After 20 years of service to the West Point Band as a soldier in the U.S. Army, saxophonist Master Sgt. Wayne Tice retired on Friday, June 19, 2015. Throughout his time in the band, he served as principal saxophonist, section leader, and woodwind group leader. We are thankful for the skills and leadership that he contributed throughout his career.
As Master Sgt. Tice thumbed through the music library one day, he came across a piece that struck his attention, an arrangement of Tableaux de Provence by Paule Maurice for solo saxophone and winds. On April 8, 2015, the West Point Band recorded the piece, which was arranged by Brian Sparks. Sparks, a classical saxophonist and conductor, was also a member of the West Point Band and U.S. Coast Guard Band. MSG Wayne Tice collaborated with Brian Sparks to help bring this recording to fruition.
I. Farandoulo di Chatouno
II. Cansoun Per Ma Mio
III. La Boumiano
IV. Alyscamps I’amo Souspire
V. Lou Cabridan
Photos by: Staff Sgt. Torin Olsen
Post by: Staff Sgt. Ashley Mendeke
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.”
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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!
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If you ever ask an aspiring classical musician what he or she wants to do, the overwhelming answer is to play in a full time orchestra. The orchestra has amazing versatility, with its repertoire spanning over five centuries. The concert band too enjoys a wide spectrum of music, from Gustav Holst to David Maslanka. But if you were to ask a professional classical musician the same question, more often than not the answer is playing chamber music. Playing chamber music, usually within a small ensemble ranging from three to twelve players, challenges musicians to really take accountability for the interpretation and performance of a work. When there are only, let’s say five musicians on stage, there is no conductor there to maintain the tempo, influence balance, or guide the musical interpretation. So the musicians must take on the responsibility of leading, following, actively listening, and reacting to the music around them. It is both nerve racking and exhilarating.
The many classical chamber ensembles that comprise the West Point Concert Band include two brass quintets, tuba quartet, two woodwind quintets, steel drum band, and the list goes on. As a member of the Academy Wind Quintet (AWQ), I am proud to work with incredible musicians who challenge and inspire me to be a better musician. On January 23rd, the AWQ had the privilege of performing for 1,200 students at the Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck, New York. We performed a variety of music including American folk tunes, marches, several movements from Cuban-American composer Paquito d’Rivera’s Aires Tropicales, and a few movements from Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, a piece very near and dear to my heart. The kids were great; they had plenty of questions for us pertaining to our instruments, to the West Point Band, and to the cadets at the Academy. They seemed to really enjoy the music that they heard, particularly the Latin dances heard in Aires and of course the flashy piccolo solo from our national march, The Stars and Stripes Forever. Their enthusiasm was yet another example of the importance of concert music, and how live music enables people to tap into their imaginations, broaden their horizons, and participate in a collective experience. By the end of our second performance in the afternoon, I think we were all ready for a nap. But tired or not, the show goes on! The Academy Wind Quintet recently returned from our recital tour in Ohio and Kentucky, with stops at the Universities of Cincinnati, Louisville, and Kentucky, as well as the VA hospitals in Louisville and Cincinnati. We also made appearances on public radio stations WUOL of Louisville and WVXU of Cincinnati, as well as a television appearance on Louisville’s local Fox television station. To say it was exciting would be a massive understatement. Serving my country by playing great chamber music with fantastic musicians? Yes, please!
By Staff Sgt. Natalie Wren
Photo by Staff Sgt. Torin Olsen
By Staff Sgt. Phil Stehly
Photos by Staff Sgt. Chrissy Rivers
Florida: home of Disney World, delicious oranges, early bird specials, and in one week, the West Point Band.
That’s right. From November 14-17, the West Point Band will be performing in Sarasota, Florida. You gotta love Florida. My wife and I talk about becoming snowbirds down there many, many years from now. Every time I go to the Sunshine State, I am blown away. I’m not sure if it’s the driver-friendly roads or beautiful weather, but Florida and I get along famously.
But enough about me. Back to the West Point Band’s trip.
There’s a lot on the docket, including a National Cemetery dedication and performance at Patriot Plaza in Sarasota. The event will feature a variety of hosts and speeches, including best-selling author Wes Moore. Another highlight will be nationally renowned Abraham Lincoln portrayer Michael Krebs reading the words of our 16th President. The West Point Band will provide the music befitting the ceremony. It should be a meaningful and memorable performance.
Also on the agenda: educational outreach! Members of the West Point Band will share their expertise with clinics provided at a local high school.
In addition to the ceremony and clinics, the band will also perform a community concert in Sarasota at Patriot Plaza. (9810 State Road in Sarasota.) The performance will pay tribute to the nation’s veterans as only the West Point Band can do. It will mark the first public performance at Sarasota National Cemetery’s new ceremonial amphitheater. It’ll be a fun program. Selections include Midway March, Songs of the Soldier Overture, In the Mood, and a medley of Andrews Sisters tunes. For more information on the concert, visit the West Point Band Community Concert section of www.onlineregistrationcenter.com/veteranslegacysummit.
The trip will showcase the versatility of the West Point Band—one performance, the musicians sit down and play a concert of world-class classical music. The next day the band will provide ceremonial music in a sharp display of military bearing and tradition. You’ll have to trust me when I say very few musical organizations, if any, are capable of doing so many things so well as the West Point Band. (Perhaps I’m biased, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true!)
Make way for the West Point Band, Florida. We’ll be there soon.
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We began the morning with a sound check at Sumida Triphony hall in Tokyo, one of the finest halls I have ever performed in. At the beginning of rehearsal, there were a whole bunch of Central Band officers who had come to speak with the band. What I expected was mundane morning announcements; in fact, it was a sort of pre-concert ritual that added an air of profundity to what we were about to do. In a display of respect for both the performers and the officers, everyone said a sort of group “let’s do this” together, for each officer that spoke.
In the sound check, we only touched a few spots here and there to get used to the hall. And what a hall it was. In the West Point Band, we rarely have the privilege to perform in beautiful concert halls, and we loved every minute of it. We all grabbed a quick lunch then got changed into performance uniforms for the sold out performance. The Central Band’s performances are so popular that they have to hold a ticket lottery to see who will be allowed into the concert.
Throughout the trip, I have been impressed with the attention to detail of the Japanese people. It seems that everything is done deliberately, be it cleaning a train station, or assigning the parts to be played in the concert. It seems that everything is a conscious choice. One detail that we did not overlook was the switching of flags prior to the concert. In military ceremonies, you always place the flag with the highest honor in the left most position. Between the sound check and the performance, as a show of honor for the United States, the Central Band chose to place the American flag on the left of their own flag. This is a small detail, that many in the audience might have overlooked, but as someone who makes his livelihood getting all of the details right at military ceremonies, the significance was not lost on me. It was a deep gesture of respect for our nation.
I’ll write about the performance in the next post. Be sure to check back soon.
Words and images by Sgt. 1st Class Sam Kaestner
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The following day, we had another rehearsal with the Central Band. The trip was very brief, so we only really had two rehearsals to make everything happen. Fortunately, the Central Band had been rehearsing without us for a while before we arrived. There was an unexpected challenge in Friday’s rehearsal however. In an all too common occurrence for the West Point Band, several ceremonies were added to the performance calendar for the Central Band on short notice. This took about fifteen musicians out of rehearsal for the day. While it was not ideal to play the last rehearsal before the concert without all of the musicians, it was heartening to know that military bands all over the world face the same challenges we do. And just like our band, the Central Band found a way to cover down and complete all of the missions for the day.
Towards the end of rehearsal, we exchanged some small gifts with the Central Band. We had a brand new set of band coins minted for this trip, and Lt. Col. Keene and Command Sgt. Maj. Mullins presented coins to each member of the Central Band. We also handed out a photo of the West Point Band on the march on the plain, which everyone seemed to enjoy.
After we had presented our gifts, the Central Band had a special presentation for us; they told us that Sgt. Maj. Noguchi, the Central Band’s principal clarinetist and a junior member of the section would perform a clarinet duet version of the Star Spangled Banner. We arranged ourselves in a line and the entire room stood at attention while they performed.
Their performance held profound meaning for both bands, as it was not just the U.S. national anthem that was performed, but rather both the U.S. and Japanese national anthems, performed together in harmony. The performance was a perfect distillation of the sincere partnership that our two nations have shared for decades now. All in the room were profoundly moved.
Once all of the presentations were made, we retired to our hotel to find dinner and get some sleep before the big performance the following afternoon.
Words and images by Sgt. 1st Class Sam Kaestner
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
If you’ve ever heard a West Point Band member (or anyone else affiliated with West Point) mention a “parade” on the plain or a “review,” these terms are synonymous with the “pass in review.” The pass in review is a long standing military tradition dating back to when Baron Von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge and reported to Washington during the American Revolution in 1778. Von Steuben’s training technique was to create a “model company” and one of the ways he did this was through drill and ceremony, which is still being used to this day. It is of interesting note that when he arrived, he spoke very little English (he is of German decent) and he would often order his translator to swear at his men for him in English. Upon his arrival to Valley Forge, the men were anything but a model company; that is to say until Von Steuben was through with them. He developed what is known as Regulations for the Orders and Discipline of the Troops of the United States of America, also known as the “Blue Book.” The West Point Band and Hellcats are an integral and essential part of this long standing military tradition.
Here at West Point, the pass in review happens before each home football game as well as various other times throughout the year such as graduation week and for alumni exercises and the annual Thayer Awards Review. The pass in review consists of several companies of cadets marching past a reviewing party for inspection purposes. On the command of “eyes right,” the cadets turn their head and eyes towards the ranking officer as they pass the reviewing party. This officer is usually the Superintendent of West Point.
For the West Point Band, the pass in review begins in our rehearsal hall about an hour and a half before the start time. It is there that we go over the sequence of music to be played and rehearse any marches that may be unfamiliar or new. The next step is a quick change into whatever uniform is to be worn. This could either be full dress blue, full dress blue over white, or the sierra uniform. (For more specific information on these uniforms, look for a separate blog post detailing our different unique military uniforms.) The band forms up in the parking lot of the band building before marching at a “route step” up to the parade field, or as it is formally known, “the Plain.”
Upon arrival to the Plain, we make our way down diagonal walk (photograph below), marching to the ceremonious sounds of the Hellcats and a simultaneous narrative about the history of what will be observed in the review.
After arriving at our position on the Plain, the Hellcats join our formation, which is usually a six-person front. It is from here that the Hellcat buglers sound Attention, which alerts the cadets in the sally ports of Washington Hall that the march-on is about to begin. The march-on consists of one to two marches (depending on the size of the participating cadet brigade) which send the cadets pouring out of the sally ports in company formations as they move to their positions on the field.
Once the corps of cadets have gone through a series of “order arms” to “present arms” and back to “order arms” to pay military curtesy to both the Cadet Captain and his/her staff and the reviewing party (usually consisitng of the USMA Superintendent and other West Point leaders), it is now time for the West Point Band to perform honors. This consists of the Generals March right into the United States National Anthem. At the conclusion of honors, the Superintendant utters the words “pass in review” to signal the start of the review portion.
After a quick reposition by the West Point Band and Hellcats, the command of “right turrrrrrn” is heard from the corps of cadets followed by the West Point Band drum major’s command of “forwarrrrrrd,” which is then followed by “maaaaaarch” from within the corps. This signals the downbeat and stepoff for the band, as they lead the corps in groups of companies past the reviewing stand. Once past the reviewing party, the band does a series of three left turns to position themselves facing the reviewing party. They remain there at the position of “attention” as they play the remainder of the companies past the reviewing party to the command of “eyes right.” Once past the reviewing party, each company is dismissed and continues marching back to the sally ports of Washington Hall, from where they came.
After the last company has marched past, there is an announcement for the playing of the Army Song, The Army Goes Rolling Along, as the crowd stands and sings along. Upon completion of the Army Song, the West Point Band steps off and is also dismissed, exiting the plain and marching past the Superintendent’s house. The Hellcats remain behind to march off the residual companies who are still exiting the parade field toward Washington Hall. This signals the end of the review.
If you have never seen one, I suggest you go to at least one. It is a cool sight to see, and it’s one of the many important types of performances that we do here in the West Point Band.
Words by Staff Sgt. Dave Loy Song
Images by Staff Sgt. Chrissy Rivers