Reorganized 'Ivy Division' Band better prepared for mission in Iraq

By Sgt. Coltin Heller
109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

News story photo
Photo credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Coltin Heller, 109th MPAD, USD-N PAO
Fourth Infantry Division rock band “High Altitude,” plays for Soldiers stationed at Contingency Operating Base Speicher New Year’s Day. The band members, who are lead by drummer SFC George L. Padilla, are assigned to Musical Performance Team C, part of the “Ivy Division” Band, Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Inf. Div., represent one of several small ensembles the band reorganized into after Army bands transformed to modular teams.
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Since before the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Army fielded bands, providing bugles, drums and flutes for militia to conduct drill and ceremony, signal a commander’s tactical orders to his troops, or inspire Soldiers to stand fast in battle.

Throughout the centuries, the role of military bands evolved and transformed with the many missions and deployments of today’s modern Army.

“Division bands used to deploy when an entire division would deploy,” said Chief Warrant Officer Marvin Cardo, conductor of the Ivy Division Band. “Think of the band now as a brigade combat team, in the sense that the band is able to deploy each section on its own.”

The transformation separated the 45 musicians of the “Ivy Division” Band into Music Performance Teams, which allow the musicians more flexibility, deploying in smaller, mobile sections, said Cardo, a native of New York.
Sections of 4th Infantry Division’s Ivy Division Band continue to provide entertainment for audiences stationed at Contingency Operating Base Speicher and troops deployed throughout northern Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, he explained.

Two rock bands, “H.E.A.T.” and “High Altitude” deployed with “Brass Incline”, a brass quintet, to U.S. Division-North in support of Operation New Dawn.
The rock bands combine classic rock elements like guitars and drums with brass instruments for a unique sound, and Brass Incline attends formal ceremonies playing the National Anthem, Ivy Division March and other formal Army songs.

“This marks the first time sections of a band deployed independently,” Cardo said. “The (Music Performance Teams) here are on a six-month deployment.”
MPTs will rotate back to Fort Carson to support events at home station, trading places with the other members of the band, who will deploy to support troops with U.S. Division-North.

Spc. Kasey Walker, trumpet player for MPT C, the High Altitude rock band, said the new organization has increased the band’s overall effectiveness.
“This allows us to do multiple missions at the same time,” said Walker, an Evansdale, Iowa-native. “With smaller ensembles we can be moved from place to place with little hassle.”

The restructuring allowed musicians of each MPT to hone their individual musical skills on a particular style of music, providing band members with more experience and Soldiers with a greater variety of music.

“In the past, bands were more geared toward concert type performances,” said Staff Sgt. Larry Weisel, who hails from Lowery, Minn., and serves as keyboard player for High Altitude. “This allows the band members to focus on a particular genre of music.”

“Having these specialized sections allows us to have a wider more diverse foot print,” said Weisel.

Playing every Saturday at the COB Speicher Dining Facility and traveling to play for units throughout southern and northern Iraq, Weisel said he enjoys watching the audience take a longer lunch or dinner as they revel in familiar beats.

“I enjoy every performance we do for the Soldiers in the field,” said Weisel. “This is one of the most rewarding career fields.”

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