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    42nd Infantry Division Band Adapts to COVID-19 to keep the Music Playing

    42nd Infantry Division Band Adapts to COVID-19 to keep the Music Playing

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell | More than 30 Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division...... read more read more

    LATHAM, NY, UNITED STATES

    07.17.2020

    Story by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell 

    New York National Guard

    LATHAM, N.Y. (July 17, 2020) – Summer for the 42nd Infantry Division band usually means a schedule of touring with performances all across the state as well as completing their 15 days of annual training.

    Made up of more than 30 Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard based at Camp Smith, the band performs everything from the classics of patriotic American music, to modern covers performed by smaller elements of the band specializing in pop and rock.

    With the current COVID-19 pandemic however, all the plans for touring and performances had to be cancelled. This left the band to improvise a way to perform and meet training requirements, while still maintaining all precautions laid out by the State of New York.

    With all performances cancelled due to COVID, their single performance at headquarters was the sole event to certify the band as being mission capable, Saroka said.

    “Today is a performance to certify our mission,” said 1st Sgt. Leslie Saroka, the 42nd ID band first sergeant, of the band’s performance at the New York National Guard headquarters.

    “Due to COVID, all of our missions were cancelled and we arranged to come up here since we are a band our ultimate mission is to perform,” Saroka said.

    Saroka explained that each Army unit has a “mission essential task list” which lays out all of the skills any given unit needs to be proficient in. Spending the summer touring he said, would usually be how the band accomplished this.

    “This includes how to load, pack, move, set up, sound check,” Saroka said of some of the tasks the band needs to know, “play as the several groups our audiences hear, uniform change and then break it all back down and make the movement home. So that is all part of our METL certification we have to do every year.”

    The band is responsible for its own set up which includes not only instruments, but amplifiers, speakers and various other piece of live sound equipment. It must all be maintained and set up properly to ensure successful performances, the band explained.

    Saroka also explained though that this performance was not as elaborate as usual due to the need to follow all COVID guidance regarding keeping equipment sanitized and how many people could watch them play.

    The band members must all be 6 feet apart, wear masks when not playing and must sanitize all equipment and instruments at the end of their performance.

    Saroka said that during a normal year, the band will conduct at least 15 to 20 performances, between their annual training and various other events such as recruiting events and formal, military dining in events.

    “I was really, really looking forward to it,” said Sgt. Emily Perkins, a piano player and vocalist in the band.

    Perkins spent more than four years in active Army bands before transferring to the New York Army National Guard in November 2019. This would have been her first tour with the 42nd ID band.

    “I was excited to go on the road for a number of days with my new bandmates,” Perkins said. “But now we are at our homestation everyday instead of going out and playing for the public.”

    The downtime has been good for morale however, Perkins explained. It has allowed her and other new band members to spend time with and get to know everyone, after having not performed since January 2020.

    “We’re all having fun anyway no matter what,” Perkins said. “The last performance we did was before the lock down at a military ball in Saratoga. It was to celebrate the division going on a deployment. We were giving them one last hoorah, it was a lot of fun.”

    Musicians like Perkins come into the band already as established musicians, having to pass what Saroka described as a tough audition process.

    “I’ve been a musician for most of my life, I studied music in college,” Perkins said.

    Having moved to New York with a spouse who is also serving and stationed at West Point, Perkins said the Army band has been the perfect opportunity to serve while being able to use her talents.

    “One of the big things in my life besides music, but happens to marry up with music really well, is my desire to serve in general,” Perkins said. “I grew up performing in churches, performing in nursing homes, both my parents have done that growing up as well so they really instilled that in us as children.”

    The opportunity to serve as a musician has attracted people from very diverse backgrounds. Spc. Lei Han, a saxophone and piano player in the band, is originally from China, having lived in the U.S. for only eight years now, spending the last year and a half in the 42nd ID band.

    “I’ve played keyboard since I was 6 years old,” Han said. “I’ve played saxophone since I was 13 or 14.”

    Now at 32, Han recalls looking online at social media for jobs and seeing ads for the Army band. Not knowing the Army had bands, he began the process of joining.

    “I had no idea the Army had positions like this for musicians,” Han said. “So ok, let me try it, and I got in.”

    Han is another who said he sees plenty of opportunity for a career with the band, with the chance to make a living as a musician with a group of people he feels very close to.

    “As a musician, it is a steady job,” Han said. “And for someone like me, I’m really passionate about music so I think this is a career for me in the Army band. They treat us like family, even though I came from China and we are from different background and different cultures and to be treated respectfully, I love this group.”

    Being such a small group, Saroka said that it feels like everyone is family with so many people staying in the band and making a career of it till retirement. Saroka himself, after serving in the Army’s Ranger Regiment in the 1980s, returned to playing clarinet like he did in high school and has been with the band since 1998.

    With COVID-19 having put a temporary halt to live performances, the band members said they look forward to being in front of audiences again in the future. Until then, their goal is to adapt to the changes, maintain their proficiency and be ready for whenever they are called upon.

    “If you have a talent no matter what it is, you should be using it serve the community, that’s always been part of me,” Perkins said. “Doing things for others with my talents.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.17.2020
    Date Posted: 07.22.2020 13:46
    Story ID: 374360
    Location: LATHAM, NY, US 

    Web Views: 90
    Downloads: 1

    PUBLIC DOMAIN