“I met my wife, an amateur trumpet player, in the National Capital Band of the Salvation Army,” relates Sergeant First Class Thomas Bratten, tubist with The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” “Now, I make my living as a professional musician, yet she was her high school’s band president”…and he didn’t even start out wanting to play the tuba! While growing up in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, SFC Bratten recalls he began “playing the piano in first or second grade when my mother found me reading my brother’s piano books. But, what I really wanted to play was drums.” Since his parents already owned a clarinet, that instrument became his primary instrument. That is, until the summer before his junior year when his band director recognized that a 6-foot 3-inch tall clarinet player would make a great tuba player!
SFC Bratten, a graduate of Asbury College (BS, Music Ed, 1995) and The University of Kentucky (MM, Tuba Performance, 1998), joined “Pershing’s Own” in 1999 as a member of The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band and Brass Band. In 2001, he officially moved to the Concert Band, although he continues to add his talents to the Ceremonial Band when the unit work load demands. He also adds his musical talents to various unit brass ensembles and is a featured soloist with other elements as well. Thus far in his career, SFC Bratten notes, “The historic joint concerts of “Pershing’s Own” and The Peoples Liberation Army Band of China throughout the U.S. and China were my favorite experiences. Being the first military bands to perform at the General Assembly of the United Nations was very inspirational in proving that music can be an instrument of peace and understanding.”
What sets him apart from seven other unit tuba players is his meticulous attention to detail as the Unit Webmaster, a position he has held since 2001. As creator of the unit’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, he has extended the awareness of the unit’s mission with over a million views of online content. In 2013, he initiated a program of video webcasting Army Band performances and special events, a service which has enabled patrons throughout the world to view musical events at Brucker Hall, the home of “Pershing’s Own.”
SFC Bratten enjoys playing electric bass in a contemporary band at his church, and playing in a local rock band comprised of neighborhood friends. He owes a great deal of gratitude to the National Capital Band of the Salvation Army where he met his wife, who, along with their children, attends many of Army Band performances. Whether it’s his love of J.S. Bach, or Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic in highlights from Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” solo tuba recordings of Harvey Philips or the Empire Brass, SFC Bratten’s iPod is always full and obviously eclectic. “Pershing’s Own” feels fortunate that his musical journey led him to pursue a career among its ranks.
“I once wore an extravagant purple suit and crowd-surfed in front of over 15,000 people,” admits Staff Sergeant Nicholas Starr, pianist for The U.S. Army Voices. This was during his time as a member of Drum Corps International (DCI), where he spent four years performing with the Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps (2009-2012). He won the audition for The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in 2014 and has been a part of its ranks since 2015. SSG Starr is actually part of an Army legacy. Two of his great grandfathers, one grandfather, and his father have all served in the United States Army. However, this fourth-generation Soldier can claim that he is the first to serve as an Army Bandsman.
SSG Starr studied classical and jazz piano, and organ at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In his ‘spare time’ he also earned a minor in computer science and math. While there, he served as Staff Accompanist at the College of William and Mary while maintaining an active freelance schedule in southeastern Virginia playing with the Williamsburg Classic Swing Orchestra, the Williamsburg Symphonia, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
When asked what he enjoys most about a career in music, SSG Starr said “making music with other people, especially in small-ish ensembles, like fewer than 15 people.” This love of the collaboration within a small ensemble makes him a perfect fit for his current role as pianist for the 9-voice U.S. Army Voices. In this position, solo piano jobs are also part of his regular duties. “I had the opportunity to play in the home of General (Martin) Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just about two months after graduating Basic Combat Training. I certainly didn’t expect to be in such elite circles so quickly!” he recalls, but is quick to clarify his feelings for those kinds of jobs. He explains, “Solo piano music has its place in my life, but I could never give up the thrill and the challenge of collaborating with other musicians.”
The best of part of any music career, of course, is sharing a passion for the art with an audience. “For me, there’s nothing quite so magical as connecting with another human being through music,” says SSG Starr. “I remember very vividly the end of a performance of Pictures at an Exhibition with the Concert Band. After the last note, I saw a young girl in the front row moved to tears as she stood up to clap. That was a really powerful reminder for me of why we do what we do.”
SSG Starr admits he’ll “listen to and enjoy just about anything…Lately a band called Sidewalk Chalk has been getting a lot of plays from me; they’re a sort of hybrid jazz/hip-hop group based in Chicago.” He is soon to marry his lovely fiancée, Hannah, an alto vocalist who is, in her words, a “retired percussionist.” He enjoys non-musical activities such as biking and reading books, and admits to being somewhat of a chef: “I’m really into cooking, despite the fact that until a couple years ago, I couldn’t cook anything more complicated than frozen pizza!”
SSG Starr offers two pieces of advice for upcoming musicians. First: “Embrace new experiences; never say ‘I don’t do that kind of music’ or ‘I’m too good for that gig.’ Every musical experience you have will make you a better, more well-rounded musician, and you never know when the lessons you learn from one style of music will teach you something in another style.” Then: “Never lose sight of why you’re studying music. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details, spending hours practicing the smallest details and preparing for juries and recitals. If you find yourself getting lost in all that, take some time to listen to and play the music you love. Remind yourself why you’re playing music in the first place.”
Staff Sergeant Adrienne Doctor became of member of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in 2014 when she took a seat in the trumpet section of The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band.
Originally from a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, SSG Doctor’s love of music began at a very young age. She remembers, “My parents were not musicians themselves, but they were avid music lovers. We were constantly listening to music on the radio, everything ranging from opera on Saturday mornings, the blues on Saturday nights, to Indian music on Sunday nights.” She and her family often attended performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony and Pittsburgh Opera. The first concert she attended was a performance of musicians playing period instruments after which SSG Doctor decided she wanted to play the recorder. She retells practicing the recorder in the car during family trips. “I can’t think of many things more annoying than a 10-year-old sister tooting away on the recorder in the back seat of a car while sandwiched between her two brothers. That is a good example of how supportive my family was of my musical interests.” She eventually switched to the trumpet and attended the University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music where she received a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in trumpet performance.
Since joining the military, SSG Doctor has learned personal perseverance and gained national pride. Growing up an athlete as well as a musician, she at one point underwent several knee surgeries after which she did not exercise regularly. Because of this, she had to retrain herself on how to do a proper push-up prior to entering basic training, and because of her determination excelled once training began. After arriving at “Pershing’s Own,” SSG Doctor was humbled by the everyday missions of the unit. “I am more appreciative and aware of the freedoms that we enjoy in this country because of the sacrifice made by thousands of men and women. I am reminded of this every day I step into Arlington National Cemetery.”
This strong sense of appreciation was an unlikely product of the premature passing of her parents. “Instead of thinking about what I have lost, I think about what I have, and I am incredibly grateful. I have a wonderful boyfriend, two supportive brothers, the loveliest, strongest, and best grandmother, plus incredible aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Even during the most difficult of days, it was always easy to remember how blessed I am. Furthermore, I could look back and appreciate the time I had with my parents. They nurtured and encouraged my love of music and were my biggest supporters. After they passed, there were certainly hard times, but no matter how bad it got, I knew that many others have it way worse. I learned that no matter how badly your day is going, always treat everyone kindly because you don’t know what they might be experiencing at that time. Currently, I volunteer weekly through a hospice center, at a homeless shelter, and at various retirement facilities. Volunteering has become a huge part of my life, and it is incredibly rewarding. My personal losses made me determined to make the lives of those who are struggling better.”
SSG Doctor focuses on the positivity in her life and finds humor everywhere. She owes her success at sit ups to her boyfriend and colleagues who are constantly making her laugh. Music, in all forms from country to hip-hop, continues to lift her spirits. Her favorite recordings include the Metropolitan Opera’s Turandot, Chicago Symphony’s Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, Cleveland Symphonic Winds’ Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Granger, and the album Principal Trumpet by Phillip Smith. She urges aspiring musicians to “live your life fully outside the practice room. Our life experiences shape who we are as musicians and the kind of music that we make. Music has the ability to tell stories and make people feel many different emotions. You can tell these stories and convey these emotions best if you have experienced these emotions yourself.”
“When I was a baby my parents would put me in a basket and place me on the piano while they ran choir rehearsals. My dad conducted while my mom accompanied. My first musical memories primarily involve people singing.” So recalls Staff Sergeant Bryan Hiroto Stenson, son of two music teachers from Minnesota who teach at an international school in Tokyo, Japan. Obviously, SSG Stenson’s musical life began at a very young age, and it paid off since he is currently the newest addition to The U.S. Army Voices having joined “Pershing’s Own” in March of 2015.
Originally from Tokyo, Japan, SSG Stenson spent his teenage years in “the land of the rising sun,” moving to the U.S. only when he went off to college. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Tacoma, Washington’s, Pacific Lutheran University and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. But of those college years he says, “I didn’t always feel at home in this country. I was really appreciative of the opportunities that I was given in the U.S., but I think I was trying to find ways to fit in and give back to the country of my nationality.” It wasn’t until SSG Stenson won his position with The Army Voices that he began to find grounding in this country. “Since joining the military, I feel like I have gained a lot of confidence in where I fit in and what I can do for society. I have a unique opportunity here where I can use something I love - music - in a way to help support the greater good. Also, being part of a team such as “Pershing’s Own” really makes me feel like I’m at home now.” Not only did he gain a community by joining the military, he also found his family as his father-in-law is also a member of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”
After his first two weeks with the unit, SSG Stenson’s first performance came when he sang for the President’s Cup. These first three weeks gave him a sense of awe at the significance of his position as a vocalist with “Pershing’s Own.” For his second high profile performance, he sang “Sakura,” a popular Japanese folk song, for the Japanese Chief of Staff for Japan’s National Ground Defense Force at Quarters 1. “I felt so honored to help represent this organization that night to the delegates of Japan.”
To maintain his passion for all kinds of music, SSG Stenson listens to everything from U2 and John Denver, to Mozart and the Japanese hip-hop group m-flo. His favorite recordings include Yuzo Kayama’s rendition of the beloved Japanese song, “Umi sono ai,” Pavarotti’s “Che gelida manina” from his 1961 debut of La Boheme, and Carlos Kleiber conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. His current favorite composer is Aaron Copland and he continues to adore the choral music of Paul J. Christiansen. He also admits the most difficult role he ever sang was the title role in Benjamin Britten’s opera, Albert Herring.
While SSG Bryan Stenson has now fully acclimated to his new life and its accompanying culture, he remembers fondly his youth in Japan. He fondly replays high school choir recordings and urges aspiring musicians to always remember why they chose music in the first place. “Sometimes in all of the stress of being a musician it can be easy to forget why you wanted to be a musician in the first place. Remember the reasons why you chose this path and think often of the fun and rewarding memories that you have made of it so far.”
“I play and sing bluegrass. For a bassoonist, that’s pretty weird.” So admits Sergeant First Class Dean Woods, a member of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” since 2000. His talent for folk music definitely sets him apart from other classical bassoonists, but he also adds, “There are a lot of unique opportunities to play in a variety of styles at “Pershing’s Own”. I have been able to do everything from classical to bluegrass…and everything in between. Growing up in North Georgia I was exposed to a lot of folk and country styles, and my training in classical music at Interlochen Arts Academy and the Cleveland Institute of Music prepared me for playing at the highest level in both band and orchestra.”
Growing up in Dalton, Georgia, “My dad sang and played guitar and banjo a lot when I was young,” so it wasn’t much of a stretch for SFC Woods to pick up those same instruments…as well as the fiddle and mandolin. He still frequently performs on these instruments, often accompanying himself while singing bluegrass music, and even does so as a member of “Pershing’s Own”. However, when he went off to the Cleveland Institute of Music, it was the bassoon he chose to study and where he earned a bachelor’s degree in bassoon performance.
Currently Principal Bassoonist with The U.S. Army Concert Band, SFC Woods has travelled with the band as far away as Beijing, China, where in 2012 historic joint concerts culminated in bringing both “Pershing’s Own” and the Military Band of the People’s Liberation Army of China together onstage combined as a single performing unit. “As Principal Bassoonist here, I always strive to stay on top of my game, musically. I’ve had some great opportunities through the years to keep challenging myself and always keep learning.” He relates taking a second and third prize in two International Double Reed Society Fox/Gilet competitions. Also, he is currently Principal Bassoonist in the Fairfax and Alexandria Symphony Orchestras, substitute with the National Symphony Orchestra and Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra when his Army Band schedule permits, and has been a finalist for the position of Principal Bassoon for two other major orchestras,. “These experiences help provide valuable feedback on my playing. By always performing and competing at the highest musical level, I represent the Army in a positive light and help to build bridges within our community.”
When asked about the secret to his success, SFC Woods relates, “The military is all about discipline. Likewise, so is being a professional musician. I’ve found that it’s the discipline that is the bridge between the idea and the goal.” He lists Mozart, Shostakovich, Beethoven, and Bach as some of his favorite composers, but admits his iPod plays “anything that sounds good.” In his advice to young musicians in pursuit of their passion, SFC Woods quotes Mark Twain: “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.”
Sergeant First Class Holly Shockey, originally from Potomac, MD, now calls McLean, VA, home where she resides with her three children. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater from Syracuse University in 1989, then spent time in New York City pursuing her craft. In 1995, she auditioned for The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” and became a vocalist with The Army Chorale, the mixed vocal ensemble at the time. Now, after 20 years, she will retire in October, but takes with her many great memories of her military career.
“I auditioned to sing with the Army Chorale,” recalls SFC Shockey, although she ends her career as part of The U.S. Army Voices. More than halfway through her career, this more traditional mixed vocal ensemble transitioned to The U.S. Army Band Downrange, an element performing the popular music of the Troops. The element consists of vocalists accompanied by a rhythm section made up of keyboards, guitars, drums, and occasionally horns. In 2008, SFC Shockey’s versatile talents warranted her selection to a reduced Downrange contingent which accompanied the “Sergeant Major of the Army Hope and Freedom Tour.” Between 2002 and 2010, this group performed for Troops in the Middle East during the holidays, much like Bob Hope’s USO tours, 1941-1990. She admits that while the tour was an important one in her career, leaving small children at home is never easy for a mom on active duty. Fortunately she had the support of her mother, Marilyn Shockey, who remained her biggest musical influence and mentor until she passed away unexpectedly this past January. “We had similar voices and she taught me to sing before I could talk. She taught me to harmonize and influenced me my whole life.”
In 2012, SFC Shockey returned to the music of the Army Chorale when The U.S. Army Voices was formed. This element performs the music she first sang with “Pershing’s Own,” often a cappella, which she admits is her favorite part of the group’s repertoire. She recalls one of the first performances of the Army Voices was with The U.S. Army Concert Band at the 2012 Norwegian Tattoo in Oslo, Norway. This performance took her back to her first year with “Pershing’s Own” when she was the vocal soloist for the band in the prestigious International Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland. “It was exciting to sing in front of approximately 9,000 people each night for a month so early in my military career.”
When asked about her favorite performance among the hundreds she has been part of, SFC Shockey answers without hesitation, “Singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ for President Gerald Ford’s 90th Birthday Celebration. Both Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush were present along with the entire U.S. Cabinet! I’ll never forget that.”
While “Pershing’s Own” is never able to fully replace retiring Soldiers like SFC Shockey, there will soon be an audition for her position as Soprano Vocalist with the Army Voices. As she recalls always being inspired by the unit’s newest Soldiers and the collective talent of each element, she offers this advice to those who might be interested in filling her position: “Don’t be scared off by being a ‘Soldier -Musician.’ The Army needs new, fresh talent. Work it out and… go for it!”
This month, The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” welcomed its newest member, not to its musical ranks, but to the very important ranks of the Support Team’s Supply Staff. Interestingly, Staff Sergeant Samantha Glosh from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has an extensive musical background, having taken up playing the flute at age nine. While attending Wando High School, she played in the marching band where her music skills also earned her the role of Drum Major. At seventeen and prior to her senior year, she joined the South Carolina Army National Guard Band to assist her family with college costs. Able to continue her music studies, SSG Glosh earned a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from the University of South Carolina in 2008.
So how does a talented flutist become a high-speed Supply NCO? SSG Glosh points out that one of the biggest perks in the Army is “the training is free,” and having spent a decade in the South Carolina National Guard Band (2003-2012), she found there is also a certain stability in a military career as well. Prior to “Pershing’s Own,” she also served as a flutist with both the 8th Army Band in South Korea (2013-2014) and the 56th Army Band at Ft. Lewis, Washington (2014-2015). At Ft. Lewis, she also spent part of her time on the Administrative Staff. Her decision to apply for the highly competitive “Pershing’s Own” Supply Staff was due in part to the even greater stability this permanent duty station will provide for her family: her “wonderful singer-husband, Brian,” who is already working at the prestigious National Cathedral in Washington, DC, their four-year-old son, Alan, six-month-old daughter, Macie, and Lucy, the family dog. Speaking about the DC area, SSG Glosh says she loves that “the area is so accessible to traveling, one of my favorite hobbies.” She also loves the outdoors and is excited about the “plethora of family-friendly things to do” in Metropolitan Washington.
Musically, SSG Glosh admits she draws her musical inspiration from two of her favorite flutists, Laurel Zucker and Donna Shin, and says her favorite composition for flute is Aaron Copland’s “Duo for Flute and Piano.” When asked what she listens to, she simply says, “Everything!” and advises the next generation who will serve in The U.S. Army, “Make sure you always love what you do in the Army! If you’re not happy with your job or position, never be afraid to try something else.”
Staff Sergeant Zhao Liu was assigned to The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” to take charge of the unit’s Information Management Office in 2012. Originally from Beijing, China, SSG Liu has come a long distance to join the ranks of the 270 Soldiers here at “Pershing’s Own.”
Growing up, SSG Liu remembers always being surrounded by music “because my father was a conductor and my sister was playing the violin.” Originally a flute player himself, SSG Liu earned a Bachelor of Music Degree from New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. He continued his studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he graduated with a Master of Music Degree. Not surprising, he started his Army career as a flute player with The U.S. Army Ground Forces Band at Fort McPherson, Georgia. It was there his prowess in information systems became apparent and lead to his appointment as their Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Information Management Office. When asked about his duties at Fort McPherson and his transition to his current IM position at “Pershing’s Own,” he replied, “I never thought it would lead me towards my current position. I am very grateful and happy with my job and I hope that I can provide good service to my fellow musicians.”
SSG Liu still maintains his flute playing. Although he admits he does not own an iPod, he is quick to add, “but I do listen to music all the time…mostly classical or jazz.” He is also pleased that he has also been given the opportunity to perform on two occasions as a flute soloist with “Pershing’s Own” and adds, “both were great experiences!” Whether speaking in his native Mandarin Chinese or in English, his advice to aspiring musicians is: “Practice all the time and pay attention to what you practice.”
Trombonist, Sergeant First Class Samuel Woodhead, who hails from Northport, Maine, admits his first instrument was the baritone horn which he began playing at age eleven. It was not until the 7th grade that he took up the trombone as his primary instrument, although he plays euphonium, tuba, and has “dabbled with the banjo” as well. SFC Woodhead joined The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in 2001 and has served as Principal Trombonist in The U.S. Army Concert Band since 2004. Although he has performed for countless events throughout his military career, he recalls being deployed to take part in the 2007 Sergeant Major of the Army’s Hope and Freedom Tour to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan as “the most unique.”
SFC Woodhead is that rare individual who excels both musically and administratively. Since 2009, he has served as Chairman of the annual American Trombone Workshop, a world-renowned workshop that unites students with professional guest artists from premier military bands, prestigious orchestras, and the most-respected universities. “My role model is my former teacher at Yale, John Swallow, who passed away last year in 2012. He was a proponent for the trombone as a solo instrument and premiered pieces by some of the greatest 20th century composers, like Stravinsky, Bernstein, and Boulez.” Notably, during WWII, Swallow, himself, served in “Pershing’s Own” where he played for the funeral of Franklin D. Roosevelt and General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s return from overseas.
SFC Woodhead began his studies at the Manhattan School of Music, then earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Southern Maine, a master’s degree from Yale University, and a doctorate from The University of Maryland. While completing this final degree, he became interested in CrossFit, the popular core strength and conditioning program. “My fitness level had started to fall off and once I finally completed my [doctorate], I realized I had no more excuses…at the age of 40, I have even beaten my [army physical fitness test] scores from basic training when I was 27. When you change your health in such a dramatic fashion, you will find your whole life changes.” SFC Woodhead obtained CrossFit training certifications and coaches Black Jack CrossFit which primarily caters to band members. He has even involved his kids in the program!
Whether it’s performing a composer like J.S. Bach who he never grows tired of or tackling an extremely difficult piece of music - like the unaccompanied trombone solo “Keren” by Iannis Xenakis) - his advice to young musicians is threefold: “Listen often, widely, deeply, and whenever possible, live… Make fitness a part of your life…Music will always be valuable and integral to human life as it is an ancient and powerful medium. Remember that when you play, you have the opportunity to communicate in a deep and meaningful way that cannot be accomplished by any other means.”
You never know what sparks a musician’s interest for picking up an instrument and making it a career. “I was born in an Army hospital in New Mexico…and my parents are laid to rest at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Sierra Vista, AZ, near Ft. Huachuca’s main gate. My dad enlisted as a Private in 1939 following high school,” retiring after 33 years as an Army Colonel. So shares MSG Lorrie Brown of her roots. Ft. Huachuca, AZ, is her chosen hometown “because I wanted to represent all of the Soldiers from that area.” At age 9, while watching Lawrence Welk and Louis Armstrong on an old Zenith TV, “I knew I wanted to be a musician. Then a lady on registration day at Ft. Huachuca’s Myer Elementary School” said to this 6th grader, “You have to be in the band…they have uniforms.” That band was “the Ft. Huachuca Accommodations School Band directed by former Army Bandmaster, Archie Brown…and if it had not been for the kindness and confidence of 36th Army Bandmaster, Warrant Officer Ruel T. Blagg, my dream to be a musician might have remained only a dream. Listing my hometown as Ft. Huachuca was the best way I could think of to thank all of the Army musicians (to include Vietnam Veteran, Rick Klein and NY Philharmonic’s Carl R. Schiebler, former member of the 7th Army Symphony) that took the time to encourage an Army Brat like me.”
MSG Brown earned a Bachelor of Music from Arizona State University in 1982 then, via a short stay in Vermont, ran off to New York’s Manhattan School of Music, earning a Master of Music in Performance three years later. In 1989, she auditioned for The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” and took a chair in The U.S. Army Concert Band in 1990. She has performed with the Jazz and Rock Orchestras, The U.S. Army Woodwind Quintet, and with numerous small ensembles as soloist and recitalist, and has even “marched quite a bit of sousaphone for “Pershing’s Own”. Smitten with the sousaphone, “It was almost a coup d’ etat for a female in the 70s” to march on the football field with that instrument. “I practiced all the time right in the middle of the living room (my poor parents). I might (even) have been the first female sousaphonist at Buena High School and was given a card by the section leaders saying that I was the first female sousaphonist in the Arizona State University “Sun Devil” Marching Band.” She was actually only the second female sousaphonist with TUSAB, the first being violist, MSG (ret.) Linda Wade.
About interesting moments in her twenty five years with “Pershing’s Own,” MSG Brown recalls being “the U.S. Army Flag Bearer on a nationally televised “Women in Military Service for America” candlelight ceremony”…performing for “the Eisenhower and Ford families with Bob Hope…for those who saved lives during the Holocaust…for Gold Star Families” who have lost loved ones to American conflicts…for “opening the V.A. hospital in Baltimore and the Fisher House at Walter Reed.” She also recalls being honored with a few opportunities to speak with General John J. Pershing’s grandson, Col. John Warren Pershing, when he would visit Brucker Hall, home of The Army Band. In 2008, MSG Brown earned a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix’s School of Advanced Studies. A huge advocate of education and outreach with the unit, MSG Brown has been Director and Coordinator for the unit’s College Music Leadership Program and High School Gifted Program interns which makes it possible for select students to earn credit through their educational institutions. She has produced unit educational and outreach initiatives such as the children’s concert series, “Kids of All Ages”; produced “Pershing Past to Present,” a concert highlighting contributions to music history related to the founding of the American Conservatory by General John J. Pershing and conductor/composer Walter Damrosch in France during WWI; and educational outreach to students in Lviv, Kiev, and Odessa, Ukraine, and at Kneller Hall, near London, England. She has produced many career day appearances and masterclasses around the U.S., some of which have included World Premieres and U.S. Premieres of new music with international guest artists.
MSG Brown has no iPod but listens to all styles and music genres, from Mahler and Sibelius, to folk, country, and jazz. As for advice to upcoming musicians: “I was self-taught…I played along with recordings” and didn’t learn to read music until she was sixteen. Besides listening to interesting music, “seek out people who truly believe in possibility. Persistence… determination…and…a love of learning…are all essential.”
MSG Caleb Green fondly remembers the music of his Zion Baptist Church in his hometown of Hampton, Virginia. “I loved the gospel mass choirs and old school gospel quartets as well as my father sitting down with me at home to give me guitar lessons. These things evoked a strong emotional response and spiritual connection as a kid.” From those early years, music never left him. Following high school, he earned an Associate Degree from Georgia Military College, then attended Hampton University, majoring in Music Education.
MSG Green enlisted in 1984 as a Signal Soldier. He specialized in AM/FM Radio Operations and Satellite Communications in Northern Germany during the height of the “cold war.” In 1990, he was named NCO of The Quarter by the 552nd U.S. Army Artillery Group, and in 1993 was named The U.S. Army Signal Center Instructor of the Year for his training prowess with Signal Corps initial entry soldiers. He continued his service with assignments to the 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Engineer Battalion, Camp Castle, Korea, the 47th Engineer Company, Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, and then Charlie Company 864th Engineer Battalion, Ft. Lewis, Washington. In 1999, MSG Green auditioned for a position with The U.S. Army Chorale and joined the ranks of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” as a baritone vocalist. Throughout his tenure with the organization, he has supervised subordinates within his element, served as an equal opportunity facilitator, and was part of the unit Retention Team where he earned several “Excellence in Retention” awards from the command. When asked about his most memorable performances throughout his career, MSG Green sites the eight morale support tours to southwest Asia he was part of with the USO and the Sergeant Major of the Army in support our deployed troops. During this time, this team became formally known as The U.S. Army Band Downrange, the group from which MSG Green retires this July.
When asked about the kind of music he likes to listen to, MSG Green smiles and says his iPod plays “thousands of songs from classical and Disney, to R&B and gospel” genres. What advice might he give to an aspiring musician? “Learn all you can about your craft and practice every day, even if it’s mental. Take care of your instrument and learn to write and arrange as well.” Upon retirement, MSG Green, his wife and seven children will retire to the Hampton area.
Master Sergeant Kenneth Rittenhouse enlisted in the Army in 1990 and signed into The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” as a member of the Ceremonial Band in February 1991. He currently serves as Trumpet Section Leader of The U.S. Army Blues, the element he has been a part of since 2003. He received his bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance from West Virginia Wesleyan College, not far from his hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia. Graduate work at both the Eastman School of Music and Duquesne University led to his completion of a master’s degree in jazz studies at the University of Maryland.
With admittedly eclectic musical tastes, MSG Rittenhouse includes jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Bobby Watson, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw as some favorites, but adds bluegrass and classical selections to his list as well. And, as the father of a young child, he admits his iPod also holds selections of appropriate “toddler music.”
When asked to share one of his most memorable performances as a member of “Pershing’s Own,” he cites without hesitation his playing Taps for the memorial service of Shirley Chisholm, who made history in 1968 as the first African-American U.S. Congresswoman, and then became the first African-American presidential candidate to run for a major political party (1972).
For nearly two decades, MSG Rittenhouse has composed for various types of small jazz ensembles. Since joining the Army Blues, he has contributed as a composer and arranger for their big band sound. His first arrangement for jazz orchestra, “To Her Ladyship” by Freddie Hubbard, was premiered at the 2014 Black History Month Concert at Brucker Hall on joint base Fort Myer-Henderson Hall. In his spare time he arranges for the blues record label, “Seven Records.”
When asked how being in the military has impacted his life, MSG Rittenhouse states, “It has given me the opportunity to support Soldiers who are or have been in harm’s way for our country.” Being a member of “Pershing’s Own” over the last 24 years has also given him the chance to put down roots, start a family, and become a well-respected member of the DC jazz community. He is also extremely honored to work with some of the best musicians in the country.
MSG Rittenhouse’s best advice to young musicians is “JUST PLAY!! Practice before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner, before class, after class…and perform whenever you get the chance to. Take every opportunity that comes your way, especially if you’re going into music education. How can you teach the music if you don’t perform the music?”
SSG Lorenzo Trujillo holds a notable position within The U.S. Army Concert Band, that of appointed Commercial/Lead Trumpet Chair. As such, he is akin to a ‘musical chameleon’ in that he performs concert-style equally as well as jazz, Latin, or any number of musical styles he may be called upon to play. With a Bachelor of Music from the University of Louisville, a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from The University of California (UCLA), it’s no wonder that he accomplishes each mission with great success.
It is always interesting to note the positive impact a family can have on some of our greatest musicians, and SSG Trujillo is no exception. As early as age 6, he remembers playing and singing at his father’s side while his family performed southwest Spanish colonial music and his Grandmother danced the dances of her youth. In the two years since he joined the unit, SSG Trujillo has performed in numerous high-visibility missions, yet he admits his most memorable performance thus far is that of his Mother watching him perform in uniform for the first time. Although he performed a solo in front of the band that night, he said, “What really stuck with me during ‘The Armed Forces Salute’ (The Army Band’s medley of all of the service songs) was when I saw her standing during ‘The Army Song’ and realized she stood for me.” He affirms that he truly enjoys serving other people not just as a Soldier, but as a person, and that serving in the Army has helped him gain a genuine appreciation for the personal relationships he has in life.
As his musical prowess attests, SSG Trujillo’s musical tastes are diverse and multi-genred, yet he singles out Gustav Mahler as his favorite composer. He feels most trumpet players will agree that it is impossible to designate one piece as the most difficult for their instrument since the term ‘difficulty’ varies from player to player. However, his most enjoyable piece to perform, a work rarely played due to its level of difficulty, is “Shazam!” by Folke Rabe (his recording can be found on YouTube). In addition to offering this jaw-dropping performance, his advice to aspiring young musicians is: “Figure out why you play music, whether it’s for personal enjoyment, the gift to others, or the never ending quest in the practice room…never let go of why you play. If you sacrifice that internal drive for any reason, you’ll lose your passion. Music without passion is empty and unfulfilling. Stay true to your passion.”