Army Field Band Ready for Big Day

By Jason Flanagan
Baltimore Examiner

News story photo
Photo credit: Kristine Buls
Members of The U.S. Army Field Band practice indoors Thursday at Fort Meade as they prepare to perform in the parade for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday in Washington D.C.
Marching in an inauguration parade isn't new to piccolo player Staff Sgt. Katayoon Hodjati, who performed with the U.S. Army Field Band in the 2005 parade.

Though Hodjati and 98 other soldiers based in Fort Meade will perform the same march and songs the band does for every inauguration, this one holds special meaning for the 30-year-old Ellicott City resident.

"This is going to be history, and all eyes are on you as you march and play," Hodjati said.

"I'm excited, and I get a chance to say I was a part of history, not just a bystander."

The Army Field Band is one of many performers in the inauguration, but has been a mainstay for decades.

For veterans like Sgt. Maj. Bill Gabbard, the band's drum major, the physical performance at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration will be no different from the five others he has performed in with the band.
"But this one really brings out what inaugurations mean to me -- the peaceful transition of power," said Gabbard, 48, of Arnold.

"This is an historic event, but we perform with the same concentration whether it's for a school or for the President."

For others like Chief Warrant Officer Gordon Kippola, Tuesday will be his first inaugural parade.

Kippola, 49, Odenton, is one of the band directors, and sees performing in the District fitting for those like him who have served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, as there are bands that entertain troops in both war zones.

"This is a privilege to perform for our new commander-and-chief," Kippola said.

The band will play two songs in rotation during the march: "The National Emblem March" and "Army Song."

However, a third song aptly called the "freeze march" is performed in the event that it gets terribly cold. Prolonged exposure at below-freezing temperatures can lock up brass instruments, requiring a song that will allow trumpets, trombones and tubas to play even if the band members can't use their valves.

So far, the band has yet to employ the "freeze march," but temperatures are expected to be hovering around 35 degrees. The band usually performs in the comfort of a concert hall.

With the winds creating an 11-degree wind chill Thursday, the band practiced indoors at Fort Meade.

"The cold isn't going to be too much of problem, because we have prepared for it," Hodjati said.

"Besides, I think we'll be so excited and concentrated on our task that nothing will affect us."

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