JIMMY CARTER LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, ATLANTA – The Georgia Army National Guard’s 116th Army Band filled the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum with merriment, patriotism and music during their one-hour concert Sunday in the main atrium.
The concert, which was free and open to the public, was the climatic end to a three-day music tour around the greater Atlanta area.
A vintage inspired tree with turn-of-the-century toys was a backdrop for the featured performance.
Sgt. Matthew Craig Andrade, a percussionist who came to the 116th Army Band by way of the U.S. Marine Corps Band at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, loves what he does so much he returned after a 13-year absence to continue to share.
“Joyous is what you feel when you look at the crowd because they are capturing and sharing the moment of music!” Craig said.
Sharing is part of the mission for the Carter Presidential Library and Museum and the head of the library’s public affairs, Tony Clark, said musical events are not regular events for the library but after a rousing performance on Memorial Day, Clark and his staff graciously opened the doors to the citizen-soldier musicians for a second time.
“We had a big crowd for Memorial Day and when Mark, [116th Army Band commander, Chief Warrant Officer Mark B. Cummings], mentioned they had a holiday performance I said ‘Let’s book it!’”
The Carter Presidential Library and Museum offers a diversity of events to appeal to the public in order to showcase the facility as more than a museum and an archive for the president’s papers.
“By offering literary and educational events we are able to show we are so much more to Georgia by making this a center for the public we make them feel welcome here,” Clark affirmed. “The thing the band finesses is tying the music to the occasion or holiday and the community appreciates that.”
Thematically that mission was accomplished if you ask Sgt. Christine Pressley Ikeazor. Taking a second bow she nodded approval for the performance towards band mate Spc. Patricia "Diane" Wilcurt, a bass clarinetist, who took direction of the band during a rendition of "Sleigh Ride."
“I made sure my family attended today,” Ikeazor stated turning her attention to her three children. “And we [the band] are like a big musical family that has the privilege of filling halls of historical venues so this was a moment I needed to share with my children.”
Privilege also comes in a far more edible form for the musicians.
As the applause quieted executive chef of Atlanta’s Proof of the Pudding, and exclusive special events caterer Vagn Nielsen, and his staff had had stepped into the main hall for the band’s performance. In the way only an award-winning chef for Presidents could, he presented the musicians and attendees with a seemingly endless table of sumptuous desserts.
Andrade, a public school music teacher embraces moments like these with his Guard family.
“[The crowd] was fully engaged in what we are about,” Andrade a public school music teacher added. “The Christmas spirit is in all of us and we share that by bringing families together with songs of friendship, love and faith.”
Having performed at numerous Georgia National Guard Holiday family events over the weeks, in addition to community performances, the band was given a small section of the library for their Guard family celebration.
“We are always the ones working,” added Cummings laughingly surveying the roped area his wife, Debbie, had piled with her homemade treats. “After everyone is gone we get to pack up and prepare for the next event - but we love it!”