The soothing melody of flutes, clarinets, saxophones and French horns caressed the air upward into the bright stage lights, side by side with the sounds of trumpets, tubas, and trombones that rolled across the stage floor like the tides of the sea. A woman’s soft yet powerful vocals wrapped around “America the Beautiful,” as musicians’ fingers harmoniously pelted out the melody behind the song as other hands tapped the drums swiftly at its conclusion.
These were the sounds produced through the musical instruments of 10 talented, local area, high school, band students, alongside 26 Citizen-Soldier musicians of the District of Columbia Army National Guard’s 257th Army Band, at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus on March 18, 2017.
March 18, 2017 - Washington, D.C. local high school band students perform side by side with members of the 257th Army Band, District of Columbia National Guard, at the Columbia Heights Education Campus during the first All-City Honor Band. The students were selected by their schools' band directors to perform side by side with the unit officially known as the 257th Army Band, "The Band of the Nation's Capital", during Music in Our Schools Month. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Adrian Shelton)
They were playing together neither because the military wants to recruit these children to join the military as soon as they graduate high school nor to interest them in military music. Instead, this was the All-City Honor Band, the first of its kind, sponsored by the 257th Army Band, It is a community outreach program, inspired by “Music in Our Schools,” in the month of March, to engage music teachers, student musicians and parents to promote the benefits of music education programs in schools.
“The All-City Honor Band serves two purposes; to give D.C. band students a chance to experience the things all band students around the country have, to participate in a district band, honor band, or state band,” said Army Spc. Jacob Kohut, who conducted today’s band performance, and is a band teacher outside the military. “In D.C., we saw a need, and we heard the facilities were really good here, so we reached out to the band director and she seemed really enthusiastic about having the honor band perform here.”
The student musicians played alongside the professional, military musicians, in harmony to selections such as the “Corcoran Cadets March,” “Georgia On My Mind,” and more complicated ones like the “English Folk Song Suite.” The final concert was the ultimate demonstration of teamwork, coordination, and at least three days of practice. There was also a diverse mix of male and female musicians from, different cultures and wards from across the District. The keynotes and tones truly heard during this concert were the D.C. youths’ determination to not let any of these differences affect their ability to communicate a strong sense of music appreciation to their audience.
“My band director told us about this, and nominated the best people in our band to audition for the honor band,” said Quinn Heinrich, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High school, who has played the clarinet since age nine. “It’s much more difficult music than we play in our band. More committed people for the most part, and I liked the team-building experience, where we got to know each other better, ride and talk together a little more, so it’s good.”
The students attend high schools in the District. Some of them use the D.C. Metro as a form of transportation, and so the Columbia Heights Educational Campus was chosen as the site for the honor band concert because of its centralized location and easy access from metro lines.
“I think it makes me understand there’s more to the military than going to war and getting deployed,” Heinrich said. ”There’s other opportunities in it.”
Heinrich said that his positive experience with the 257th Army Band may certainly have him consider playing in a college band.
The 257th Army Band is officially recognized as “The Band of the Nation’s Capital.” It has a proud lineage going back to the legendary Corcoran Cadets Corps of the D.C. Militia. Immediately after the Civil War, public support of the D.C. Militia was high. Drill encampments were held on the National Mall, and military parades and marching competitions became spectator events.
The D.C. Militia Corcoran Cadets captured the attention of John Philip Sousa, who composed both the “Corcoran Cadets” and “National Fencibles” marches exclusively for the D.C. Militia. For those who don’t know, Sousa also composed the well-known “Stars and Stripes Forever” that is played frequently at Veterans Day parades and Independence Day celebrations.
The 257th Army Band has upcoming performances this year, beginning August 3, ending August 9, 2017, in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.
By Army National Guard by Sgt. Adrian Shelton
Provided through DVIDS
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