News: Cav. band prepares for final performance
By Sgt. Samantha Beuterbaugh
BAGHDAD — The 1st Cavalry Division rock band jammed at the division chapel, Dec. 22, in one of their last performances before the unit redeploys.
As the band members prepare for their redeployment, they performed a holiday concert, thanking their many supporters and contributors to their success.
"The performance was set up for [Division Special Troops Battalion]," said Staff Sgt. Dennis Milne of Rockford, Ill.
On behalf of the band members, vocalist Staff Sgt. Renatta Draper formally thanked both the DSTB members for their support and the chaplain for the use of the chapel for both practices and concerts.
The intent, while searching for the music to be performed at the concert, was to find popular, widely-recognizable tunes as well as to find pieces that would incorporate the use of the horn section, said Milne.
"This is one of the most talented groups I've ever been with, from the horns to the vocalists, to the rhythm sections," said Milne.
The collaboration included popular hits like Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You;" classic sounds like "Little Drummer Boy," and comical pieces like Alvin and the Chipmunks' "Christmas Don't be Late," in which the sound technician, Staff Sgt. Brandon Colley, changed the pitch of the vocalists' voices to imitate the chipmunks'.
For these band members, the preparation for this particular concert wasn't just about reading a sheet of music and playing the tunes. The members actually had to listen to multiple CD's in order to compose their own musical notes by ear.
"The band members had no written music," said Milne. "They had to listen to the songs to figure out their own way to incorporate their instruments into the piece."
There are two band detachments with the 1st Cav. Div.; the traditional band members who march and play at ceremonial events, and the contemporary rock band, which plays pop, salsa and country tunes.
The rock band has been working together for 11 months and comprises of one guitarist, one bass player, one pianist, one drummer, two trumpet players, one saxophone player, one trombone player, two vocalists and one sound technician.
Although the rock band hasn't practiced together in weeks because of ongoing redeployment demands, Milne said that he couldn't have been more pleased with the band's impeccable performance Tuesday. The last time the band rehearsed was during a week-long tour that began Dec. 1, to boost soldier morale on four more remote U.S. posts.
Before this, the band typically practiced together at least every other day, and until more recently, they were performing 10 to 15 gigs a month, said Milne. A typical performance lasts one to two hours.
The night's performance lasted just over an hour, and the chapel was nearly one-third full. Draper said it was the largest turnout for the rock band during this deployment.
"It might not always be a big crowd, but it feels good to be a part of a group that provides those few soldiers stress relief," said the trombone player, Staff Sgt. Jesse Brown from Tecumseh, Okla.
The band boosts soldiers' morale, instilling the will to fight, building community relations as the band members and the Iraqi symphony come together for events, and reminding people of the Army's history, said Brown.
"We get to tell the Army's story through music," Brown said.
Brown said it is an emotional experience to play for the soldiers, especially during the many welcome home ceremonies, which are typical gigs in the states. Several band members were already sent back to Fort Hood, Texas, to prepare patriotic hymns for the welcoming home of the 1st Cav. Div. as they redeploy.
The rock band's final performance in theater is scheduled to take place at the Pegasus Oasis dining facility Christmas day. If weather permits, the concert will be held outside in the gazebo, otherwise it will be held in the dining facility.