MCOE Band conductor's baton passes to new leader
November 20, 2009
- CW4 William Brazier Jr. succeeds CW4 Fred Catchings during Nov. 16 ceremony
- Catchings to retire in December; Brazier arrives from South Korea
- "Busiest band in the Army" supports nearly 600 events each year in the tricommunity
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Maneuver Center of Excellence Band welcomed a new leader Monday.
CW4 William Brazier Jr. succeeded CW4 Fred Catchings as commander and conductor in a ceremony presided over by chief of staff COL Charles Durr at the Benning Conference Center.
"The band will continue to double time and move forward to bring the new bandmaster on board without a misstep," Durr said. "A testament to Chief Catchings will be how the band continues after he's gone."
The MCOE Band, formerly the Infantry Center Band, supports nearly 600 events each year in the tricommunity area including parades, military graduations and dinner receptions.
"Everybody loved Chief Catchings," Durr said. "And everybody will love Chief Brazier. He will have his own style, his own leadership and it will complement the band.
"This is the busiest band in the Army. Every event they perform at brings people from off post, every graduation brings family members from the four corners of the Earth. I have absolute confidence the ceremonies conducted yesterday under Chief Catchings' command and the ceremonies they will conduct tomorrow under Chief Brazier will be (seamless)."
Brazier, who hails from Woodbury, N.J., has held music and band director positions at many high schools. His bands have performed in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the White House, the Junior Orange Bowl Parade and in the 1995 Carquest Bowl, Bowl Games of America halftime show. Brazier has served with the 98th Army Band, 28th Infantry Division Band, 282nd Army Band and the U.S. Army Medical Command Band.
His most recent assignment was serving as the bandmaster of the 2nd Infantry Division Band in South Korea for the third time.
"I started playing piano about 47 years ago," said Brazier, who considers the trombone his instrumental love. "Then I learned the trumpet and trombone and all the other instruments as I became a teacher. Now I primarily play the (conductor's) baton."
Brazier said he enjoys conducting civilian bands, choirs and community orchestras in addition to his role as a military bandmaster.
"I try to bring the music to life so people feel like a part of it," he said.
Brazier said the challenge in being in an Army band is the mobility of the Soldiers.
As new Soldiers come in and others PCS, it changes the makeup of the instrumentation and that's the No. 1 challenge, he said.
Brazier said he looks forward to his new assignment and plans to bring some new songs to the band.
"Some are swing style, some are patriotic tunes," Brazier said. "The Soldiers here are outstanding, they've been playing great music with Chief Catchings."
Catchings, who retires in December, was lauded for his successes with the band and induction into the Order of St. Maurice. He commanded the band for three years and has served with bands at Fort Hood, Texas, Germany and Fort Stewart, Ga. In his 23-year tenure, Catchings deployed twice to Iraq and holds the distinction of being the first Army band commander to deploy his unit to Iraq, according to his biography.
While Catchings said he's not made firm plans for his retirement, he will remain in the Columbus area.