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    Big Red One Band Plays in Europe

    Big Red One Band Play at the Culture Center in Tallinn, Estonia

    Photo By Sgt. Charles Leitner | Members of the 1st Infantry Division (1 ID) band, stand after a performance at the...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Charles Leitner 

    1st Infantry Division

    TALLINN, Estonia – On the third floor of a vacated studio apartment in the old town square of Tallinn, Estonia, U.S. Soldiers of the 1st infantry Division (1 ID) band fiddle with their instruments on Jan. 8, 2023.

    Some oil brass pistons or practice the set list, stretching the muscles in their fingers and jaws in the process as others tape hand warmer packets to areas of their instruments that are prone to freeze. They will be playing outside where it is negative 10 degrees Celsius, about 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

    For nearly three months, the band circumnavigated an area rife with different cultures and languages, engaging with those communities that have hosted U.S. Army units operationally assigned to the 1 ID in Europe.

    “The highlights have definitely been the collaborations with our NATO allies,” said U.S. Army Warrant Officer Cena Duran, the commander and conductor of the 1 ID band.

    The band’s tour began after their arrival at a forward operating station in Poland on Nov. 20, 2022. Since then, their journey has taken them through town squares, concert halls and tents located throughout many Baltic states where U.S. Soldiers are stationed in support of NATO allies and partners.

    They played a Christmas show in an audience packed square in Bolesławiec, finishing their set with a rendition of “Carol of the Bells,” a popular holiday song written by the Ukrainian composer, Mykola Leontovych, in 1914. In Vilnius, they were joined by the Lithuanian armed forces band to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the country's admittance into NATO.

    “It was my first time leaving the United States with the Army to perform in a capacity like this,” said U.S. Army Spc. Mark Northup, a saxophonist in the 1 ID band. “The overwhelming response has been wonderful, I am just glad we can reach out to both troops and civilians.”

    But of all their performances, one stood out more than the rest. While in Estonia, a small wind section of the 1 ID band had the opportunity to play at the Vabaduse School, a school for Ukrainian refugees.

    The school was founded less than a year ago with the first students arriving in February 2022, shortly after the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Currently, it teaches over five hundred children between the ages of 12 and 18. According to Vladislave Lusin, the head of communications at the school, most of the students traveled to Tallinn with at least one parent. Some traveled alone and are living with relatives or foster parents.

    “We are really trying to offer some extracurricular activities for our students,” said Lusin. “We want to try to make Estonia feel like home.”

    The students are in the process of learning Estonian and few understand English, but a common tongue flowed from the notes that resounded from the instruments.

    Northrup went on to say that through music, members of the 1 ID band are able to interact with communities in a way most of the conventional military cannot.

    “The 1st Infantry Division has infantry capability, we have artillery capability and we have human capability with our band performing the international language of music,” said U.S. Army Col. Richard J. Ikena Jr., commander of Division Artillery, 1 ID.

    After their performance at the school, the 1 ID band finished their time in Estonia at the Mustamäe Cultural Center Kaja. There they played a new set to a full hall with songs made known by The Weekend and Adele. They will finish their European tour with one more stop at the forward operating station in Bolesławiec after which they will return to Fort Riley, Kansas.


    Date Taken: 01.19.2023
    Date Posted: 01.24.2023 03:52
    Story ID: 436942
    Location: TALLLINN, EE

    Web Views: 271
    Downloads: 0