Army Field Band focuses on local community when not on tour

By Jonathan Agee
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: Jonathan Agee
Col. Timothy Holtan, commander and conductor of The United States Army Field Band, speaks to the members of the Rotary Club of Glen Burnie about the U.S. Army, its Soldiers, and how the Army Field Band provides support through an active touring schedule, educational outreach and community engagements Sept. 22, during a meeting in Glen Burnie.
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. —Many people believe The United States Army Field Band is all about music, and there’s some truth to that, but what makes the Soldier-Musicians of the Army Field Band so unique is that they are continually traveling throughout the country telling the story of today’s Soldier to the American public.

It is the interaction coupled with music that allows the Army Field Band to strengthen its ties between the Army and civilian populations wherever they travel.

When Army Field Band Soldier-Musicians are not on the road, their mission does not change. Between rehearsing for an upcoming tour, hosting school clinics, and producing instructional music guides, these Soldiers are in the community, creating relationships and building bonds with the American public.

Recently, Col. Timothy Holtan, commander and conductor of The United States Army Field Band, seized an opportunity to strengthen a relationship with a community organization sharing similar values with the Army Field Band — The Rotary Club of Glen Burnie.

“Service Above Self” is the Rotary Club’s motto, and it mirrors what many service members take to heart each and every day when they perform their duties throughout the world. Holtan recognized the similarities and benefits of this relationship, and offered to share a little more about the Army Field Band and how his Soldier-Musicians put service above self each and every day.

Holtan explained that he was not only representing the Soldier-Musicians and civilians of the Army Field Band, but also the 2.25 million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in today’s armed services. Never before has so much been asked of our military, Holtan added. He then asked everyone in attendance who has served, or has had family serve to stand up and be recognized.

This set the stage for Holtan to share a story about how Soldier-Musicians make a difference in the lives of service members throughout the world.

It was during the Gulf War when service members were deploying to combat and returning home at all times of the day and night. Holtan was a young officer in charge of providing musical support for the ceremonies, and during one performance he noticed an Army specialist who had just stepped off a plane surveying the scene and watching the Soldiers reunite with their families. The band played a few marches, and everyone was feeling well, said Holtan. The specialist, however, continued observing and taking the entire ceremony in before he started walking toward Holtan.

“We were finishing up, and he came over to me and he said, ‘I got to tell you Sir, this is pretty special. You made me feel like a hero,’” said Holtan. “And it’s on that individual level that we really hope to connect. And that was a moment I will never forget.”

Holtan wanted to relate that experience to the Rotary Club of Glen Burnie and provide attendees a small taste of the music performed nearly every day by members of the Army Field Band.

Staff Sgt. Rachel Farber, soprano, and Staff Sgt. Darren Lael, piano, performed a musical aria “Ombre legere.” The piece showcased the diversity of the Soldier-Musicians and demonstrated the excellence that is ubiquitous throughout the Army.

“The musical performance was so beautiful it brought tears to our eyes,” said Kathy McPherson, Rotary Club of Glen Burnie president. “We were too polite to ask for more music, and perhaps y'all were too polite to go over the time discussed.”

Following the presentation and performance, the Soldier-Musicians and Rotarians had the chance to talk and share ideas. One commonality that continued to surface during the conversations involved making a difference in the lives of students through educational outreach programs.

“The Rotary Club of Glen Burnie are heavily involved in educational projects,” said McPherson. “We know that seemingly small things make a big difference in a child's life. And we target poor schools with a high percentage of students on federal aid, as they have additional needs … So it would be great if we could coordinate demonstrations at one or more schools, including Marley Middle School and/or a clinic at Glen Burnie High School, to expose children to phenomenal music that can plant aspirations in kids who may not get encouragement at home.”

For members of the Army Field Band, educational outreach is commonplace. When on the road, they search out opportunities to host clinics at schools and universities. At home they do everything from instrument demonstrations to online instructional videos.
“Educational outreach is a big for us,” said Holtan. “Planting those seeds of, ‘Look what you can do!’ We all started at that same place, and if it were not for decent educational systems, we would not have The U.S. Army Field Band or any of our other structures.”

McPherson said that the presentation and interaction with the Soldier-Musicians of the Army Field Band helped inspire their community leaders and build connections that will allow both the Rotarians and the Field Band to continue edifying the communities in which they work and live.

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