News: 9th Army Band mentors Eagle River Scouts
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
EAGLE RIVER, Alaska - Members of U.S. Army Alaska’s 9th Army Band gave members of Boy Scout Troop 229 a music lesson Feb. 24 in Eagle River.
The soldiers present the scouts a brief history of music appreciation and familiarized them with instruments from the brass section. They also demonstrated the different genres of music throughout the ages, playing different period pieces to demonstrate each.
In addition to providing a music lesson, the information helped the scouts gain the knowledge they needed to earn their music merit badge.
Staff Sgt. Dale McSwain, the bandleader, started the presentation with a breakdown of the different instrumental groups.
“The five musical instrument groups are brass, electronic, strings, woodwinds and percussion,” McSwain, a native of Shelby, N.C., told the scouts.
“Of course we represent the brass, which is the best musical group,” he joked with his French horn in hand.
Each band member gave them a brief history of the instrument they were playing, and the band played music from a different era of music. They played “Rondeau” from the classical period, “Salvation is Created” from the romantic period, as well as “Just a Closer Walk” from the Jazz and Dixieland era.
Staff Sgt. Alton Huckaby, a trumpet player, explained it’s hard work and takes a lot of practice.
“Can you guess how long I’ve been playing this?” Huckaby, a Houston, Texas, native, asked the crowd. “I’ll have to do the math!” he then closed eyes in deep concentration while silently counting. He opened his eyes and smiled. “It’s been 18 years since I’ve been playing this, and I am still learning how to do this.”
Some of the soldiers said they had been scouts themselves.
Sgt. Jason Taylor, a trumpet player with the 9th Army Band, was a Scout at age 12 when his father was stationed in Italy.
“It was a great way to meet new friends and learn to do new and interesting things,” Taylor said.
“Our purpose is to perform and hopefully educate these young Boy Scouts with music,” Taylor, a Stafford, Va., native said. “We are going to go through a brief history of different music styles and the different instruments we have tonight. Hopefully that can help them earn their music merit badge.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff Price, 9th Army Band commander, was excited to have the opportunity to help the Boy Scout Troops in a community function.
“We are soldiers serving soldiers. On a daily basis throughout USARAK we have opportunities to play for and make sure that soldiers know they are important,” Price said. “In the same way, when we go out into the community, it’s a way to let them know what the Army does.”
The Scouts were then given the opportunity to ask questions. One scout asked if the soldiers play other instruments.
“I like to play guitar sometimes to do something different, because I’ve been playing this for so long, and sometimes I like to sing karaoke just to have some fun,” Taylor said.
The scouts were not the only ones interested to hear what the Army band members had to say. The parents also asked questions.
“Is a piano a percussion or string instrument?” one parent asked.
Price let everyone guess before revealing, “It’s a percussion [instrument] because it’s struck. The hammer strikes.”
“Is every band member a rifleman also?” the parent asked.
Without hesitation, the band members answered in unison, “Rifleman first!”
Lucas Mahi, senior patrol leader for Troop 229 said he enjoyed the interaction between the soldiers and scouts. He has also played the trumpet for four years.
“I liked how they talked about the different genres of music. I also liked how they showed us the brass instruments,” Mahi said. “The Army helped everyone get into the scouting spirit. Since they are the adulthood version of scouts, it helps us become better scouts.”
Lahsen Mahi, assistant scout masters, and also Lucas’ father, said there were many positives that come out of the interaction: an appreciation of music, community involvement, patriotism and perseverance.
“They’ve seen a lot of individuals here that have been playing instruments for 15 years,” Mahi said, “They are doing something that they actually like. I think [the scouts] could be inspired music wise, towards their country or [to] set new goals.”
“I noticed the scouts really appreciated it,” Mahi said with a smile. “They were really quiet and that’s one of the few times that they [have] sat in awe listening.”