbell@ccdailyrecord.com.

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