10 Reasons the West Point Holiday Show will Make Your Spirit Bright

The most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us, so get ready to ring in the winter season with A West Point Holiday! For years this family-friendly show has filled West Point’s Eisenhower Hall with world-class music and holiday enchantment, featuring singing, dancing, and the season’s most-loved holiday songs and carols—all performed by the talented musicians of the West Point Band.

For those of you looking for the perfect festive outing, here are just a few reasons this beloved annual holiday event is guaranteed to make your season bright!

1. It’s a time-honored tradition.

From baking cookies to decorating the house, traditions are part of what make the holidays such a magical and special time—and at the ripe old age of 200 years, it’s something the West Point Band knows a thing or two about. Bring your loved ones and join the thousands of people who have made this Hudson Valley favorite a part of their annual holiday festivities. You’ll never forget the memories you make.

wph blog 2.jpg

2. Hear the songs you know and love.

Tis the season for nostalgia, and nothing will get you in the holiday spirit faster than hearing your most treasured songs and stories. Each year the West Point Band delivers the best holiday playlist chock-full of your favorite holiday songs celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and the magic of the winter season—with the energy, panache and passion that only a live performance can offer.

wph blog 6

3. The level of talent is out of this world.

Prepare to hear holiday music as you’ve never heard it before. Comprised of multiple generations of talented musicians, the West Point Band has been a source of pride for the Academy, the Army, and the nation for the past 200 years. If the band can captivate at ceremonies, parades, sporting events and celebrations, it’s safe to say they can make your season a whole lot merrier.

wph blog 4

4. There’s something to suit every musical taste.

The versatility of this ensemble is second to none. Where else can you hear a jubilant gospel arrangement of “O Holy Night,” followed by “Home for the Holidays” done up in a pickin’ and grinnin’ bluegrass style, topped off with a boldly cinematic rendition of “Little Drummer Boy,” (complete with an epic drum feature by the Hellcats)? This one-of-a-kind performance elegantly balances traditional and new in a way to make everyone’s spirits bright!

wph blog 2

5. It’s free!

There’s no need to break the bank on this holiday outing. Believe it or not, all West Point Band concerts are completely FREE; no tickets are required. Just bring your family, friends, and your jolliest smile, and give the gift of time and love this holiday season. Where else can you enjoy a world-class performance without spending a dime?

wph blog 5

6. It’s for kids from 1 to 92.

The West Point Holiday Show is wholesome family fun for ALL ages, capturing the hearts and imaginations of young and old alike. So bring the whole gang down for a fun-filled afternoon of singing, dancing, and maybe a little ring-ting-tingling too!

wph blog 1

7. You’re a part of the show.

More than just a concert, West Point Holiday is a truly immersive musical experience that will take you out of your seat, figuratively—and literally! The band loves to find ways to engage you, the audience. So get ready to experience the magic of the season, whether it’s singing along to carols, or jumping out of your seat for the band’s signature interactive performance of 12 Days of Christmas.

wph blog 7

8. West Point is a Winter Wonderland.

You may have seen West Point’s insta-worthy views at Trophy Point for the band’s summer series, but it should be no surprise that West Point is equally breathtaking in the winter. Bring your camera and after you’re done taking some photos of the band and selfies with Santa, take advantage of the beautiful grounds, stunning architecture, and snow-capped mountains and icy river views.

wph blog 6

9. There’s never a dull moment.

From the moment you walk in the door, the magic of the season is in the air. Grab a warm beverage from downstairs at Ike’s Riverside Café and listen to some of the band’s talented musicians perform festive pre-concert entertainment in the lobby while you mingle and wait for the show to begin. And I hope you’ve been a good boy or girl this year because…

wph blog 8

10. Santa Claus is coming to town!

What holiday performance would be complete without a visit from the guy in the big red suit? If you’re on the nice list, Santa just may make an appearance at the end of the show. Bring your little ones (and your camera!) to Santaland in the lobby following the concert for a meet and greet with Old Saint Nick himself. It’s the perfect ending to a festive, fun-filled afternoon spent making memories to last a lifetime.

wph blog 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

What happens at West Point’s 100th Night Show?

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

We’ve not much longer here to stay,
For in a month or two,
We’ll bid farewell to ‘Kaydet Grey,’
And don the ‘Army Blue’
-L.W. Becklaw, ‘Army Blue’

Every February in West Point, a certain electrifying phrase pulses through the heart of every Firstie (fourth-year): 100th Night.

100 nights to graduation. 100 nights to adulthood. 100 nights to freedom.

But what does the West Point Band have to do with that?

Let’s step back in time…

Before Facebook, before TV, even before radio, there were “entertainments.” Jokes, dances, poetry, and storytelling pulled together into a show designed to dazzle any pre-electronics audience.

And in the 1800s, West Point’s appetite for such spectacles was just as strong as anywhere else. From the earliest days of the Academy’s history, touring groups would travel to the post to perform amateur theater shows and musicals, providing students a welcome break from the rigors of cadet life.

But after the troupes had left town, what was a bored cadet in need of excitement to do?

Why, make his own of course!

West Point's 100th Night Show logo

Starting in the mid-1800s, cadets took the important matters of mood-lightening and merriment into their own hands and began crafting entertainments aimed specifically at a West Point audience.

The West Point Dialectic Society began putting on their own evenings of skits and dramatic readings, which quickly evolved into elaborate, fully-staged shows based on quirky West Point-isms that left their fellow cadets roaring with laughter.

Cadet originals with names like “Toodles” and “Nineteenth Century Brevities” titillated students and faculty alike for years. As time wore on, the entertaining evenings gradually coalesced into one annual night of West Point-centric satire that persists to this day — the 100th Night Show.

Though its content has always been 99% inside jokes understood only by the Corps of Cadets, West Point’s 100th Night Show quickly gained traction in the outside world, drawing crowds from around the area.

It was kind of a Big Deal.

So much so that in the 1940s and ’50s, Academy Award-winning lyricist Sammy Cahn took time off from writing for a guy you might have heard of — I think his name was Frank Sinatra? — to travel to West Point and help craft the next big 100th Night hit.

100th Night at West Point

You read it here folks, West Point’s 100th Night is bigger than Sinatra!

But wait, you say, certainly a musical production of this magnitude must have a fine pit orchestra to accompany it!

That’s where the West Point Band comes in.

We at the West Point Band have always been lucky enough to be honored guests at the 100th Night Show.

Each year requires a uniquely perfect soundtrack to tell the saga of that particular class’s journey from Plebes (first-years) to Firsties. West Point Band saxophonist Master Sgt. Mike Reifenberg composes all the original music for the 100th Night Show, crafting just the right melodies to tell the tales of the cadets’ bravery, adventures, and, of course, the occasional mishap during their four years at the Academy.

The band spends the week of the 100th Night Show — this week!— rehearsing with cadets, putting the finishing touches on the musical numbers.

This year’s show debuts on Thursday and we can’t wait for it!

 

Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren performs with Air Force’s “Golden West Winds”

Tags

, , , , ,

Music sure has a way of bringing people together. And last month, the Army and the Air Force joined in perfect harmony as one of theWest  Point Band‘s own appeared as a guest artist with the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West.

Oboist Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren was requested to perform with the band’s woodwind quintet, the Golden West Winds, during their Eastern Washington tour. The tour included nine performances reaching a live audience of over 2,400 and a broadcast reach of more than 15,000.

IMG_4475

Senior Airman Alaina Shaw, Tech. Sgt. Andy Tucker, Airman 1st Class Candy Chang, Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren, Senior Airman Dan Shifren, and Airman 1st Class Emily Hoffner in front of Spokane Public Radio.

IMG_4708

Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren stands with JROTC students following a performance at Walla Walla University, in Walla Walla, Washington.

IMG_4709

Oboist Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren shares the West Point story at Walla Walla University.

image4

Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren, with Tech. Sgt. Andy Tucker and Airman 1st Class Candy Chang, speaks to the students of the Michael Anderson Elementary School at the Fairchild Air Force Base in Medical Lake, Washington.

Staff Sgt. Wren enjoyed having personal conversations with countless veterans and family members, JROTC students, children, and university music majors, and faculty. Different from a typical West Point Band experience where 40 or more musicians are on stage at once, chamber groups like this joint-forces ensemble can provide a strong impact in intimate settings.  

Meet the West Point Band – Master Sgt. Rich Johnson

Master Sgt. Rich Johnson9226057923_922d48c412_o

Master Sergeant Rich Johnson is the Benny Havens Band multi-instrumentalist, covering banjo, pedal steel, keys, and electronics. A member of the West Point Band since 2003, he is proud to help carry on the great tradition of Army bands entertaining and inspiring troops, veterans, and the American public. When he isn’t programming beats or working on the latest pedal steel solo, he enjoys shredding on the local ski hill or fishing on one of West Point’s lakes.

Teachers:

So many people have helped along the way. George Hitt, Byron Stripling, and Laurie Frink on trumpet, John Widgren and Steve Hinson on pedal steel, Tony Trishka on banjo — these are just a few folks who have helped me on my path.

Influences:

Anything and everything!

When did you join the Army?

2003

Current Projects:

Programming the inner workings of the Benny Havens Band setup on laptop. Diving deeper into social media as the Social Media NCOIC for the unit. Keeping up my banjo chops.

What are you working on?

Learning the pedal steel guitar parts for the Benny Havens Band’s new country album.

An Army performance highlight:

Playing for Wounded Warrior events in New York City and at West Point.

WestPointBand_2016_EAF_41

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I heard John Denver’s “Country Roads!”

practicing copy_jpeg

Meet the West Point Band – Staff Sgt. MJ

Staff Sgt. Emily “MJ” McAleesejergins

p2029591149-o771225337-4

Teachers:

I studied voice under Rosalie Byrne, Gordon Miller, Nancy Davis Booth, and Joey Beebe.  I studied piano under Melissa Baughman and Dr. Lester Knibbs

Influences:

As a vocalist, it is difficult to whittle down a very long list of influences. There are so many different styles and voice types that have inspired me. As a big musical theater buff, Julie Andrews and Rosemary Clooney are both on my short list. My very first aspiration as a little four-year-old, was to sound like Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Now I pursue the flexibility and range to be the best vocal chameleon I can be!

When did you join the Army? 

In 2003, I joined the Army National Guard as a vocalist and percussionist with the 38th Infantry Division Band in Indianapolis. I spent 12 years serving the Guard as a vocalist on two Army Soldier Show tours, two Army Birthday Balls, and in three National Guard Bands.

Current Projects:

Currently, I’m studying photography and videography to better capture amazing moments with the West Point Band. I also work in the social media shop as a representative for the Benny Havens Band. Along with those duties, I serve on the Benny Havens Band Production Team. I also love to bake and have really enjoyed learning the art of sweet treats.

18748383295_4823a40b58_o21194780486_6afe7c86b9_o22725132181_c53abc7a5f_o23475237295_c98fbed796_o23559916655_8799c5a2ff_o23587180635_a5c8d5bf53_o

 

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I was three years old when I knew music was forever a part of my life. I sang “Come on Ring Those Bells” with my mother at church. I grew up next to the piano singing hymns while my mom practiced for Sundays.

A performance/job highlight:

I had the privilege of touring with the U.S. Army Soldier Show where I was afforded the opportunity to sing for thousands of troops and their families all over the world. We also sang for wounded combat servicemen and women at Landstuhl Medical Center during their recoveries. Since being here at West Point, I was honored to be a part of last year’s Army Birthday celebration down in New York City. I stood directly in front of Gen. Raymond Odierno (Chief of Staff) and led the U.S. Army Song.

Dream Group:

I can’t believe I have been blessed to sing for my country for 14 years. Being here in the West Point Band has always been a dream and yes, I’m still pinching myself!

Did you know?

I grew up in a small town in Indiana, so I was able to do a lot of extracurricular activities like basketball, show choir, musicals, and track and field. My senior year of high school, I tried out for the football team and made it! I played kicker, wide receiver, and three plays as nose guard (my coach thought it would be funny). I even scored a touchdown! The best part about that memory for me was hugging my dad afterward. So to that I say, “Beat Navy!”

28154398933_626ab221af_o

Meet the West Point Band – Sgt. Maj. Scott Drewes

Sgt. Maj. Scott Drewes

 

After getting introduced to the drums at seven years old by his father and driving his parents nuts practicing, Sgt. Maj. Drewes attended the North Carolina School of the Arts for high school. Shortly after, he moved to New York City where he attended the Manhattan School of Music before moving to Washington D.C., to attend the University of Maryland for graduate school. He then joined the Air Force before winning a job with the West Point Band. Sgt. Maj. Drewes is now the drummer and in charge of the Benny Havens Band, a rock/pop/country group that plays for the Corps of Cadets and audiences around the nation.

Teachers:

Massie Johnson, Justin DiCioccio, and Steve Fidyk

Influences:

Many, but right now any mainstream commercial music.

When did you join the Army?

2007 (Air Force in 2001)

Current Projects:

Working on the new Benny Havens Band country recording

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

…the band stopped playing to feature me and everyone kept dancing. Then, I knew I could entertain people and make them happy.

An Army performance highlight:

My first Benny Havens Band Cadet Basic Training and Fourth of July concert. Playing for over 10,000 people and the new cadets, watching them go crazy — it felt like hitting a home run!

Meet the Benny Havens Band – Staff Sgt. Juan Quinones

Staff Sgt. Juan Quinones

p1973832983-o771225337-5

I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and began to play the trumpet at five years old. I come from a family with an old tradition of music. When I was 13, I started to work as a professional musician in the Latin music industry. My music background comes from pop and jazz music. I had the blessing of working as a studio trumpet player and lead singer in the Latin music scene in Puerto Rico, Miami, New York, and all around Latin America.

Teachers:

Miguel Pena, Roberto Rodriguez, Al Hood, Antonio Zalcedo, Cuco Pena, Mark Wood, Alberto De La Reguera

Influences:

Latin music, pop, hip-hop, jazz, classical, African, Afro-Cuban

When did you join the Army?  

2012

5D319262

Current Projects:

Arranging new music for the Benny Havens Band, playing as an on-call studio musician in New York City

 What are you working on?

New compositions for audio network music library and producing my first solo album

IMG_6696

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I knew I wanted to be a musician the first time my parents took me to a Latin gig back in Puerto Rico. I was around four or five years old. My dad, who is also a musician, introduced me to a few percussion instruments and a started banging on them. I still remember the joy and feeling going through my veins.

An Army performance highlight: 

Around six months after I arrived to my first unit, the Army Ground Forces Band, I had the opportunity to perform a duo piece with one of my trumpet player idols, Allen Vizzutti. Mr. Vizzutti was invited to play two shows and do a master class with the band, and I was featured with him in a tune called “VizBiz.” I’m always grateful for the Army and the opportunity to do stuff like that at such a high level of professionalism.

Watch Staff Sgt. Quinones tell his story in New York City — click here!

Meet the West Point Band – Staff Sgt. Geoff Vidal

Staff Sgt. Geoff Vidal

p2050322787-o771225337-4

Born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Staff Sgt. Geoff Vidal was steeped in the big band traditions of the 1940’s and 50’s from the age of 15 while playing in a local big band (born out of the National Guard!). He earned a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was awarded multiple Downbeat Student Music Awards. He moved to New Orleans in 2003 where he lived until Hurricane Katrina sent him back up north, this time to New York City, where he remained for 10 years, freelancing and leading his own groups. In 2012, Staff Sgt. Vidal took first place in the first Detroit Jazz Festival Saxophone Competition, ultimately winning a spot at the festival that summer. Staff Sgt. Vidal enlisted in the U.S. Army after winning an audition to become a member of the West Point Band.

Teachers:

Teachers include Lynn Klock, Jeff Holmes, Adam Kolker, my wife, and the Buddha.

Influences:

I’d like to think that my playing is comprised of many different influences rather than a distinct few. I recognized early on that depending on the situation, you’re playing changes, and you have to be able adapt and adjust on the fly.

When did you join the Army?

July 2013

Current Projects:

Currently, I am co-leading a jazz quartet with my West Point Band-mate Sgt. 1st Class Derrick James. We are playing locally in the Hudson Valley and are developing our original compositions while continuing to honor the great jazz traditions.

What are you working on now?

I do a lot of arranging for the Benny Havens Band, which is a great way to hone my writing chops. I am also the NCOIC of the Cadet Jazz Forum, coaching a jazz ensemble of cadets and area high school students. I’m always working on various solo transcriptions of the masters, as well as trying to build technique on my other horns (clarinet and flute).

I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I knew I wanted to be a professional musician after suffering a terrible sports injury in high school. While I was laid up on crutches for months, I always had my saxophone, and from that moment, the road ahead was clear.

An Army performance highlight:

My favorite Army performance highlight was opening up for Jay Leno with the Benny Havens Band in a sold out Eisenhower Hall. What a rush!

2016 UN at Central Park Zoo - BHB022

Meet the West Point Band – Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gaynor

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gaynor


Staff Sergeant Jeremy Gaynor is West Point’s male lead vocalist and an instrumental part of the Benny Havens Band. A native of Tampa, Florida, he comes from a family of military servicemen and women.

No longer able to ignore his own call to service, Staff Sgt. Gaynor enlisted into the Army in 2009, receiving an initial duty assignment with the 72nd Medical Detachment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky — 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

As a vocalist, Staff Sgt. Gaynor has performed in over 150 large-scale stage productions across Europe, Asia, and the continental United States. During assignment with the Army Entertainment Detachment, he performed or managed productions in a wide variety of venues in service to dignitaries like President Barack Obama.

In 2014, he joined the West Point Band. Shortly after arriving in New York, he was selected as a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice,” an experience that gave him invaluable insights into today’s music scene. Staff Sgt. Gaynor takes pride in the opportunity to serve his country, his fellow service members, and the local community. In addition to his duties as male lead vocalist, Staff Sgt. Gaynor serves as the band’s Production Manager, choreographing and helping to put on some of the band’s biggest productions. Off duty, Staff Sgt. Gaynor enjoys writing, watching sports, and the joy of life with his wife and young daughter.

 

Teachers and Influences:

Greg Powe Sr., Bryan Powe, Jesus Christ

 

When did you join the Army?

August 2009

 

Current Projects:

“Song That Save Our Lives,” the Benny Havens Band’s debut album

 

 I knew I wanted to be a musician when…

I realized the power and impact music had to inspire, encourage and uplift.

 

5D319405

The Voice - Season 8

THE VOICE — “Battle Rounds” — Pictured: Jeremy Gaynor — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

 

An Army performance highlight:

NBC’s “The Voice” Season 8

Gaynor SS

Marching The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Tags

, , ,

This November 24th, 2016, the West Point Band will march the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a huge honor to be selected by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Committee. We had to apply as far back as March of 2015. This Macy’s parade performance will launch the celebration of the West Point Band’s 200th Anniversary. On June 8, 1817, the West Point Band officially became an organization to serve the United States Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Army, and the nation. Musicians were actually stationed at West Point as early as the Revolutionary War, but our official beginning was in 1817.

15037211_10153939029421825_7836229920313034312_n

The West Point Band has performed in this parade at least two other times, in 1970 and 1982. Since Macy’s is celebrating its 90th parade, it is very likely the West Point Band marched it during the early years. About three million people will line the streets of New York City to watch the parade and another 65 million will watch on television.    

The West Point Band’s preparation focuses on two parts of the day: the live street parade and the TV broadcast. The band will march the parade in a typical parade block with the Marching Band in the front and the Field Music (the Hellcats) in the rear. On the route, the band will perform standard marches in rotation: Washington Post, by John Philip Sousa; National Emblem, by E.E. Bagley; America Exultant, by Al Hays (a pen name of Henry Fillmore); and the trio strain of The Official West Point March, by Philip Egner. Between the marches, the Hellcats will perform a few traditional holiday selections.

Once the band approaches 34th street, it moves to a broadcast silent zone. The band will re-configure from the standard block to the Macy’s show block. Once we are on the ready line, the band will get a cue to perform its one minute and 15 second marching show. The music we perform is called a Joyful Fanfare and includes a number of song references in this short timing.

 

 

The band will march into position with Auld Lang Syne. While this song is best known for ringing in the New Year, it is performed to ‘bid farewell’ at other occasions like graduations. At West Point, Auld Lang Syne is part of the West Point Graduation March. This medley of songs was put together in 1938 and represents music from the early days of the Academy (formed in 1802). Auld Lang Syne pulls together the “Long Gray Line” (West Point graduates) at two alumni parades a year, at homecoming, and during graduation week.

After the band has marched into position, snippets of The Army Goes Rolling Along, Army Blue, and On, Brave Old Army Team will sound as the band drills on the Macy’s star. The Army Goes Rolling Along is the Army’s official song and is performed at the end of official ceremonies throughout the Army. Army Blue is a traditional West Point song performed at graduation. The melody was originally from the Civil War song, Aura Lea. This song represents the emotions of West Point graduates as they change from the Cadet Gray uniform to the Army Blue uniform on graduation day. On, Brave Old Army Team is the United State Military Academy’s fight song and was composed by a former West Point Teacher of Music, Phillip Egner.

The traditional rope tension drums will be featured just before the Hellcat buglers perform Joy to the World. This bugle rendition is often heard on the West Point Holiday Show. The band ends the show with a short musical quote from Let There Be Peace on Earth.   

The West Point Band will then march off to the Army’s official song, The Army Goes Rolling Along and then the full version of On, Brave Old Army Team.   

It is awesome to lead this band as drum major! Thank you to everyone involved in making this show happen. The West Point Band — inspiring leaders for 200 years!

 

Words by Sgt. Maj. Christopher Jones -— Concert Band Element Leader and Drum Major Emeritus