News: A look into the life of the 1st Cav. Band
Story by Spc. Bradley Wancour
FORT HOOD, Texas – Many people dream about having a job where they do what they love, but not everyone gets the opportunity. Members of the 1st Cavalry Division Band, however, count themselves among the few.
So how does one get into the band in the first place?
Sgt. Joseph Young, guitar and trumpet player, 1st Cav. Band, explains he didn’t even know the Army had a band before he was given the opportunity to join.
“I was originally going to join the Coast Guard instead of going to college,” said Young. “But in high school, a uniformed soldier came into my band class with a clarinet and told us we could be a part of the Army band. So I joined the National Guard and went to college to study music. Seven or eight years later, I went active and joined the band.”
Joining the band was an obvious choice for Young, who had been playing music for nearly his entire life.
“I’ve been playing music since I developed the motor skills to do so,” said Young. “I started banging on the piano when I was two- or three-years old, and I’ve been playing trumpet and guitar since I was 10.”
So what is life in the Army band really like?
“A normal day doesn’t really exist,” said Young.
The nature of the band requires soldiers to participate in performances at all hours of the day, including in the middle of the night and on holidays, so the schedule is different from week to week, explained Young.
“If I had to describe an average day, I would say it normally involves a performance or two, rehearsal time for one or more of our ensembles, and shop time, where our additional duties are taken care of,” Young stated. “Any extra time soldiers have can be used for personal practice to keep up our musical skills.”
So what kind of music does the band play and how is it selected?
“The band is broken up into different ensembles,” said Young. “We have the concert band, marching band, brass and woodwind quintets, the jazz combo and the rock band. There are also times where the full band, or a ‘cut-down’ band, will perform together.”
Each of those groups play in different venues: The marching band performs at ceremonies like Changes of Command or Changes of Responsibility and parades, the jazz combo plays at dinner parties, regimental balls, retirement parties,” explained Young.
Band members can participate in any of the ensembles that have a need for their instrument, as long as they are able to attend the performances and rehearsals of that group, said Young.
“We can play in as many of the ensembles as our schedule allows,” said Young. “Because of the numerous ensembles all having their own scheduled performances, it’s not always possible to be in the groups we want to be, but as long as one can make it work, he can be a part of that ensemble.”
Sometimes band members may even be asked to step into an ensemble to fulfill a need, Young stated.
“We are all expected to be able to play everything on our instruments: The quintet music, the concert band music, the jazz combo music, and so on,” Young explained. “As long as we uphold that requirement on our own, we could step into any ensemble that needs another player.”
Is performing and rehearsing the only thing band members do on a daily basis?
“All Army bands are self-supporting units,” said Staff Sgt. Marc Purinton, trumpet player, 1st Cav. Band.
In order to support the unit, members of the band have to take on additional duties, said Purinton.
“I run the band Public Affairs and operations shop in addition to my duties as a performer,” said Purinton. “As one becomes more experienced in the band, he learns how the band operates and starts taking over some of those additional duties to help the band accomplish its mission.”
It can be difficult at times to balance the additional duties with practice and performances, explains Purinton.
“It’s a difficult and delicate balance to operate a shop and perform in the band,” stated Purinton. “As one gets higher in the structure and steps into supervisor roles, he takes on more and more responsibilities and work loads, which does unfortunately limit the amount of time he has to perform with the band.”
However, with proper time management skills and a dedication to the band, this balance can be struck and band members can still perform in as many different ensembles as they want, said Purinton.
Who can request the band and how do they determine where and when they perform?
“We are ultimately controlled by the 1st Cav. And III Corps operations offices,” said Purinton. “Anyone outside of 1st Cav. Has to submit a request to III Corps. Once it has been approved, it is sent to 1st Cav. Operations for review before it comes down to the band. If the requester is within 1st Cav., then III Corps doesn’t have to be involved at all and it goes right to 1st Cav. Operations.”
By the time the request reaches the band, it is in an operational order format, said Purinton, but this does not necessarily mean that the band will perform.
“The band is a kind of unique unit,” said Purinton. “Where most units are told in an OPORD to ‘take that hill,’ they have to comply, but the band has the final say in when and where we perform.”
Because of the numerous off-hours performances, band members are given days off to compensate, which will often mean there is not enough people in the office at any given time to perform, said Purinton.
“If we have two or three of our percussionists out of the office, then we can’t perform, so we have to tell 1st Cav. Operations that we can’t meet their request,” Purinton explained.
So how do the band members see their job in the overall scheme of the Army?
“It’s a great job,” said Young. “We get to serve our country and execute the task we have put a lot of time into studying. We do what we love and serve our country doing it.”
Purinton agrees whole-heartedly with Young’s sentiment.
“I love my job in the band,” said Purinton. “I enjoy being in a position that allows me to help streamline our processes to give us the most time to focus on that which we love most: music.”