Army Field Band Soldiers provide instrument demonstrations for Maryland students

By Jonathan E. Agee
The United States Army Field Band

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Photo credit: Jonathan E. Agee
Master Sgt. Joseph Bowlds demonstrates the bassoon to Northfield Elementary School students Aug. 31 in the school’s band room. Later in the day, students will have the opportunity to choose an instrument they can learn to play during the school year.
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — Soldiers from The United States Army Field Band teamed up with Maryland schools to offer instrumental demonstrations, Aug 30 through Sept. 1.

The demonstrations were conducted with elementary-school students who are being introduced to an instrument for the first time. By having members of The U.S. Army Field Band demonstrate the instruments, students had the chance to see and hear professional musicians perform on an instrument the students could learn to play during the upcoming year.

For many band directors, having premier musicians demonstrate the instruments motivates students to sign up for the band program. “They get to see and hear the best play individually and then play together,” said Timothy Beall, Northfield Elementary School band director. “And they get a chance to see each of the instruments played so well they just get so excited about it.”

Northfield Elementary School students were particularly excited. Following the demonstrations, students had the opportunity to ask questions that ranged from how certain sounds were produced, to why the Soldiers chose their instruments.

One student, who was fond of Star Wars, wondered if the theme song could be played on the trumpet. Sgt. 1st Class John Altman, who demonstrated the trumpet, said that not only could it be performed, but having interest in a specific song and the instrument associated with that song was a good indicator for what instrument a student may want to play.

“That’s how it worked for me,” said Altman. “I heard a song and I thought, ‘I like the way that sounds; what’s that playing? A trumpet? I want to play that.’ So that might guide you in the direction of which instrument you want to play one day.”

The demonstrations typically last about 30 minutes, to allow the musicians enough time to reach other students in different schools. For the Army Field Band, reaching as many students as possible and providing a positive experience for those students is paramount.

“Everybody remembers the first day they saw an instrument that they wanted to play if they end up playing that instrument,” said Sgt. Maj. Virginia Turner, Concert Band element leader. “I remember the first time I encountered a trumpet and I was like, ‘OK that is something I want to do.’ But even if a kid plays it in school and pursues other career options, he or she will always be tied to music and will always be tied to the positive experience they had with an Army musician.”

“They [Soldiers]are all professionals,” said Beall. “I play all these instruments and I know enough to teach the kids the basics, but I don’t sound as good as each one of them do on their main instrument. So [students] get to hear a flute specialist play the flute and a clarinet specialist play the clarinet; when you put all that together it is way more effective than I would be able to do by myself.”

This year, the Soldier-Musicians of The United States Army Field Band were able to provide instrument demonstrations for 16 schools throughout Maryland.

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