Col. Thomas H. Palmatier earns Minerva Award from SUNY

By Terry Brown
the Times Union

News story photo
Photo credit: The United States Army Field Band
Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, The United States Army Field Band Commander, and Renée Fleming, soprano, are both recipients of the Minerva Award and graduates of the Crane School of Music. Palmatier earned this year’s Minerva Award for lifetime professional achievement while Fleming earned it a few years prior.
Army Col. Thomas H. Palmatier from Ballston Spa, New York, leads a talented bunch of soldiers.

Palmatier has spent most of his 32-year military career working with musicians and singers.

As commander and conductor of The U.S. Army Field Band at Fort Meade, Md., he leads about 100 musical ambassadors and singers.

Palmatier has earned recognition for his performance as a commander and conductor.

The colonel has been named winner of the 2010 Minerva Award by the State University of New York at Potsdam.

Palmatier, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of music degree from the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, earned the award for his distinguished record of lifetime professional achievement.

The colonel was also recently selected for membership in the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. Membership is by invitation only and is only tendered to those with significant achievements. Founding members include John Phillip Sousa, the famous marching band composer and conductor known for American military and patriotic marches.

To be a member of the U.S. Army Field Band, a musician must meet high musician and Army soldier standards, according to Palmatier.

"Soldiers in The U.S. Army Field Band are among the finest musicians in the world, with many having received training at the leading music schools and conservatories and with a wide range of high level professional experience," he says. "They must maintain the highest technical (musical) standards and also successfully maintain all Army soldier standards such as APFT (fitness) and weight.

Two of his band's musicians are from the Capital Region.

Sergeant Maj. Thomas Enokian of Colonie, is a percussion group leader and plays snare drum, cymbals, xylophone, tambourine and other percussion instruments. He graduated from Colonie Central High School in 1985 and from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, in 1989.

Sergeant 1st Class Brian Sacawa of Rotterdam, plays the saxophone. He is a 1995 graduate of Schalmont High School, Rotterdam, and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1999 and a master's degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2003.

The band advertises nationally whenever there is a vacancy, Palmatier says.

"Professional musicians in and out of the Army submit resumes and recordings," the colonel says. "After screening, a limited number are invited for a personal audition. They must then fully qualify for enlistment prior to the audition. The auditionees go through a very challenging all-day examination involving multiple rounds and an interview."

The U.S. Army Field Band musicians and singers perform more than just military marches. Their repertoire includes patriotic, jazz, Broadway musical, and pop tunes.

The 1972 graduate of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School has led the U.S. Army Field Band's "Musical Ambassadors of the Army" since September 2007.

Since 1946, the band and its components -- The Concert Band, The Soldiers' Chorus, The Jazz Ambassadors and The Volunteers rockers -- have performed in all 50 states and more than 30 countries at school assemblies, concert halls, educational outreach programs, festivals as well as on television and radio shows.

When he previously served as commandant of the Army School of Music, he was responsible for the training of Army band soldiers, noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, and commissioned officers for the Army's 106 bands worldwide. The colonel also has served as commander of the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus.

He supervised musical support for the 1989, 1993, and 2001 presidential inaugural celebrations.

Palmatier also earned a master of fine arts in music from Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo., and a master of strategic studies degree from the U.S. Army War College. Col. Palmatier is former director of the Rochester International Tattoo, a military spectacle featuring music, and former principal director of music for the Virginia International Tattoo. He was also music director of the Dominion Brass Band, which won the Honors Section of the North American championships in 1996.

Palmatier has earned two Legion of Merit medals, and seven Meritorious Service Medals. He was the first Army band officer to earn both the Parachutist and Air Assault Badges. He also earned a combat patch for service in El Salvador.

His wife, Shirley, is a retired Army Medical Corps officer, and his daughter, Gabrielle, is a ballet dancer and instructor in Los Angeles.

Back to News Home

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Distinctive Unit Insignia