Mean Green to Army Green

“You’re from North Texas! Aren’t you?”

It wasn’t long after my first few steps in Egner Hall at West Point that I was greeted with an eagle claw. (OK, not really, but I had mine ready alongside a vigilantly practiced hand salute). Upon accepting a position in the band, enlisting in the United States Army, and completing Basic Combat Training, I joined the band in February of 2014. I serve alongside ten North Texas alumni.


Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class William Calohan

Pictured left to right:
Staff Sgt Katrina Elsnick, 2007-2009;
Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Prosperie, 1989-1999;
Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Uhl, 1995-1997
Staff Sgt. Sam Ross, 2007-2009;
Sgt. 1st Class Rone Sparrow, 1997-2002;
Staff Sgt. Eric Ordway, 2000-2003;
Staff Sgt. Ashley Mendeke, 2006-2011;
Staff Sgt. David Bergman, 2000-2005;
Master Sgt. John Manning, 1996-1998;
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Nelson

On October 22, 2016, Army West Point football plays North Texas, so I saw it fitting to gather the alums for a group photo as we briefly reminisced about the experiences and interactions that helped prepare us to be non-commissioned officers in the West Point Band—one of the Army’s premier bands, tracing its roots to a fifer and drummer during the time of the American Revolution.

Exceptional Mentorship


“UNT’s College of Music is known as a powerhouse over the world. The large number of music students fuel an array of ensembles in which I was able to take part. Although my program was large, I never felt like a number. I was able to form close mentorships with my professors there that were extremely important to my development.”

-Staff Sgt. David Bergman

Some of my most vivid memories while at UNT were interactions with faculty members.  My professors coached me to a higher, more consistent level of artistry, which included performing when I didn’t “feel” ready amidst balancing several deadlines—in other words, real life experience. I remember my flute instructor Dr. Mary Karen Clardy handing me Variations on “Nel cor più” by Theobald Boehm, and performing it less than 12 hours later. I also recall my conductor at the time, Professor Fisher, giving the Symphonic Band a piece to sight read during a performance. Looking back, these performances instilled confidence in my musical development. While the instructors challenged me to consistency in performing, everything was very process-driven, focusing on fundamentals and musicality.

“My musical duties in the West Point Band primarily consist of rudimental snare drum, and orchestral percussion including timpani and drumset. At UNT, I honed these skills with three world-class musicians as my teachers: Paul Rennick, Christopher Deane, and Ed Soph respectively. Their mentorship was a critical part of my development and success.”

-Sgt. 1st Class Rone Sparrow

Unique Opportunities



“I’m really grateful for my time at UNT; it afforded me countless performing opportunities, from Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra, to NOVA (contemporary music ensemble), opera orchestra, and chamber ensembles. Being in such a large music school, I was able to study with two teachers in the course of the same semester and gain a wider perspective, and as a means to improve myself as a musician at a faster rate. Everything was really centered on that for me.”
-Staff Sgt. Sam Ross

One common aspect appreciated among fellow North Texas alumni was that of being afforded the opportunity to perform in an array of ensembles. Through numerous performances in diverse ensembles, members of the band gained a unique outlook while practicing the skill of performance in and of itself.


“I had the opportunity to perform in so many ensembles: small chamber ensembles, Wind Symphony, Symphony Orchestra, Opera productions, NOVA ensemble, and flute choir.”
-Staff Sgt. Katrina Elsnick

This perspective has come to serve us well in the West Point Band, where programs and ceremonies are regularly adapted to serve our audience: the United States Corps of Cadets, as well as local, national, and international communities. Being versatile, flexible, and willing to change at a moment’s notice are skills that I have come to appreciate.


“I absolutely loved my time at UNT. The mentorship of Regents Professor Keith Johnson and the experience gained from performing in ensembles as varied as the 2 o’clock Lab Band, Wind Symphony, Baroque Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Opera Orchestra, solo recitals, and chamber music groups prepared me for any musical opportunity which might arise.”
-Master Sgt. John Manning

A Healthy Dose of Competition



“The real world level of excellence and competition that the faculty and students create at North Texas gave me the skills and confidence to pursue any professional goals I have achieved.”

-Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Prosperie

With over 30,000 students enrolled in the University of North Texas, there is an inherent competitive atmosphere of the College of Music. Similar to music conservatories across the country, talent, excellence, and sheer virtuosity practically burst out of the doors at 415 Avenue C, Denton, Texas. Nevertheless, I remember the environment being incredibly supportive. In my time there I observed fellow studio members’ lessons and attended numerous recitals and concerts. I’ll always remember scurrying off to the practice building upon hearing the inspiring performances.


“UNT was my first choice for graduate studies. I knew the size, diversity, and quality of the percussion department and the student body would provide the greatest opportunity for me to learn and grow as a musician. It was an energized environment with great music and stiff competition.”
-Sgt. 1st Class Rone Sparrow

The Real Question

Who will we root for this Saturday?
That’s easy.
Go ARMY. Beat North Texas!

Words by: Staff Sgt. Ashley Mendeke

Songs of West Point: On Brave Old Army Team


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Brave Old Army Team, or as we here at the West Point Band lovingly call it, “OBOAT,” is one of the songs that is nearest and dearest to the Corps of Cadets here at West Point, but it didn’t exactly have an auspicious beginning. Though it’s now the academy’s official fight song and a rallying cry sung out by thousands of impassioned Army fans at every football game, in truth, the composer of OBOAT wasn’t originally too keen on writing it. Here’s the story:


The 1944-1945 West Point cheerleaders

The year was 1910. The place, West Point. A dashing young lieutenant by the name of Philip Egner had just begun a promising career as music teacher and band commander at the United States Military Academy. When approached by an even younger, even more dashing cadet cheerleader with lyrics for a new cheer, Lt.Egner was initially… unimpressed.


But one day, as he was walking back to his home quarters after a hard day’s work, inspiration struck! Music for the cadet’s lyrics had sprung into his head. Worried he’d forget the melody by the time he got home, Lt. Egner hurriedly jotted down the notes on his stiffly-starched shirt sleeve. Thank goodness for a nice assertive laundering!


Learn these lyrics and you can sing along at the next Army football game!

Not too long after the composition of OBOAT, the Army team rose to football dominance, losing fewer than 10 games total between 1944 and 1950 and winning three consecutive national championships. The success of the team caught the attention of the entire nation, and the strains of Lt. Egner’s composition could be heard all across the country. Even jazz legend Glenn Miller paid tribute to OBOAT by recording a big band version of the song. During this heyday of Army football, On Brave Old Army Team was deservingly granted a place among the most beloved college fight songs of all time.

1944 Army football team national champions.png

The national championship-winning 1944 Army football team

Today, though the Black Knights may not have quite the same record they held in the ’40s, cadets and Army fans alike still use OBOAT to cheer their team on to victory. OBOAT is played many times throughout each and every Army football game — at the start of the game, after an Army touchdown, during the band’s pre-game marching show, and whenever the spirit of the moment takes over and calls the Corps to song.


Now, that’s the fearless Army way!

Make sure to catch the West Point Band performing On Brave Old Army Team this Saturday, October 15, as the Army team takes on Lafayette College! We’ll be performing our signature rendition of OBOAT at the pre-game football review (9:00 a.m. on The Plain at West Point) and throughout the big game (12:00 p.m. at West Point’s Michie Stadium). Join us and help cheer the Army team “on to the fray!”

If you liked learning a bit about OBOAT, stay tuned for a whole series of videos and blogs in the upcoming months about the songs of West Point!

Meet the West Point Band

Staff Sgt. Lee Jongyoon


I was born in Madison, Wisconsin. I grew up in South Korea and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

I joined the US Army while I was a senior in high school as an Army Reserves bandsman (100th Army Band, Fort Knox, Kentucky).  I joined the Active Army band field in 2010.  I was stationed with the 8th Army Band in Seoul, South Korea (2010-2013), and with the 1st Cavalry Division Band at Fort Hood, Texas (2013-2015).  I joined the West Point Band in September of 2015.


Minho Kim, Craig Wagner, and mostly Google and YouTube


Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robben Ford, Guthrie Govan, Brent Mason, Paul Gilbert, Kiko Loureiro, and the list goes on…

When did you join the Army?

12 October 2007

What are you working on?

Being a better guitar player… I’ve also been learning some mandolin, banjo, and pedal steel.27645224010_2885aaa2d3_o.jpg

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I heard a “Little Wing” by Stevie Ray Vaughn for the first time.



Fifteen Minutes of Fame: A Celebration of Service

On September 11, the West Point Band and the U.S. Military Academy’s Cadet Glee Club will return to Trinity Church Wall Street for its annual 9/11 memorial concert, this year entitled, “A Celebration of Service.” While last year’s 9/11 concert celebrated the people of New York City—showcasing works like Bernstein’s Our Town and Copland’s Quiet City—this year’s concert will celebrate the strength and sacrifice of the men and women who serve, and have served, our country.

For this fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, the West Point Band will premier fifteen one-minute works that honor the contributions of those men and women. In a unique collaboration, the West Point Band joins contemporary music organization, Vox Novus to present Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame: A Celebration of Service. The West Point Band will premiere fifteen one-minute pieces created by composers who were responding to the theme “service” and what it means to all different kinds of people: military, first responders, community service, and everyday kindness.


Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame is a project whose purpose is to promote a greater variety of contemporary music to audiences hungry to hear what living composers are writing today. Vox Novus is a new music production and promotion company, established in 2009. Through concert programs such as Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame, Vox Novus seeks to empower composers, musicians, and community music creators. The Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame project has presented the World Premiere of over 1200 works by composers around the world performed by over 100 musicians since its inception in 2009. And in 2012, the West Point Woodwind Quintet gave the World Premiere of Fifteen-Minutes-Fame: Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

The following fifteen composers will have their works premiered by the West Point Band: James Anderson, David Avshalomov (winner of the 2014 American Prize), Sy Brandon (recipient of the 2018 Thor Johnson Memorial Commission), Steve Cohen, Harrison J. Collins, Cindi Hsu, Nicholas Ryan Kelly, George David Kieffer (whose fanfare was selected for the Los Angeles Special Olympics, 2015), Alan Kinningham, Anthony O’Toole, David R. Peoples, James Peterson (whose work Moving Images Suite was featured at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards), Bradley Sampson, Richard G Smith, and R. Andrew Yates.

As soldier-musicians, we in the West Point Band are committed to serving our communities, local and national, and to act as ambassadors for the United States Military Academy and for the Army. But as classically trained musicians, we are also deeply committed to exposing our audiences to great music, both new and old. (While you don’t hear a lot of teenagers blasting say, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe or Gustav Holst’s First Suite for Military Band as they drive down the highway, I guarantee you that those are pieces well worth blasting.) We are thrilled to be collaborating with the Fifteen Minutes of Fame program, because by promoting today’s composers, we are insuring the permanence of tomorrow’s concerts for future audiences.

The concert will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, September 11th at Trinity Wall Street, and is free and open to all. We hope you will join us.

Words by SSG Natalie Wren

Meet the West Point Band

Master Sgt. Dan Pierce

MSG Pierce

My two brothers and I played low brass instruments growing up in the Albany, NY area, where the family calendar revolved around preparation for NYSSMA state solo contest in the spring. Later on during high school near Cleveland, OH, I became very interested in jazz through my teacher’s influence, and I was glad that I had chosen trombone considering its versatility in jazz, orchestral, band, salsa, and pop situations. I learned upright bass and bass guitar as a secondary instrument along the way. I’ve always enjoyed listening to everything from classic rock to classical music, so my favorite aspect of life in the West Point Band is the variety of opportunities I’ve had in numerous different ensembles and performance settings.


Paul Ferguson, John Marcellus, Mark Kellogg, Mark Fisher


For some reason we listened almost exclusively to the Beatles, Eric Clapton, and lots of classic rock when I was really young. Then it was the ’90s MTV stuff, plenty of alternative and grunge. Later on I learned about symphonic music and jazz and started researching the main players, and then found out about things like the ECM label, and loved all of the music I absorbed from friends at Eastman. I still enjoy everything from pop to avant-garde.

When did you join the Army?

Summer of 2006

Current Projects:

The Benny Havens Band is excited about a country/rock record that we just recorded in Nashville. We think there is some material on there that will really hit home with current service members as well as the American public.

What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

I love spending time with my one-year-old son, my wife, and our yellow Lab, Max (my other son). I’ve done some home improvement projects lately, some turning out better than others. Occasionally I get the running bug and work up to a full marathon.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I was inspired by how driven and enthusiastic my first mentor, trombonist And composer/arranger Paul Ferguson, was about all of his musical projects and endeavors.


A performance/job highlight:

Opening Day national anthem at the new Yankee Stadium; playing for Wounded Warriors at the NYC Veterans Day Parade lineup site.

Did you know?

Beginning with high school and college summers and until I joined the Army, I have worked: at a country club, at Dairy Queen, at a medical facility, at a medical billing office, at a payroll company, driving a delivery truck, as a real estate agent, and in the band on a cruise ship.



Far and Away!


, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14522558259_bd6fda7fc7_kOn Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m. the West Point Band will continue its 2016 Music Under the Stars summer series at the Trophy Point Amphitheater. The band will present a program entitled “Far and Away,” featuring musical selections from around the globe. In the lead up to this concert, several of our band members have also found themselves “far and away” from their regular post at West Point. As musical ambassadors for West Point and the Army, members of the West Point Band are often requested to perform, teach, and share new ideas with communities across the globe. In recent years members of the band have worn their dress blues for events as far away as the United Kingdom and Japan. In the past two weeks Staff Sergeants Katrina Elsnick (piccolo), Phillip Broome (euphonium), Keith Kile (tuba), and Anna Pennington (oboe) traveled in separate directions to share their skills and expertise at various concerts, music festivals, and conferences.

On June 1st Staff Sgt. Elsnick joined the Arlington Concert Band and its music director James Kirchenbauer at the Washington-Lee High School to perform its season’s finale concert, entitled “Piccolo Perfection.” A fitting title for the band’s resident piccolo player, Elsnick wowed the audience with Eric Richards’s Dance of the Southern Lights, which showcases virtuosic solo melodies amidst Afro-Cuban rhythms and harmonies. A highlight of the piece was notably Elsnick’s own cadenza, in which she wove snippets of the well-known flute solo by Debussy’s Syrinx as well as the famed piccolo solo from John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.  With the audience demanding more, Elsnick closed her performance with the rousing Wren Polka by Eugene Damare. “The experience of working with the band was wonderful, especially as the conductor, James Kirchenbauer, was my high school band director! I met with many of the audience members after the concert […] and I was able to inform [them] about the Academy and my role as a musician in the West Point Band.”

From May 30th to June 4th, Staff Sgts. Philip Broome and Keith Kile attended the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. Over 1,200 attendees converged from around the globe to participate in a whirlwind week of recitals and master classes featuring the tuba and euphonium. Euphonium player in the West Point Band, as well as a highly proficient recording engineer, Staff Sgt. Broome presented a lecture on proper recording techniques for his instrument, entitled “Recording The Euphonium: It’s Not Rocket Science.”  Broome shared his extensive knowledge on recording techniques that even the layperson could use to create high quality recordings on a budget. Broome’s presentation was met with interest and appreciation by a packed house. “I received a lot of great comments and feedback from participants. Most of them were students looking to record themselves better for auditions and competitions, etc.” As the classical music sector becomes increasingly competitive due to an ever-growing pool of qualified players, a good quality preliminary recording is instrumental (pun intended) to establishing a career in music. Broome’s expertise was well received in Knoxville and the professional connections that both Broome and Kile fostered during the week will certainly contribute to the collective strength of the West Point Band and the United States Military Academy.

Not so far and away from Knoxville, Staff Sgt. Anna Pennington returned to Memphis, Tennessee as a guest artist and faculty member of the PRIZM Music Camp and International Chamber Music Festival from June 6th to June 11th.  Recognized by the National Alliance of El Systema Inspired Programs, PRIZM hosts an annual festival that enables young musicians from all backgrounds to work with and perform alongside world-class musicians from all over the globe. The mission of the PRIZM Ensemble is to “build diverse community through chamber music education, youth development, and performance. PRIZM concerts are collaborative, accessible, and inclusive of student performance and opportunity.” Throughout the week Pennington performed on several faculty recitals, led multiple master classes, coached chamber ensembles as well as the orchestra, and moderated a panel discussion comprised of diverse professional musicians and educators as they spoke to students about traditional and nontraditional careers in music. Pennington shared, “It was such a privilege to be a part of this festival, to work with the students and other faculty, and to be able to represent the Army and West Point. It was a busy, jam-packed week, and the energy was palpable […] These students embody what it means to come together from diverse backgrounds and work and perform as a team.”


Lucky for the West Point Band and the Hudson Valley community, Staff Sgts Elsnick, Broome, Kile, and Pennington are back in town and will be joining their colleagues for Saturday’s “Far and Away” concert at the Trophy Point Amphitheater. Bring your picnic blanket, enjoy the sunset vista, and be sure to say hello to them after the concert.

Post by: Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren


10 Reasons West Point Summer Concerts Rock


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Take heart Summer fun-seekers, a concert at West Point’s legendary Trophy Point Amphitheater just might be the perfect summer evening. This annual tradition on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy combines festive friends and family, Hudson River vistas, glimmering stars overhead, and rich American history with heart-stopping music performed under the stars by world-class musicians.

And while words cannot do this spirit-raising experience justice, here are just a few reasons West Point Summer Concerts will rock your world.


  1. America.

Music isn’t the only thing in the air at Trophy Point. From the moment you arrive, you’ll sense a patriotic energy that lifts your spirits. With high-flying flags, military heroes, and time-honored cheers, you’ll experience American pride on full display.


  1. The music will blow your mind.

West Point’s world-renowned band boasts multiple generations of talented musicians, many of whom hold graduate degrees from top music institutions. If the band can captivate at ceremonies, parades, sporting events and celebrations, just imagine how they sound on their own home turf.


  1. Every seat is the best seat.

Unlike your typical music event, West Point concerts give you plenty of room to spread out, feast on a picnic, and relax with your favorite people. Trophy Point’s natural hillside amphitheater gives fans across the grounds spectacular views and impeccable sound quality. So whether you’re watching the band front and center or dancing on the hilltop with your kiddos, Trophy Point is on point.


  1. West Point puts the “FREE” in freedom.

West Point summer concerts are completely FREE of charge. Where else can you enjoy an out-of-this-world performance and dazzling fireworks show without spending a dime? Make a summer tradition out of it. And bring visitors. It’s a pretty safe bet this is one experience they can’t get at home.


  1. You’re part of the show.

Little known fact: The West Point band members are born Rock Stars. And they don’t take that responsibility lightly. So when you come to a West Point Band Music Under the Stars concert, expect great music, but don’t expect to stay in your seat. Because whether inviting kids onstage to play along, letting you choose the evening’s featured soloist, or leading audience sing-alongs, the band constantly finds surprising ways to engage you, the audience.


  1. History comes alive at West Point.

Think of the West Point campus as a living history museum. It’s where George Washington stationed his headquarters during the American Revolution, calling these very banks of the Hudson River “the key to the continent.” The West Point Band has been performing here since 1817. Since then, they’ve appeared at numerous historic events across the nation.


  1. West Point = Instagram paradise.

No filter? No problem. Trophy Point is the ultimate picturesque backdrop for a night of unforgettable music, easily transforming any smartphone photo into a masterpiece. Colorful sunsets echo melodies on the Hudson horizon. Heroic fireworks gleam with pride in the stars above. Rest assured, any memory you capture alongside the nation’s finest uniformed musicians will capture souls.  


  1. There’s something for kids AND parents.

West Point concerts offer summer fun for the whole wolfpack. Your little ones will love the excitement of Trophy Point. Firework shows, dancing on stage, and plenty of opportunities to bask in the joy of music with the band themselves. Plus, there’s not a whiff of bad influence in the air. So parents can kick back, munch on picnic goodies, and enjoy wonderful performances worry-free. Win-win.


  1. WP is not what you’d expect.

West Point concerts defy expectations. Sure, the band performs classical works, and they do it flawlessly. But these musicians are also masters of country and rock! Think rugged guitar jams, folksy banjo tunes, the whole enchilada. The setting is more relaxed than you would assume too. West Point feels like any college campus. Youthful, vibrant, and full of life. Ideal for a summer music celebration.


  1. You can’t make this stuff up.

Where else can you see top-notch music at a beautiful venue with your loved ones for FREE? Where else can you celebrate America on the very grounds our forefathers fought for? Where else can you see live cannon fire? Cannons!? Only one place: West Point.




Meet the Band


Staff Sgt. Bryan Ponton

I grew up around Frederick, MD and I received my bachelor’s degree in jazz performance from William Paterson University in 2013. I started in the FORSCOM band at Fort Bragg before joining the West Point Band in mid-2015.


Mulgrew Miller, James Weidman, Harold Mabern


Kenny Kirkland, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Mulgrew Miller

25571690313_3cd702caac_zOver Ponton's ShoulderWhen did you join the Army?

September 2013

What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

Going to the gym, hiking, recording

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

My cousin let me sit in with her blues band when I was 13.


A performance/job highlight:

Labor Day at Trophy Point and fireworks afterwards.

Did you know?

I have an identical twin brother.