The U.S. Army Band Brass Quintet impacts training at the Army School of Music

By SFC Chris Wallace, Horn/Senior Army Instructor
U.S. Army School of Music, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, VA

News story photo
Photo credit: SFC Chris Wallace
The U.S. Army Band and the Brass MPT's of Class 12-003
(3 August 2012) Next week the ASOM staff and students of class 12-004 (AIT) will get to enjoy some of the best performance oriented training they will ever participate in with a focus on Brass. As the horn instructor I eagerly look forward to the next “Pershing’s Own” training session and performance for us. The “Pershing’s Own” Brass Quintet first came in to support the new AIT course on 1-2 November, 2011 and then again 19 April, 2012. Next week they will be here again and anyone who attends the event will find some useful information to take away.

On Monday the brass quintet will start with instrument specific master classes or lessons in the morning. After lunch there is a performance and then Brass MPT Master Classes with The U.S. Army Band (TUSAB) BQ. Each of our student MPT E’s or Small Brass Ensembles will get a chance to perform up to two pieces for the group and then have the TUSAB members work with them in front of the rest of their class.

These MPT master classes are incredibly valuable to the students and to the brass instructors. In April MSG Joseph Lovinsky talked to our low brass ensemble about articulation and demonstrated a simple exercise that can be incorporated into any daily routine or warm-up. Ever since then I started using the technique he talked about in my own playing and with my students and it has made a positive difference in my studio. Often during these training sessions the TUSAB Soldiers will talk about brass performance issues with students that we as instructors have discussed previously. They might say the same thing in a new or different way than we have but they reinforce our training, methods and messages to our students. When they reiterate the same solutions we have been communicating to our students they help us build credibility in our training and organization. I saw a light bulb go on over a student’s head (figuratively) after SFC Terry Bingham used almost the same words as one of our instructors during one their master classes. Hearing the same information from multiple sources is sometimes needed to get a point through to a student.

During their master class in April each member of the “Pershing’s Own” Quintet spoke about themselves and their journey through music and life to get to where they are today. They also talked about how they keep their skills and chops in shape in a high op-tempo environment while traveling and performing. I found this very valuable. I realized that these Soldiers got to where they are through hard work and persistence. This is an outstanding example for our Soldiers. They also demonstrated that fortifying the fundamentals in brass playing through one’s daily routine is essential to even highly skilled musicians such as themselves. MSG Matt Niess gave us an amazing example of how to build jazz chops through how he uses modes in his daily routine. Former member MSG Harry Watters gave an entire improvisation master class in November 2011. Every visit from the TUSAB BQ is unique and entertaining and highly educational.

In implementing the new AIT course at the Army School of Music we address 21st Century challenges for our Soldiers with 21st Century solutions. We adhere to the Army Learning Model 2015 which stresses the use of demonstrations, learner-centric hands-on training and assessments, and a focus on Soldier learning experiences to train our Soldiers to engage our 21st Century audience and support our 21st Century Army. The training conducted with the TUSAB Brass Quintet fully supports these training ideas and models. They begin the training with a masterful demonstration and then jump right into hands-on small unit performance, feedback and development. The music they select for their performances demonstrates the diverse spectrum of music performed by modern Army Bands. From their classical opener “My Spirit Be Joyful” to Jazz like their arrangement of “Flight of the Bumblebee” to fusion as in “Some Skunk Funk” this group demonstrates what is possible with a brass quintet. With every piece they perform they raise expectations of what our MPT’s can do.

The “Pershing’s Own” Brass Quintet has built a bridge by becoming involved in training at the Army School of Music. They have developed a connection to our Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard Musician Soldiers. I served for years in the Army before I ever heard a group from an Army special band perform. In November 2011 when this BQ performed for us at the ASOM it was a significant event in my musical and Army career. This was one live performance I will never forget. We have future leaders in our class of students who aren’t brass players and for them I feel this training is very valuable. They are being shown how these instruments should sound and what music is possible when you put them in the right hands beyond what our outstanding instructors already do.

Their shows are unforgettable. Their work greatly enhances our training. We are very fortunate to have the U.S. Army Band Brass Quintet train with us and the impact of their positive contributions and inspiration will send ripples throughout our force for years to come.

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