All your Trophy Point questions answered!
Each year the West Point Band is proud to provide musical support for the Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony. Sponsored by the National Ethnic Coalition Organization, these awards are presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. Past Medalists include six U.S. Presidents; one foreign President; Nobel Prize winners and leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports and government; and everyday Americans who have made freedom, liberty, and compassion a part of their life’s work.
This year marks a special significance for the West Point Band, as we will honor one of our former members, Deric Milligan, who will receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor at this year’s ceremony on May 9 at Ellis Island.
During his time in the band, Deric served as a Hellcat bugler, sounding Taps at hundreds of military funerals and performing in a multitude of concerts. In addition to his ceremonial duties, he led the Army football production staff. However, it is Deric’s dedication and talent in another area that earns him this distinguished award. This weekend he will be recognized as co-founder and Executive Director of Inheritance of Hope, a nonprofit charity dedicated to serve families with terminally ill parents.
Midway through Deric’s tenure with the band, his life took a turn when his wife Kristen was diagnosed with a rare terminal liver cancer in 2003. After several years of coping with the challenges of raising their three young children while battling a terminal illness, he and Kristen founded Inheritance of Hope together, with the mission to inspire hope in young families who are facing the loss of a parent. The charity achieves its mission by providing life-changing Legacy Retreats, Legacy Scholarships, outstanding resources, and individual and group ongoing support – spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
Kristen lost her courageous bout with cancer in 2012, but her legacy lives on through Inheritance of Hope. “Our goal is to provide families with an experience that they will remember forever,” said Deric. “Seeing the direct impact of Inheritance of Hope on me and my children in the wake of losing Kristen has been very affirming. I can clearly see the importance of the work we’re doing on a daily basis.”
Former West Point Band trumpeter Eric Miller serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for Inheritance of Hope. A long-time family friend of Deric Milligan, Eric was invested early on in the organization, doing graphic design work and other marketing projects as needed. When Eric left the band in 2014, Deric made him a full-time job offer he couldn’t refuse, and Eric has enjoyed working for Inheritance of Hope ever since.
“It’s due to Deric’s leadership that Inheritance of Hope has become a thought leader in equipping families with the tools to thrive despite the grim circumstances surrounding terminal illness,” says Eric. “It’s been an absolute honor to not only work with Deric and the passionate team he has assembled; it’s also such a blessing to work for an organization that is truly making a difference in families across the country. The impact is profound – thanks to Deric and Kristen’s vision.”
Being in a premier military band has been a dream of mine since I started playing flute at age twelve. I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and attended many military band concerts. From the first one, I knew that’s what I needed to do when I grew up.
When the United States Military Academy Band’s field music group, the Hellcats, announced three piccolo spots, I was ecstatic, but nervous. I was scared to audition and not be hired, crushing my childhood dream. Instead, I was lucky and offered a position. The most exciting part is reestablishing the role of the piccolo in the field music group. There have not been piccolos in the Hellcats for almost forty years, and the three of us now get to restart that tradition. That makes our job even more special to know that we have that part in history with the band.
Once arriving at West Point, we began training to work on our daily job, which is playing breakfast and lunch formations for the cadets. Together, the entire group worked on learning new sets ranging from tunes for the cadets to assemble into formation to music to march them into the mess hall. It has been a fun learning experience.
Besides formations, the Hellcats also participate in military tattoos. We already had three performances planned for April and had to quickly learn a new show. Since it had been so long since the group had piccolos, everyone had to brainstorm ideas for a new show. Some members wrote out new drill to go along with the music. The process of learning the drill and memorizing all of the music was tedious, but well worth the final product.
Our first show occurred on April 5 in New York City. We performed on an international stage with groups from Scotland, Canada, and the United States. As a featured group for the evening, the Hellcats performed for an audience of approximately 1,100 people in Mason Hall. I remember how excited, yet nervous I was before stepping onto that stage for a full house. As we performed, the audience became more and more engaged, and their applause filled the auditorium. After we brought our piccolos down after our feature, “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” the crowd erupted. I couldn’t help but crack a smile. My dream was coming true. We received a standing ovation, and many people expressed their gratitude and joy for the show after its conclusion.
One week later, we were able to debut our new show on our home turf at the 32nd Annual West Point Military Tattoo. It was hosted by the West Point Pipes and Drums, a pipe band organized by the cadets. It held a special place for me because of our daily duty with the corps. We performed in conjunction with 20 other groups from the Tri-State area. The weather warmed up, making it the perfect day to perform at West Point while overlooking the beautiful Hudson. After the performance, many people commented on how much they enjoyed the piccolos. A few even asked why the piccolos took such a long vacation. As a member of the section that is beginning this tradition again, it is exciting hearing people talk about how they enjoy the section and all the compliments about the Hellcats as a whole.
As we prepare for future events, I look forward to the new shows and music we will learn. What an amazing experience to make music and history at the same time!
By Staff Sgt. Courtney Martin
On April 5, the West Point Band’s field music group, The Hellcats, performed on an international stage, featuring groups from Scotland, Canada, and the United States at the inaugural edition of the New York Tattoo. This event was presented by Mr. Magnus Orr, produced by MAJ(R) Bruce Hitchings from the Queen’s Highlanders, and narrated by MAJ(R) Alasdair Hutton, the voice of the Edinburgh Tattoo. Performing in the starring role, the Hellcats were given multiple standing ovations by the over 1,000 people at Mason Hall in New York City.
The tattoo was the main event for New York City’s Tartan Week, which was established to bring the best of a Scottish tradition to New York. The Hellcats premiered their new patriotic show that featured each section with special mention being made of the three piccolo players that have been brought back into the ranks of the group after an absence of nearly 40 years. The event ended with a huge finale that included all participating groups, and featured the Hellcats buglers performing “Last Post.”
The Hellcats are the field music group of The West Point Band, serving as the primary musical support for the U.S. Corps of Cadets. They are experts in traditional military field music, performing daily in drill and ceremonial duties for the U.S. Military Academy and West Point community. In addition to their integral role in training and inspiring the Corps of Cadets, The Hellcats often perform at tattoos, conventions, parades, on broadcast television, and for nationally and internationally recognized guests of honor who visit the U.S. Military Academy.
america, Army, army band, band, Classical Music, concert band, Eisenhower Hall, Hellcats, marches, marching band, military band, military music, Music, sousa, trombone, United States Military Academy, veterans, West Point, West Point Band, wind ensemble
My colleagues and I in the West Point Band recently completed our recording project. The Concert Band spent five days in Ike Hall recording. The Hellcats also joined us for several tunes, adding an historic and authentic touch that only bugles and drums could achieve.
We recorded a vast collection of marches, including the Army’s division songs. With the help of coffee, I was able to keep my focus mentally. The physical aspect was a bit more of a challenge. I won’t sugarcoat things; it wasn’t easy. (You might recall from an earlier post on this blog how challenging marches can be for a brass player.) By nature, recordings are also taxing. Thus, a recording of marches was a terrifying prospect! Think of it as running a marathon interspersed with inhuman amounts of push-ups and sit-ups. But I made it.
Part of what made the process demanding was also what made it rewarding: we operated mostly with complete takes. Let me explain. My previous experiences with recordings were done mostly in “chunks.” We’d do one section—say 20 measures—and record that one section over and over until it was acceptable. Then we’d move on to the next 20 measures, as many times as necessary. And so on. These chunks were then patched together by the recording engineers. This time around, we’d record the entire tune. If we needed more, we recorded it down again. This isn’t to say that we didn’t do the occasional patch, but there were far fewer chunks and a lot more complete run-throughs. It was tough on my chops, but those complete takes preserve the spontaneity and make for a more musical product. I can’t wait to hear it.
My face did get some relief on the fourth day, however. I mentioned that we recorded the Army’s division songs. Like any other song, they have words. Who sang the lyrics? My colleagues and I! For an entire morning, there were long stretches where my trombone was set down and I rediscovered my vocals for the first time since college. It was great fun making music in a fresh, new manner.
An added bonus: we also recorded a bunch of versions of our National Anthem. Our second day of the project coincided with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Each time we played The Star-Spangled Banner, I summoned my inner patriot and imagined the Americans on the podium after winning gold.
Now we’re done. All of our takes are in the bag. It’s up to the engineers to work their magic. It should be a terrific finished product! This is without a doubt the most I’ve anticipated one of our recordings. Keep in touch with the band on social media for more updates!
Words by Staff Sgt. Phil Stehly
Image by Staff Sgt. Chrissy Clark
100.7 WHUD, america, Army, army band, band, big band, Boston Pops, Chanukah, Christmas, Classical Music, concert band, Eisenhower Hall, Eisenhower Hall Theatre, Esplanade Orchestra, free performance, Hellcats, holiday, holiday music, Jazz, Jazz knights, Jeremy Gaynor, Keith Lockhart, Mike & Kacey, military band, military music, Music, santa, service, trombone, United States Military Academy, West Point, West Point Band, West Point Holiday, wind ensemble
Thanks to everyone that made “West Point Holiday” so much fun!
If you’re looking for more music this weekend come back to Eisenhower Hall Sunday at 1:30, when members of the West Point Band will join the BOSTON POPS Esplanade Orchestra with Conductor Keith Lockhart for their sparkling and beloved Holiday Pops concert.
Conductor Keith Lockhart visited Mike & Kacey on 100.7 WHUD this week. To listen to the interview, click HERE for the link or listen to it from right here on our blog.
america, Army, army band, band, big band, Chanukah, Christmas, Classical Music, concert band, Eisenhower Hall, Eisenhower Hall Theatre, free performance, Hellcats, holiday, holiday music, Jazz, Jazz knights, Jeremy Gaynor, military band, military music, Music, santa, service, trombone, United States Military Academy, West Point, West Point Band, West Point Holiday, wind ensemble
For most people, Christmas means food, presents, family, maybe some time off of work or school . . . For me, it means those things, but it also means our annual West Point Holiday Show is upon us. So now you know that we put on a holiday show, but what does this really mean for the West Point Band? I’m glad you asked. It means a week filled with many West Point Band members wearing a great deal of different hats. This week, a typical band member is a musician; a stage hand for set-up or tear down; a member of the light crew or decorating team; an usher; publicity booth attendant; producer; et al . . . It means a week of intense music rehearsals, tech rehearsals, set-ups, tear-downs, run-throughs, talk-throughs–It’s a lot.
Why do we do so much? To bring you the best Holiday show on the East Coast, of course! If you’ve never seen it, you definitely owe it to yourself to come. It’s not just a concert of holiday music. It’s much, much more than that. It’s a series of musical selections that tell a story, interspersed with clever narration. Most of our arrangements are original and unique and are guaranteed to appeal to the whole family. And for all you parents out there, there may even be an appearance from Santa Claus, and your kids will have the chance to sit on his lap after the concert (if he shows, wink wink).
So amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, do yourself and your family a favor by taking a little time and joining us in Eisenhower Hall on this coming Friday evening (7:30 p.m.) or Saturday afternoon (2:00 p.m.). I can almost guarantee that it will become a part of your holiday tradition for years to come and we will do our darndest to keep you entertained for those years to come!
Words by Staff Sgt. Dave Loy Song
america, Army, army band, band, big band, Chanukah, Christmas, Classical Music, concert band, Eisenhower Hall, Eisenhower Hall Theatre, free performance, Hellcats, holiday, Jazz, Jazz knights, Jeremy Gaynor, military band, military music, Music, service, trombone, United States Military Academy, West Point, West Point Band, West Point Holiday, wind ensemble
It’s December in the Hudson Valley and that means one thing: it’s time for the West Point Holiday at Eisenhower Hall. As usual, there will be world-class music and an entertaining story. This year’s show is based on the beloved poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” only with a witty West Point twist. There will be laughs, there will be twists, and there might even be an appearance from Santa Claus! How do I know so much about the script? I co-wrote it, along with my colleague, Staff Sgt. Erin Beaver. (The hilarious and clever rhymes—and there are many—were mostly her doing. She’s hilarious.) We did such a fine job writing it, I was asked to narrate the show, too. I agreed. Normally I’m playing trombone for this production. This year, I’m the M.C.
I’m not going to lie, I’m excited, but I’m also a little nervous. It’s almost like I’m watching my Kansas City Chiefs play. But a few butterflies never hurt anyone. I am truly looking forward to the opportunity.
One advantage I’ll have as the narrator is having an 18-month-old daughter who loves hearing her daddy read to her. Whether it’s a story about different colors, farm animals, or the alphabet, I strive for the dramatic and to entertain—I want my daughter to enjoy her books, after all! Only now I’m reading a holiday poem synced with music. And instead of reading to my toddler, I’m reading to several thousand people. No big deal!
This show is always spectacular and I’m confident this year’s will be no different. Come ring in the holiday cheer with the West Point Band!
Tickets are required for this free show. They can be downloaded at www.westpointband.com.
Words by Staff Sgt. Phil Stehly
america, Army, army band, band, big band, Classical Music, concert band, Eisenhower Hall, Eisenhower Hall Theatre, free performance, Jazz, Jazz knights, Jeremy Gaynor, marches, military band, military music, Music, service, standing for freedom, taps, trombone, United States Military Academy, veterans, veterans day, West Point, West Point Band, wind ensemble
The West Point Band has been covering a lot of ground this November. In addition to ceremonies and parades, there were performances for Veterans luncheons, a Marine Ball, banquets, and a second consecutive week where the Jazz Knights Combo performed at the United Nations. There were funerals, cadet formations, and the clockwork sounds of Reveille and Retreat by the Hellcats. Add rehearsals, sectionals with the cadet band, secondary duties and other performances, and everyone was busy with a number of different tasks.
The band’s Veterans program, “Standing for Freedom – A Salute to Veterans,” was one of the month’s highlights. It began with the equipment and technical set-up, rehearsals, interviews, protocol labeling seats, and organizing parking and staging. It was a tremendous effort from all involved and is a labor of love and respect for all our Veterans, past and present. “Standing for Freedom” is a great example of the team effort necessary to put together an event of this scale. From performers to ushers, to those who set up and moved equipment, to narration, video and audio – everyone worked together. Meanwhile, as the Band was performing the concert, Master Sergeant MaryKay Messenger was singing the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks game.
On Monday (Veterans Day), the band started early with a Hellcat Bugler performing taps on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the Superintendent, Lieutenant General Caslen, along with nearly twenty USMA graduates who are now leading NYSE companies, rang the opening bell.
The Hellcats were featured on “Fox and Friends” and shared with America the professionalism of its military. A little later, the Academy Brass Quintet was featured on “Fox 5” during and prior to the coverage of the Veterans Day parade. The rest of the band was at the Eternal Flame wreath-laying ceremony at Madison Square Park where a “who’s- who” of New York politicians and renowned guests of honor were on the Dias. The West Point Band performed pre-music for the ceremony along with a fine version of the Armed Services Medley and a solo bugler played a flawless performance of taps.
The morning was brisk and it looked like the parade might be a bit cold, but the sun came out just as we started moving up 5th Ave. The scene of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors lining the street, along with the regular hustle and bustle of NYC, was inspirational. The highlight was the band stepping on the Red Carpet in front of the reviewing stand and playing the Army song, The Army Goes Rolling Along. Meanwhile, our remaining Band members were supporting other events like the Highland Falls Fire Department’s Veterans Day activities, a Veterans dedication for Habitat for Humanity, and of course, reveille and retreat here at West Point.
We’re looking forward to a busy time through December: halftime at the Giants game last Sunday, Concert Band and Jazz Knights concerts this past weekend, the West Point Holiday Show, Army/Navy football game, FOX Holiday Special, and other holiday performances for the Corps, West Point, and New York City and surrounding communities. And up at the flagpole above Trophy Point, the sounds of reveille and retreat continue like clockwork.
The West Point Band, the Army’s Oldest, sharing the story of West Point and the Army with America.
america, Army, army band, band, big band, Classical Music, concert band, Eisenhower Hall, Eisenhower Hall Theatre, free performance, Glenn Miller, Jazz, Jazz knights, Jeremy Gaynor, marches, military band, military music, Music, service, sousa, standing for freedom, taps, trombone, United States Military Academy, veterans, veterans day, West Point, West Point Band, wind ensemble
My colleagues and I in the West Point Band will present our annual Veterans Day concert on Sunday, November 10th at 3:00 p.m. in West Point’s Eisenhower Hall Theatre. If you’re in the area, you’re not going to want to miss this one. Join us as we celebrate our veterans!
The band will be a hybrid of musicians from the Jazz Knights, Concert Band, and Hellcats. We’ll be playing everything from Big Band tunes to patriotic favorites. There will also be all sorts of multimedia, including narration and video displays.
Our program will tell the story of our veterans. Where to begin? We’ll hearken back to the American Revolution as the Hellcats perform a number of bugle calls that were so prevalent and vital to battle during that time. Civil War Fantasy, a piece that works just fine on its own on any program, represents the War Between the States. It takes a bit of endurance to play, but it’s equally rewarding to the performer and the listener. World War I will be represented with “Over There,” a catchy tune that’s always a crowd favorite. The Jazz Knights, one of the premier big bands in the world, will perform the music of World War II as they play “Well Git It,” “Take the A Train,” and Glenn Miller’s classic “In the Mood.” Excerpts from Variations on a Korean Folk Song, a powerful piece by renowned wind music composer John Barnes Chance, will recognize the Korean War. Vietnam will be associated with our performance of “Along the Watchtower,” while veterans of Desert Storm will be represented with a performance of “God Bless the USA.” Veterans of our recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan will recognize “Letters from War,” a popular song performed by our newest vocalist, Cpl. Jeremy Gaynor. Or they might enjoy our rendition of Medal of Honor, music from the popular video game series by one of Hollywood’s premier composers, Michael Giacchino. And of course there’s the U.S. Military Academy. We’re always thrilled to perform Mansions of the Lord, a powerful and beautiful piece honoring those from West Point who served. The piece will feature the fine playing of our principal trumpeter, Staff Sgt. Andrew Garcia. The concert will close as we recognize all veterans with performances of Armed Forces Medley and Lt. Col. Keene’s original song Standing for Freedom. Other highlights include Sousa’s The Liberty Bell March, America the Beautiful, and a performance of Taps.
This program has it all: vocals, symphonic pieces, jazz, even drum and bugle demonstrations. And it all honors our veterans. Who could ask for more! Hope to see you there.
Free tickets for are required for the performance. They can be downloaded at www.westpointband.com.