Field Band partners with Howard County Schools for instrument demonstrations

By Jonathan E. Agee
United States Army Field Band

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Photo credit: Jonathan E. Agee
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spurgeon, percussionist, and Staff Sgt. Christy LaBarca, French horn player, answer questions from Guilford Elementary students, Aug. 31, following the Field Band’s instrument demonstrations.
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — The United States Army Field Band teamed up with Howard County Schools to offer instrumental demonstrations, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2.

Field Band members conducted the demonstrations for fourth- and fifth-graders in order to showcase the instruments students could learn to play for the upcoming school year.

Having premier musicians demonstrate the instruments proves invaluable for the schools’ band programs. Charlene McDaniel, Guilford Elementary band and strings teacher, said that during the previous year she had no one willing to play in the trombone section. When she asked the Field Band to help her demonstrate the instrument she quickly filled the slots.

For members of the Field Band the opportunity to play for young students is just as rewarding. “We all realize how important this is,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Johnson, trumpet player. “Some of the kids might not even know that they want to be in band until they hear something like this. We had a group of very responsive kids and it was very rewarding. They seemed very interested.”

“It is different than playing a concert,” said Staff Sgt. Erika Grimm, oboist and English horn player. “I get to promote the instrument that I feel so passionate about. I’ve been looking forward to this because I want to play my best for them.”

The musicians try to find musical pieces that will resonate with the students. During one performance, a Field Band trombone player performed the theme song from The Simpsons. Another Field Band Soldier played a song from Snow White. Each time the students recognized a piece of music they were quick to let the performers know.

“If the kids recognized a tune that the musician was playing, there is this cool moment of recognition,” said Johnson. “We try to play tunes that they can recognize and connect with.”

Another important factor in having premier musicians demonstrate the instruments is to show students the level they can reach in music. “I think it is really important that the students can hear what the final product can sound like,” said Staff Sgt. Christy LaBarca, French horn player.

The demonstrations typically last about 30 minutes, to allow the Field Band members enough time to reach other students in different schools. If time permits, the Soldiers will answer questions from the students.

“It’s always interesting what they may ask, because it is never anything that you may think of,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Blossom, saxophonist. “It’s valuable for the students to hear what the professionals sound like and give the students the opportunity to ask questions.”

Students at Guilford Elementary School asked questions ranging from specifics about the instruments to specifics about the United States Army.

“Having the partnership with The United States Army Field Band is such an excellent resource,” said McDaniel. “We really appreciate that this exists for us in Howard County.”

This year, The United States Army Field Band Soldiers were able to provide instrument demonstrations for 13 schools throughout Maryland.

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