126 Army Band Draws Biggest Crowd

By Tony Wittkowski
The Lowell Ledger

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Photo credit: Tony Wittkowski
126 Army Band, Rock Band "Live Fire" performs as part of the concert on July 4, 2013 in Lowell, MI
With impeccable timing the 126 Army Band brought their talents to Lowell Thursday evening to celebrate Independence Day in military fashion.

Under the current direction of Chief Warrant Officer Jon Montgomery, the group of musicians has performed throughout the United States, London, Italy, Australia and Latvia for all branches of the Armed Forces.

This marked their third time in Lowell under Montgomery's command, which wielded the biggest turnout in the Summer Concert Series so far.

"Two-hundred and thirty-seven years ago we started a big fight," Montgomery said while on stage before a crowd that stretched far beyond the library. "A lot of these people could be a lot of different places, but they decided to come here and share it with us."

Among those surprised by the massive turnout was Montgomery, who said they're happy even if its only two people in attendance. Especially if one of them is a veteran.

"Some of these parents here haven't been able to hug their son or daughter in a couple of years and they can hug us," he said. "Some won't hug them ever again."

Many families ventured out to witness the band while they played various types of music ranging from symphonic to country. However, not all of the spectators were crammed on to the grass stretching out along the Riverwalk.

Pete and Mary Wallner have lived in Lowell for nine years and always try to make it to the concerts during the summer on Thursdays. Tonight they were one of the few who were out on the water, watching the band play.

"It's unique because it's a nice option," said Pete Wallner, who was watching from a kayak. "Not everyone wants to fight the crowds downtown in Grand Rapids.”

The Army Band sang happy birthday to a member in the audience and at one point played the song for each military branch, saluting each veteran as they stood up.

Sergeant First Class Andrew Schwallier has been with the Army Band for 22 years and considers the other members to be a second family to him.

He plays the french horn and does a little singing too. The 35-member band differed in ages from 18 to 60-year-olds, Schwallier said.

At one point the band stepped off stage to greet those who came out to see the show, giving a select few band members a chance to play some country music.

"During our annual training we get groups together where we play jazz, country and rock," Schwallier said. "We tend to look at the crowd when choosing which type of music to play."

And the reason why Schwallier keeps coming back every year to play in the band?

"The camaraderie and being able to make sweet music together."


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