If you walk into Egner Hall and ask any West Point Band musician what the band’s mission is, the response would most certainly be, “to provide world-class music to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets…” While this is certainly our primary focus at the United States Military Academy, it is one of many, many missions that we pursue in the band. Amidst a constantly evolving and often chaotic operations schedule—USMA reviews, and Trophy Point concert series, and patriotic parades—smaller contingents of the band are running in every direction to complete additional missions. You can find West Point Band musicians playing on news networks in the city, at sporting events, patriotic ceremonies, hops (formal dances), banquets, and community concert series. In addition to all of these, the West Point Band also pursues an education outreach program that serves the local Hudson Valley and New York City communities.
As a professional musicians, we are personally invested in the quality of arts education in our country. The arts help students explore ideas and relationships that cannot be conveyed easily in a traditional classroom. Studies have consistently shown that arts education can engender innovative problem solving, develop critical thinking and cognitive skills, and promote self-discipline, self-esteem, and teamwork.
We are delighted whenever there is an opportunity to bring music back into schools, particularly in a time when funding for arts education is being slashed around the country. According to the Department of Education’s report Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2009-2010, more than 1.3 million students in elementary school receive no music instruction. The same is true for roughly 800,000 secondary school students. By extension, schools in higher income areas consistently offer more music and arts classes than schools in poor areas – a finding consistent with both reports.  While 93% of Americans agree that the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education for children, the arts remain on the fringe of education.
The West Point Band’s own Education Outreach Division helps to fill that gap by bringing band musicians to elementary and junior high schools, opening the doors of discovery for young people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to hear live classical music. The summer was a very busy season for the Ed-Outreach team.
On July 6th members of the band and the Education Outreach Division performed chamber music for and coached the New Jersey Youth Symphony. The following week the West Point Woodwind Quintet performed in the Summer Music Institute at Monroe Woodbury Middle School. The quintet performed an innovative “menu-style” program for choir, orchestra, and band students. Audience members were given a raffle ticket; those whose numbers were drawn chose the music to be performed from a list of prepared repertoire. This creative approach to engaging young audiences resulted in extremely positive feedback from the students, parents, and teachers.
In August, Quintette 7 performed its popular children’s concert as part of the Trophy Point summer concert series. Based on storytelling, Quintette 7 set music to popular children’s books, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Other stories were written by members of the West Point Band that included a tale about a West Point cadet, and an exciting journey through New York City. Aided with props, members of the West Point Band interacted with its young audience through dancing, clapping, and marching.
Additionally, our Ed-Outreach team organizes field trips in which students from local schools can watch and participate in West Point Band rehearsals at Egner Hall. Most recently, on September 22nd the Ed-Outreach Division presented the West Point Band’s annual Young People’s Concert. Nearly one thousand elementary and middle school students attended this concert, which had been tailored specifically to them. The concert program, “Music Moves You,” explored the way that music moves us physically and mentally in our everyday lives. It featured the West Point Concert Band, Quintette 7, and vocalist Staff Sgt. Mcaleesejergins. Consistent with all of the Ed-Outreach performances, the concert was a hit, and the kids left Ike Hall with grins on their faces.
Staff Sgt. Kristen Mather de Andrade is head of the Education Outreach Division, and she continues to help the band present successful programs to young audiences in the community. “As ambassadors of the United States Military Academy, outreach is one the biggest parts of our job. We have the opportunity to not only share the inspiring stories of the cadets and the academy to the communities we serve, but also to do so with some really great music. As a musician in the military, nothing is more gratifying than reaching someone, regardless of their age, with a great performance and a healthy dose of positivity.”
With a healthy dose of positivity, and a strong sense of humor, the West Point Band’s Education Outreach Division continues to reach young audiences with innovative and entertaining concerts. Not only are they serving an important (and sometimes forgotten) demographic of the Hudson Valley community, but they are also promoting arts education for the next generation. Check the West Point Band calendar for an Ed-Outreach concert near you!
Written by Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren
 Judson, Ellen. “The Importance of Music.” Spread Music Now. Accessed May 2016, http://www.spreadmusicnow.org/the-importance-of-music.html
 Harris Poll referenced in “News and Information.” Americans for the Arts. June 15, 2005. Accessed August 2016,http://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/news/press-releases/2005/06/New-Harris%20Poll-Reveals-93-Percent-of-Americans-Believe-Arts-are-Vital-to-Well-Rounded-Education.pdf
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
On 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
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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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
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
In mid-August the West Point band’s double reed section—comprised of Master Sgt. Glenn West, Staff Sgt. Anna Pennington, Staff Sgt. Briana Lehman, and myself, Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren—hopped on a plane to Tokyo where we performed for international and local audiences. At the invitation of the International Double Reed Society (IDRS), the West Point Band’s Double Reed Ensemble performed at the society’s annual international conference at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Shibuya, Tokyo. The IDRS is a worldwide organization of double reed (oboe and bassoon family) musicians, academics, instrument manufacturers, and double reed enthusiasts. This society was founded in 1971 and today enjoys a membership of over 4,400 from fifty-six countries. Each year the IDRS conference draws thousands of its members from around the globe for a week of performances, master classes, and lectures by renowned oboists and bassoonists from the world’s top orchestras and universities.
As a long-time member of the IDRS (and self-acclaimed oboe nerd), to be invited to perform at the conference with my West Point colleagues was a huge honor. It was so exciting to look into the audience and see faces of musicians whose solo albums were sitting on my shelf at home. After having one day to rehearse and acclimate to the thirteen-hour time difference, our Double Reed Ensemble performed a concert with the help of guest artist Yue Chang, principal oboist of the Shanghai Philharmonic. “I was honored to be able to work with Yue. He is a truly phenomenal musician,” remarked Master Sgt. West. The concert program featured not only the musical talents of our military’s musicians, but also the premiers of special transcriptions from two of the band’s arrangers; Master Sgt. Mike Reifenberg and Staff Sgt. Noah Taylor. The program comprised Johann Hertel’s Concerto for Trumpet and Oboe (cleverly arranged by Staff Sgt. Taylor for two oboes, two bassoons, and English horn), Jan Dismas Zelenka’s Trio Sonata No. 4, Master Sgt. Reifenberg’s own double reed quartet arrangement of Americana folk tunes, “American Folk Suite,” and New York composer Dana Wilson’s “Kalamus,” for oboe and bassoon. (You can find information on “Kalamus” in a recently published article of mine, “Interpreting the Compositional Style of Dana Wilson” in The Double Reed vol. 38, 2.)
The musical showmanship and artistry by my colleagues was so inspiring, and the experience was only enhanced by our extraordinary luck to share the stage with Chinese oboist Yue Chang. Our musical collaboration with Mr. Chang summed up the general mission of the whole week: to foster a cultural exchange with experts in our field. The concert was a huge success because we introduced new music for the double reed medium to a very receptive audience. More importantly, we did so while representing the United States Army Bands. As the only professional band member represented in the conference, musicians who were otherwise unfamiliar with career opportunities in the military showed enthusiasm and amazement at the caliber of today’s military musicians. Sharing new ideas on musicianship, pedagogy, and the importance of music in an ever-evolving world culture allowed the members of the Double Reed Ensemble to return to West Point with a greater sense of purpose to educate, train, and inspire through music.
Words by Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren
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It started simple: perform at the opening ceremonies for the New York International Auto Show, and quickly exceeded our expectations—not only are we performing the opening, but we’ll be hosting our own booth for the entire week! We’ve been busy preparing for this promising event, and we have lots in store.
The New York International Auto Show is the largest of its kind in North America with over a million people in live attendance each year, and is also one of the most comprehensively covered media events in the world, boasting 2.6 billion total media impressions for last year’s show. Of course we would want to be a part of one of the world’s greatest public shows, but what does an auto show have to do with military and community service? As it turns out, a lot.
The opening ceremonies will take place on Saturday, April 4 at 8:30 a.m. at the Javits Center in New York City. As a part of this ceremony, Toyota will donate a RAV4 as part of its Wounded Warriors program to Staff Sergeant Alfredo de los Santos, an Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient who survived an RPG attack on his humvee in Iraq two years ago. To officially open the show, the West Point Band, along with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, will lead a parade of vehicles, including the RAV4, through the Crystal Palace. Our own Staff Sergeant Jeremy Gaynor, who recently appeared on NBC’s The Voice, will be featured singing the National Anthem, and will then be available in our exhibit area to meet the public.
Master Sergeants MaryKay Messenger and Brian Broelmann will also perform at the opening and awards ceremonies for the National Automotive Technology Competition, a high school age competition with teams from 31 countries that culminates at the NYIAS.
We have lots to offer during the week as well. Our booth, located at northern concourse 2 near the main entrance, will be open throughout the duration of the show. If you’re around you will definitely want to check out Tune Up @ 2, a series of performances right at our booth each day at 2:00 p.m., featuring everything from bluegrass to rock, brass and string groups, and more.
And since this is an auto show after all, the USMA Class of 1955 Orange County Chopper will be on display in our area for the entire ten days, with Paul Senior himself stopping by on Saturday the 11th for an interview.
The New York International Auto Show has everything the auto industry has to offer, and then some. We look forward to seeing you there!