Meet the Band

Sgt. First Class Carla Loy Song

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I come from a family full of musicians, so I’ve been singing all my life. I gained interest in the Army music program after my sister joined the Army Band’s “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, D.C. when I was just beginning college.  It was because of her influence that I steered my education and experiences to possibly become a musician in one of the Premier Bands of the Armed Forces.

I joined Army and the West Point Band as a trumpet player in the Concert Band in 2007. A highlight of my time in the CB was playing with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall on their Independence Day concert in 2008. The joint “Stars and Stripes Forever” alongside some of the most respected musicians in the orchestral world was such an exciting musical moment for me.

Teachers:

Ed Cord, Chris Gekker (Trumpet) Michael Redding, Leah Trigg, Elaine Moebius (Voice)

Influences:

Many members of my family have influenced my love for music. My parents and older sisters are probably my biggest influences. I also have two uncles who are/were trumpet players, one of whom was an Army musician, and my grandfather also played jazz piano while in the Army during WWII.

When did you join the Army?

Summer 2007

What are some of your extra duties?

I love meeting and working with new people, which is a great fit for my extra duty job of the West Point Band Guest Artist Coordinator. The West Point Band has brought in a number of amazing guest musicians and conductors while I’ve been doing this job, and I love meeting them and learning about their careers outside the Army.

I’m also lucky that I get the opportunity to sing with the Benny Havens Band even though I was hired to play the trumpet in the West Point Band. I love to sing, and feel very fortunate to be able to share that talent with the Corps of Cadets.

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 An Army performance highlight:

Some highlights include singing with the Benny Havens Band during halftime of a few Army football games and performing for Ambassador Power, the US Ambassador to the UN, and getting her to sing along with the band into my microphone.

Dream Group:

The West Point Band’s Benny Havens Band

Did you know?

While I often dream about cashing in a big tournament like the World Series of Poker, I did win a tournament at the Bellagio in Las Vegas – my husband took 2nd place.:)

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Meet the Band

Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Caluori

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Summa cum laude with a BM from Florida State University as a student of Dr. William Capps.  MM from Southern Methodist University (SMU) as a student of Mr. Gregory Hustis (Principal Emeritus Horn of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra).  Second prize winner of the University Division of the 2005 International Horn Competition of America.  National Repertory Orchestra, National Orchestral Institute, extra with Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  Currently: sub with Albany Symphony Orchestra and Principal Horn of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and adjunct faculty at Marist College (Brass Instruction)

Teachers: Gregory Hustis, Dr. William Capps, Edwin C. Thayer, Sylvia Alimena, Kevin Reid, Marco R. Caluori

When did you join the Army?

June, 2006

What are you working on?

Major orchestral excerpts, fundamentals, and challenging etudes to continue musical growth.

 What are some of your extra duties?

I have been the Unit Historian since 2007 and am active in our 2017 bicentennial planning.

 What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

Principal Horn with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, avid fitness enthusiast and a firm believer in strong mind and strong body.

Adjunct Faculty, Brass Instruction at Marist College since 2007

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 Other projects:

2014 West Point Master Teacher Program two-year certificate program graduate with a capstone thesis on Mindset and Motivation, focusing on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck where I presented at my graduate school alma mater in November 2014.

An Army performance highlight:

Performances with the New York Philharmonic, opening of Sarasota Patriot Plaza, opening of FDR Four Freedoms Park in New York City, and Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremonies (where my family immigrated to the United States)

Did you know?

Nicole Caluori is my wife, and the Principal Horn of the West Point Band.  We have made a great team musically, personally, and professionally ever since we met at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina in the summer of 2002.  We studied together at Florida State University and Southern Methodist University where we shared similar experiences, including playing extra with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and summers as fellows with the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.  Playing alongside her and Matt Smith and Drew Mangus makes growing as a musician an easy thing to do.

Some of my earliest and fondest musical memories are of my father performing as a member of the United States Army Band, “Pershing’s Own.”  He is the inspiration for my realistic goal of winning a position with a premier military band.  He had a remarkable 32-year career as a horn player at TUSAB and was my first teacher.  I value his insight and experience since going in to the “family business.”  His brother, my uncle Ernest Caluori, also a horn player, had a 26-year career at TUSAB as well.  At the end of our careers at West Point and the years my father and uncle have spent at TUSAB, the Caluori family will have invested over 100 years of cumulative service as horn players in the Army premier bands!

I am active in the South Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and hope to achieve my black belt in 2017.  I began as a student in Tae Kwan Do when I was eight years old, studying with a member of the US Army Chorus and was a bronze medalist in sparring at the 1992 Junior Olympics!

Meet the Band

Master Sgt. John Manning

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I was born in Poughkeepsie and grew up in Ebensburg, PA. I attended college in Indiana, PA and Denton, TX. 16 years in as a Hellcat bugler and counting!

Teachers:

Keith Johnson, Calvin Weber, Gary Bird, Bill Stowman, Bryan Edgett, Michael Sachs, Jeff Curnow, Chris Gekker

Influences:

All types of music and my parents.

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When did you join the Army?

October 6, 1999

Current Projects:

Creating Bugle Section Continuity Book, so all the diverse aspects of the job are codified for all to see; practicing to get better every day!

Off-Duty:

Volunteer firefighter for 28 years; Go Steelers!; all things Irish

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I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I’m not sure of any specific event, but I started trumpet in 4th grade, and have known since 6th grade that I wanted to be in music. I just fell in love with the trumpet as a kid.

An Army performance highlight:

Highland Military Tattoo at Ft. George, Inverness, Scotland! Carnegie Hall debut as part of the Academy’s bicentennial celebrations in 2002–on a bugle!

Dream Group:

Tower of Power

Did you know?

I wore lederhosen playing polkas at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Awesome job!

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Meet the Band

Sgt. First Class Rone Sparrow

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Rone Sparrow is a multi-faceted musician with credentials as a classical percussionist and drum set artist. He has performed in Europe, Asia, Australia, and throughout the United States. His career includes engagements with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sundance Summer Theater, The Drifters, Garland/Las Colinas Symphony, Walt Disney Corporation, Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and performances at the Montreux and North Sea international jazz festivals.

He earned a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance and Pedagogy from Brigham Young University and a Master of Music in Percussion Performance from The University of North Texas. While at UNT, he taught in the percussion department, performed with the UNT Wind Symphony, played in the UNT jazz department in both big band and small group settings, and was a member of the Percussive Arts Society World-Champion UNT Drumline.

Teachers:

Primary –

Ron Brough (BYU)

Christopher Deane (UNT)

Ed Soph (UNT)

Paul Rennick (UNT)

Mark Ford (UNT)

“Also studied with” –

Mike Werner (Met Orchestra)

John Riley (Vanguard Jazz Orch)

George Brown (UT Symphony)

Jay Lawrence (BYU)

Influences:

My first major influence was my parents. Neither one of them is a musician. However, my father always had music in the house and my mother “encouraged” me to take piano lessons. As I grew up, their support continued with the addition of drumset and percussion lessons, attending music camps and festivals, and band rehearsals in the formal living room of our family home.

When did you join the Army?

In June 2002. I was in the middle of my DMA at UNT. I was married with two kids and working full-time. I had never considered a Military Band job until one of my fellow percussion DMA candidates won a job in The US Army Band, Pershing’s Own. His description of the job, the musicians, and the benefits seriously “peaked my interest”. The rest is history…

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Current Projects:

I am planning a chamber group tour to Utah in March. We will be playing in and around Salt Lake City. Our schedule includes a recital at Temple Square, a Music and the Spoken Word broadcast with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and performing the National Anthem to open a Utah Jazz NBA game.

What are you working on?

I always search for time to maintain my fundamental skills on snare drum and keyboard percussion. When I have time for “recreational” practice, I like to work on playing jazz vibes and applying traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms on drumset.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I’m not sure I ever didn’t want to be a musician. It seemed like all I did and I don’t think I ever really considered anything else.

An Army performance highlight:

I’m blessed to work in an outstanding percussion section. We have had the opportunity to present clinics at Percussive Arts Society International Convention (Nov 2010) and The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic (Dec 2011). Those were great experiences. We also have a lot of fun on our steel band gigs. Performing the U.S. National Anthem will always will be an honor.

Meet the Band

Staff Sgt. Alaina Alster

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Staff Sergeant Alaina Alster joined the West Point Band in October of 2013.  Originally from Long Island, NY, she earned her Bachelor of Music in both trombone and euphonium performance from the University of Michigan and her Master of Music in trombone performance from the Manhattan School of Music.

Teachers:

David Jackson, Fritz Kaenzig, Steve Norrell

Influences:

My major influences were my band directors and private teachers growing up. I was very lucky to have an amazing music program from elementary school through high school. All of the music teachers were amazing educators and musicians. They all maintained active performing and teacher careers outside of school and absolutely played a huge role in my becoming a musician.

When did you join the Army?

2013

Current Projects:

Currently getting back to basics…focusing on fundamentals.

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What are you working on?

What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

My extra duties include education outreach. My hobbies include food- (eating it, cooking it, and trying new restaurants), and traveling.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I would attend concerts in high school and wish I was on stage performing rather than listening.

An Army performance highlight:

Playing with the Julliard Trombone Choir

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Meet the Band

Master Sgt. James Barnard

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I am from Chesapeake, Virginia. My music education includes attendance at East Carolina and Old Dominion Universities and later, Purchase College.

Teachers:

Graham Ashton, James Searl and Stephen Carlson

Influences:

Everything—I have a difficult time separating music from everyday life.

When did you join the Army?

August 1997

Current Projects:

I am constantly finding something new to tackle. Over the last three months I have been focusing on improving my piano technique and singing ability. I am always looking for a non-trumpet piece to adapt for trumpet (and my use).

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What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

I ski, hike, rollerblade, bike and run.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I was in eighth grade, and I beat everyone in my trumpet section.

An Army performance highlight:

A combined concert in Vienna, Austria—The venue and audience were tremendous.

Did you know?

Prior to entering the military I was a public school teacher.

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Meet The Band

SSG Courtney Martin

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Highland Military Tattoo, Edinburgh, Scotland

-Photo by Staff Sgt. Chrissy Rivers

 

I am from Stafford, Virginia. I began my bachelor’s at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, and completed my bachelor’s in Flute Performance at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012 (hook ’em horns!) I have two dogs, Freya and Gromit.

Teachers:

Marianne Gedigian (UT Austin), Jennifer Steele (Pittsburgh Symphony), and David Lonkevich (Washington DC)

Influences:

I became interested in the flute in elementary school after hearing a recording of Jean Pierre Rampal. Other influences are Julius Baker, Marianne Gedigian, Jennifer Steele, David Lonkevich, Jeanne Baxtresser, Susan Milan, Amy Porter, Steven Finley, Bonita Boyd….This list can go forever. I find every flutist influential, because they all have great musical ideas:) As for non-musicians, my biggest influences were my grandfather and my mother. They both worked so hard and came from nothing. It is very inspiring and has taught me to never give up, and to continue to go after exactly what I want.

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-Photo by Sergeant First Class Willie Calohan

 

 

When did you join the Army?

In 2012; I attended BCT at Fort Jackson, Army School of Music in VA Beach, and my first band was the 392nd Army Band.

Current Projects: 

I am currently working on two video projects- one is for the first football game of the season. It is a slideshow of the plebes’ journey so far at West Point (R Day, CBT). The second is for the 1812 concert.  I am also working on classes for Master Resilience training for the unit. I love teaching about that subject. I teach lessons on Skype for my students back in Virginia.

 

What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

I enjoy reading. Give me a book and I’m happy. I’m also a huge “Doctor Who” fan (check it out if you haven’t yet!) and also love the show Merlin. I really like cooking and often look to Pinterest for new recipes.

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I love food and am willing to try almost any kind. I have recently started taking my dogs hiking, which we all enjoy doing.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when… 

I saw my first performance of the President’s Own in middle school.

An Army performance highlight:

I really enjoyed when we went to the VA Hospital last year. It was very touching to talk to veterans and hear all of their stories as well as see their faces light up when we played tunes, such as Gary Owen for them. Also, our Scotland trip was pretty amazing. Being in a new country and experiencing the culture firsthand was pretty remarkable and a memory I will always hold close to me. When I was stationed at Fort Lee, we participated in Music in Our Schools month. We had a performance on my birthday and my team leader had the whole elementary school sing happy birthday to me—and in that same performance, one of the kids informed me that I was “their favorite artist on the radio”.

Dream Group: 

Any Military Band (West Point, Army Field Band, Pershing’s Own, Navy, President’s Own)…has been my dream job since I was 12.

 

Did you know? 

I actually lived in Florida the first 14 years of my life in a one-stoplight town. I wanted to be a veterinarian, pilot, artist and writer (All at once…dream big) from age 3 to 12. Then, music took over.

I am currently getting my Master’s Degree in Sports and Performance Psychology. I can knit and sew. I used to sew outfits when I was in the fourth to sixth grade and compete in sewing competitions (nerd).

Did I say I was obsessed with Doctor Who?

Meet the Band

MSG Shawn Herndon

Photo by Sgt First Class Kaestner

Photo by Sgt First Class Kaestner

I am originally from Dallas, TX and have been in the Army for 19 years. I began my career with the 296th Army Band at Camp Zama, Tokyo, Japan and was stationed there for 1.5 years before coming to the West Point Band in 1998. While in Japan, I was able to perform with the musicians of their version of our special bands and still maintain those friendships today.

Teachers:

Stephen Girko (SMU) Ron deKant (CCM)

Influences:

Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, my high school band director, my first private clarinet teacher, the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, and both of my college clarinet professors.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Chrissy Rivers

Photo by Staff Sgt. Chrissy Rivers

When did you join the Army?

1996

Current Projects:

I am the Woodwind Group Leader for the Concert and Marching Band. I have had an interest in featuring the woodwind group as a singular entity and am currently developing some projects that would allow this to happen. We have had the fortune to be able to work as a separate group recently, borrowing a few brass and percussionists when the rest of the Concert Band was being utilized as a jazz band, and it was quite a success. I have been assisting our double reed section in their initiative to travel to Japan and perform as a featured group at the International Double Reed Summit. I am also facilitating a proposal that would feature our members on an Academy Recital Series aimed toward Academy faculty and Cadets.

What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

I am an avid cyclist and former amateur road racer. I was able to finish 2nd place in the largest Pro/AM road race a few years ago in the CAT4 division, going onto to attain CAT3 status (CAT1 being the highest in the amateur circuit). I have ridden too many cycling centuries to count and have recently began hosting a 1-hour training ride at West Point geared toward cyclists of all levels.

U.S. Army photo by: John Pellino/ USMA DPTMS)

U.S. Army photo by: John Pellino/ USMA DPTMS)

 

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I knew I wanted to be a musician when I knew that I could not imagine doing anything else! When I felt with every fiber of my being that I wanted to be a professional musician, I knew I had to go for it!

An Army performance highlight:

I had the opportunity to perform the Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto with the band when we went out to Seattle, WA. The performance took place in the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA and it was one of the most beautiful halls I had ever had the opportunity to perform in. We had a large, enthusiastic audience, which included the Commanding General from Fort Lewis. After the performance, the GC came backstage and congratulated me on an exciting authentic performance and gave me his coin. I was really floored that I had the impact on a senior Army official in that manner and it still carries great meaning to me.

Did you know?

I began singing when I was a small child, and continued to do so through my senior year of High School. I hadn’t sung for a couple of years once I committed to focus solely on clarinet in college, but decided to audition for the Dallas Symphony Chorus as it didn’t seem like it would take that much prep. About halfway through sight reading the 2nd tenor part to the Dies Irae of the Mozart Requiem, I knew things were not going to work out so well. Needless to say, I was not selected and the rest is history so to speak.

Photo by Sgt. First Class Sam Kaestner

Photo by Sgt. First Class Sam Kaestner

Meet Your West Point Band

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SSG Phil Stehly

Short BIO:

I grew up in Kansas City, Mo. I attended Indiana University from 2000-2005, graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree.

Teachers:

Roger Oyster (Kansas City Symphony), Dee Stewart (IU), and Peter Ellefson (IU)

Influences:

The Beatles, Ben Folds, John Williams, Joseph Alessi, Christian Lindberg, and countless peers and colleagues, both from college and here in the band.

When did you join the Army?

May of 2005

Current Projects:

I’ve been teaching myself guitar for the past several years.

What are you working on (i.e. pieces of music, arrangements, techniques you’re practicing, other music projects)? 

I’m working on a combination of original trombone music (Rochut etudes, Tomasi Concerto, Creston Fantasy), and vocal pieces that work well on trombone (various pieces by Mahler, Verdi, and Brahms)

What do you enjoy doing off-duty?

Hanging out with my wife, our two kids, and our dog. I also enjoy reading, writing, cooking, Kansas City Chiefs football, and New Jersey Devils hockey.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

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I discovered The Beatles in 5th grade.

An Army performance highlight:

Conductor’s Workshop 2012 in Poughkeepsie. We performed Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy under Michael Haithcock (University of Michigan.) It is my favorite piece in the band repertoire and we performed it at a remarkably high level.

Did you know? 

For most of my life, I’ve been unable to eat any raw fruits/vegetables due to allergic reactions. Two years ago, my doctor at West Point referred me to an allergist, where I was diagnosed with Oral Allergy Syndrome. I’ve been receiving allergy shots ever since. As of one year ago, I’ve been able to eat raw fruits and vegetables without incident. I feel born again! Fruit is awesome, especially pears.

Members of West Point Band Visit Tokyo Children’s Home

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This past August members of the West Point Band travelled to Tokyo to perform at the annual International Double Reed Society Conference. While we spent the majority of our time attending the conference, Master Sgt. Glenn West, Staff Sgt. Anna Pennington, Staff Sgt. Briana Lehman, and I took a day to visit and perform at the Kiyose Children’s Home in Tokyo. I’ll be honest, before our trip I didn’t know that Japan still had orphanages, and the thought brought to mind scenes reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel. But when we visited Kiyose, I was pleasantly surprised at the facilities of this particular children’s home. According to research done by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Labor in 2014, almost 29,000 children are living in orphanages throughout the country. Of those kids, over 14,000 had previously suffered from neglect or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by their primary caretakers. While many orphanages can house over one hundred children, the Kiyose Children’s Home is a smaller home that enjoys support from Living Dreams. Living Dreams is a non-profit organization that provides artistic and technological training to these children. Directed by Michael Clemons, a California-born accountant, Living Dreams focuses on finding the children’s passions and strengths, not only to develop them into well-rounded individuals, but also to gain access to possible careers that might otherwise be unattainable.

The West Point Band Double Reed Ensemble performs for children at Kiyose Children's Home in Tokyo

The West Point Band Double Reed Ensemble performs for children at Kiyose Children’s Home in Tokyo

The USMA Band’s double reed section made it a top priority to visit Kiyose and meet the children there. Staff Sgt. Pennington recalled, “The kids were a little shy at first, but as soon as we started playing our first tune, they were so enthusiastic! And it was a blast to work with them on their “straw-reed” craft instruments.” We presented two short performances for different age groups while at the Kiyose Children’s Home, and I had a hard time focusing on the music; they were so darn cute! Michael educated us on the Living Dreams program and while it sounded interesting, I didn’t really understand the significance of the program until the end of our second performance. While we had played Master Sgt. Reifenberg’s “American Folk Suite,” the kids had recorded the music and were then able to upload it onto a really cool movie they had made that week. This was done in a matter of minutes, which is more than I can say for navigating my Facebook newsfeed. Michael explained that Living Dreams enables these kids to “participate in 21st century learning” and gain the “skills of communication, collaboration, and seeing the world in a more holistic way.” I like to think that our visit might have given the kids another way to understand their world, through the power of music.

Michael Clemons is the director of partnerships and Noriaki Haba  both for Living Dreams.

Members of the West Point Band pose with Noriaki Haba and Michael Clemons, director of partnerships for Living Dreams.

It comes down to this: when words fail, music can still connect people. While we didn’t speak a word of Japanese (other than “sushi please!”) and the kids couldn’t speak a word of English, it was clear that the music we played and the songs they sang were easy to understand by everyone. I’m honored to have met those kids, and while playing for the IDRS conference was a great boon for my professional development, it was our visit to the Kiyose Children’s Home that made the most impact. It reminded me that music can bridge cultural gaps in a way that diplomacy sometimes cannot. And as a member of the West Point Band, I get to do that every day.

Words by Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren

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