READY FOR DEBUT
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Peter Gillies is looking forward to making his Huntsville directing debut with the Army Materiel Command Band at a free Community Appreciation Concert this Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. at Columbia High. Gillies will take over command of the AMC Band in May, and will coordinate the band's move to Redstone Arsenal later this year and in early 2011.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Chief Warrant Officer 4 Peter Gillies will have a little help when he makes his public directing debut in front of a Huntsville/North Alabama audience this Sunday.
And that help will come from the Army Materiel Command Band itself.

The band and its current band master - Chief Warrant Officer 4 Frederick Ellwein - will bring a mix of patriotic, pop and concert music to the Columbia High auditorium during a 2 p.m. Community Appreciation Concert this Sunday. It is a free concert open to the public with tickets now available at the Redstone Lanes Bowling Center; AMCOM/Garrison Public and Congressional Affairs Office in the Sparkman Center, building 5300; and Huntsville/Madison County and Madison chambers of commerce.

The concert's theme is "The Soldier's Journey" and will include music representing all the different eras from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It will include such popular standards as "White Cockade/Yankee Doodle," "Fandango," "Minstrel Boy," "El Capitan Waltzes" and "Band of Brothers Suite." Vocal musicians will join the 52-member band on "Pack Up Your Troubles," "God Bless the USA," "American Anthem" and "Battlefield."

Gillies, who will take command of the AMC Band in May, will conduct "Black Granite," a piece written by James Hosay to commemorate the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Lt. Gen. Jim Pillsbury, deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command, will welcome guests to the concert and hold a re-enlistment ceremony as part of the program.

"This will be a really good concert," Gillies said. "The band will play a lot of great pop and concert music. We do have a multi-media show and singers that make it even more entertaining."

The AMC Band serves AMC Soldiers and civilians stationed at more than 140 locations worldwide. It supports 30 installations, 26 major tenants and seven Army field support brigades that are all within the AMC enterprise. The band has performed in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qata and Afghanistan.

"Our mission is to tell the Army story through music," Gillies said. "We have a three-tiered mission with the most important part of that tier being troop support, which we provide with our performances at Soldier ceremonies, change of command ceremonies and retirement ceremonies. In addition to troop support, we also have a recruiting mission and a community outreach mission."

The AMC Band and its members work closely with recruiting brigades, performing for school events. The band also supports community events, such as the Veterans Day Parade and Memorial Day observances.

Currently, the AMC Band is headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. But during the next year, the band will begin its move to its new headquarters at Redstone. Gillies is now stationed at Redstone and is overseeing the construction of the band's new 16,000-plus-square-foot facility on Patton Road.

The new facility will include a large rehearsal room, individual practice rooms, music library, instrument storage, repair and cleaning, uniform locker rooms and band administration offices. It is set to be complete in December.

Gillies will participate in a change of command ceremony in May at Aberdeen Proving Ground, when he will assume command of the band. This summer, he will conduct the AMC band as it performs in a series of concerts in New York and Maryland. Then, the first sergeant and other band members will begin to make the move to Redstone.

The AMC Band is scheduled to perform at the Congressional Medal of Honor Gala at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Davidson Center for Space Exploration on Aug. 28. But it won't be officially moved to Redstone until late 2010 or early 2011, with about 20 band members in place by November and the rest coming after the facility is complete.

In the Army's new band configuration, the AMC Band will be 40 members strong. Besides the full band, it also has breakout bands, including the Dixie group, rock band and brass quintet.

"We hope to be at 75 to 80 percent of our strength by the beginning of next year," Gillies said. "We will have our smaller group capabilities in place by the end of this year, with the hope of having the full band in place by January or February (2011)."

Gillies said the band will make one of its first public debuts as the AMC Band at Redstone Arsenal at the Huntsville Havoc Military Appreciation Night in February 2011.

"It will be so nice to be co-located with AMC," Gillies said. "Now, the band is at Aberdeen and AMC headquarters are a couple of hours away at Fort Belvoir (Va.). AMC is so spread out in 38 states. Being located with General (Ann) Dunwoody and all the senior command officials here will make air transportation to some of AMC's more remote locations much easier."

The AMC Band isn't Redstone's first band. The 55th Army Band was stationed at Redstone Arsenal before being deactivated in 1975-76.

"We are ambassadors for the Army through our music," Gillies said of Army bands. "Depending on where we are we may be the only uniform people see. It's a lot of responsibility to represent the Army. But it is a job we all enjoy.

"We will be here, first, to support AMC and its mission and, second, to give free performances in the community. The military is, overall, one of the largest employers of musicians. There are 34 active duty bands in the Army. That number rises to 105 bands when you include the National Guard and Reserves. There are also Navy, Marine and Air Force bands."

Musicians can audition for positions with an Army band through liaisons at recruiting brigades that are certified to conduct auditions or with an Army band master. If they are selected, the musicians then go through basic training and then advanced individual training at the Armed Forces School of Music in Virginia.

"Our musicians perform at a pretty high level," Gillies said. "You can learn how to drive a tank in eight weeks, but we can't learn this skill in that short of time. Our musicians have been studying music for years, many starting as young children.

"We've been seeing a lot of college graduates auditioning for our bands. They have college loans and the Army will pay those off. We are doing very well with our Army recruiting at the college level."

Gillies joined the Army in 1989, after working for five years as a high school band and choir director in Massachusetts. As with many musicians, he was searching for a way to be a musician while also supporting his family and developing as a professional.

"I wanted a chance to be a full-time musician," said Gillies, who plays the tuba. "Even with playing 100 to 150 times a year, being a musician had to be a side job to working as a high school band director because there's no way you can support a family as a musician."

Gillies served in Army bands in Colorado and Maryland. In 1995, he auditioned to be a band master, which requires a Soldier to have at least five years of experience in an Army band and to be a warrant officer. Upon acceptance as a band master, he attended warrant officer school at Fort Rucker and then attended an advanced class at the Armed Forces School of Music.

Gillies has commanded the 1st Cavalry Division Band at Fort Hood, Texas, where he deployed to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Forge; the 2nd Infantry Division Band, Uijongbu, South Korea; the 399th Army Band, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and the 82nd Airborne Division Band, Fort Bragg, N.C. He commanded the U.S. Army Japan Band (296th Army Band), Camp Zama, Japan, from August 2006 to July 2009 before his current assignment.

Since August, Gillies, who moved here with his wife and teenage son, has been the face of the AMC Band at Redstone, and in Huntsville and North Alabama.

"My job has been to get to know the people in the musical community as well as be the project manager for our new facility," he said.

He is a member of the Huntsville Brass Band, and has been a guest conductor for the Huntsville Concert Band and a featured soloist with the University of Alabama-Huntsville Jazz Band. He is also an adjunct faculty member at UAH, where he teaches tuba and music.

"The community has really been receptive about having the band here," Gillies said. "Once the band is here, we will be working to make ourselves known within the community. I expect us to be involved with the summer concert in the park series, the Handy Festival and other local musical events. I've had a lot of interest already in the band and I am looking for opportunities."

Page last updated Fri March 19th, 2010 at 16:37