Feature Articles

TUSAB Celebrates One of Its Own at Retirement Ceremony of SGM Woodrow English

Aug 23, 2010

By SSG Chris Branagan, TUSAB Public Affairs

On Thursday, August 19, The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" marked the end of an era with the retirement ceremony of SGM Woodrow "Woody" English, the Army Band's Senior Trumpet Soloist and Special Bugler, after 34 years of distinguished service.

Approximately 300 friends, family, and colleagues attended the ceremony held at Brucker Hall, headquarters of The U.S. Army Band on historic Ft. Myer, Virginia. An octet of musicians provided pre-ceremony entertainment, and included current and former members of The U.S. Army Brass Quintet.

Attendees included two previous commanders of "Pershing's Own," COL (Ret) Gary F. Lamb and COL (Ret) Eugene W. Allen; COL Thomas Palmatier, Commander of the U.S. Army Field Band; LTC Timothy Holtan, Commandant, U.S. Army School of Music; Mr. Egon Hawrylak, Deputy Commander of the Military District of Washington; former enlisted leaders of "Pershing's Own," CSM (Ret) Ross Morgan and SGM (Ret) Jack Tillbury; numerous friends and family, as well as a complete contingent of current and former members of The U.S. Army Band.

COL Thomas Rotondi, Jr., Commander of "Pershing's Own," began the ceremony by reading from SGM English's bio, noting some significant events in his career. SGM English spent the first 14 years of his career in the ceremonial component of "Pershing's Own," as well as The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. While a member of these ensembles, SGM English took part events that greatly impacted the nation, including the funeral of General of the Army Omar Bradley, the 1977 Camp David Peace Accords hosted by President Jimmy Carter, and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.

In 1991 he was named Trumpet Soloist of The U.S. Army Concert Band and assumed the role as the organization's Special Bugler. In this capacity, SGM English has stood as a symbol of excellence of the premier performing ensemble of the nation's senior service for nearly 20 years, and has performed at burials and memorials for some of the most prominent Americans in our history. COL Rotondi related a story from 2004, in which SGM English had been flown to France to play Taps at the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion at Omaha Beach. While in France, SGM English was informed of the death of President Ronald Reagan, and at the conclusion of the ceremony, was flown directly to California to perform honors for the President at his final resting place in Simi Valley. Ever the consummate professional, upon arriving at a hotel in California following a trans-Atlantic flight, SGM English tapped on his neighbor's door, MAJ Jim Keene (director of The U.S. Army Chorus), and asked if he would mind if the trumpeter went through his regular warm-up routine. With the Major's permission, SGM English played for nearly three hours, finishing his routine with dozens of repetitions of Taps, ensuring he would be ready for anything at the funeral of President Reagan.

After all the awards and accolades had been read, English was presented with numerous gifts from his colleagues, including a special "Ceremonial Bugle," the electronic instrument officially authorized by Congress to be used where live horn players may not be available to perform honors for veterans and active duty soldiers. Thousands of instruments have been produced, each one including pre-recorded tracks of bugle calls and a live recording of Taps from the 1999 Memorial Day Service at Arlington National Cemetery, all performed by SGM English.

When SGM English took his turn at the podium, his first words were of thanks for Support Staff of "Pershing's Own" and the talented musicians of the various performing elements of The U.S. Army Band: Downrange, Blues, Strings, Chorus, and Concert Band. He had special comments reserved for The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band, referring to the 14 years he spent as a member as "a special part in my life." Emotion rose in his voice and on his face when he talked of the important job charged to each member of the Ceremonial Band in honoring America's fallen in Arlington National Cemetery.

While Woody English brings his military career as a musician to a close, he has no plans to slow down. He will continue to perform as one of the leading trumpet artists and teachers in the Washington, DC, area. His commitment to education will continue with the establishment of the ILE Music Scholarship Fund. Named after his mother, Irma Louise English, the scholarship fund was established to make available to students an Instrumental Lifelong Experience through summer music camp opportunities.