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9th Army Band in Sitka Alaska
By Spc. Charles Moncayo
9th Army Band
Photo credit: Mary Rall, U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs Office
The Jammin' Salmon perform during the Alaska Day community concert
The 9th Army Band recently traveled to Sitka, Alaska to participate in the 2015 Alaska Day Festival, as well as perform a series of performances in the surrounding community. Besides performing music, members of the 9th Army Band were active members in the community, building relations, engaging local students, and acting as outstanding representatives not only for United States Army Alaska (USARAK), but for the Army as a whole.
The Alaska Day festival annually commemorates the purchase transfer of Russian controlled Alaska to the United States, which occurred on October 18, 1867. This weeklong festival celebrates the diversity of cultures, and the history of Sitka, from before the purchase to present day. The 9th Army Band was on hand to provide music for all sorts of events. Starting early in the week, and continuing up until the day that they departed, the men and women of the 9th Army Band were engaged in performances. It seemed as if every time that you turned around, any one of our many ensembles were hard at work.
The day after the unit arrived in Sitka, the “Groovin’ Grizzlies” hit the ground running and started performing in Sitka area schools. This brass band style ensemble performs a repertoire of contemporary brass music music as well as today’s popular music. Their enthusiastic, entertaining, and engaging performance energized the children to clap, dance, and sing along to the music. The members of this group also took time to field questions from the children regarding the Army, being an Army Musician, and encouraged the children to explore the different instruments that make up the ensemble.
While the “Groovin’ Grizzlies” were hard at work, visiting Sitka area elementary and middle schools, the 9th Army Band’s rock group “Vernal Equinox” was rocking out at Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe High Schools. This group is an extremely versatile group that can split into multiple ensembles, providing music for all occasions. Whether the occasion calls for country, rock n’ roll, or jazz, “Vernal Equinox” can do it all. During the Alaska Day Festival, “Vernal Equinox” provided music for the Alaska Day Ball, helping the party-goers dance the night away.
One of the highlights of the trip was the community concert performance on Friday evening at the Sitka Performing Arts Center. This concert, open to everyone in Sitka, featured not only our various small groups, but also some of our larger ensembles as well. The concert featured all styles of American music such as jazz, dixie, rock n’ roll, brass band, and even the traditional military march. This performance is incredibly popular with the people of Sitka, and it is one that they look forward to all year. After the performance, members of the community could not wait to meet the bands’ members, express their gratitude, and even take some photos! Seeing how appreciative the people of Sitka are for this performance makes this concert just as meaningful for the 9th Army Band as it is for the community.
When the 9th Army Band had some time off from performing, they made an effort to participate in the festival. On Saturday morning, family and members of the 9th Army Band participated in the Alaska Day Biathlon. This rainy 5K run and shooting event was sponsored by the Sitka Sportsman’s Association and is held annually. In addition to the Alaska Day Biathlon, members of the 9th Army Band attended other events throughout the week, visited local restaurants and businesses, and took advantage of the beautiful hiking trails and nature preserves in the area.
The 9th Army Band’s annual trip to participate in the Alaska Day Festival in Sitka, is one that is looked forward to and talked about all year. The community in Sitka is wonderfully appreciative and receptive to the band each and every year. With each visit, new relationships with the community are created, old relationships built upon, and new memories created for the band and their gracious hosts. This trip, and these performances, would not be possible without the city of Sitka and the men and women who have put so much time and effort into organizing the Alaska Day Festival.