77th Army Band plays at Texas Rangers game
April 12, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 12, 2012) -- With hands over their hearts and hats off their heads, more than 40,000 Major League Baseball fans stood ready, waiting for the 77th Army Band "The Pride of Fort Sill" to play the national anthem at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, April 8.
The seats were patriotically decorated with people in Rangers colors: red white and blue. It seemed even more fitting for America's pastime to begin with Soldiers playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Staff Sgt. Brandon Colley led the band out onto the field as he played not only for his country, but also for his hometown.
"We've always gone to Rangers games growing up," said Colley. "My mom is a die-hard fan and so it was great for the band and the Army to be represented at the Texas Rangers game."
White Sox players stopped warming up and left the field as Chief Warrant Officer Michael Franz, 77th Army Band commander, raised his arms. With one swift motion of his baton the musicians began to play.
"We've rehearsed it enough times to know what we're doing," said Sgt. Gerald Mattis, 77th Army Band percussionist. "I couldn't really hear anything, to be honest, except for what I was playing and I was just watching chief [conduct]."
The final note sounded through the stadium and just like that their time on the field was over. The enormity of their audience only truly set in after the fact.
"Some of these photographs I can look at and you see Colley and he's all business and there's just rows and rows of seats," said Mattis. "I never really thought that we would be seen on this kind of platform."
The band members said they were able to stay calm even when playing in front of a national audience and some attributed it to their training.
"You know I'm a Soldier, also a musician, but as long as I keep my eyes on the mission then I'm just going to press through. Even if I mess up, I'm going to keep pressing through until it's done," said Sgt. Shanti Chapman, 77th Army Band piano player.
The Rangers versus White Sox game was like an intermission between acts for Chapman as he walked onto the field again to join The Fires Four, Fort Sill's quartet, to sing "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch.
Franz, Larry Icenogle, public affairs officer, Col. Daniel Karbler, Air Defense Artillery School commandant and chief of ADA, and Chapman waited below watching and waiting as the game played out on a television screen. The group huddled one final time as they hummed the song they had rehearsed every day for two weeks in preparation.
With one final play, the Rangers escort signaled it was time for the quartet to make only their second appearance as a group, the first being at the Fires Center of Excellence St. Barbara's Day Ball in December.
With two microphones between them they listened amid the chattering crowd to hear the proper pitch. They stepped into place and once again Franz signaled the start. They opened their mouths and harmonized to the fans delight.
"I thought I would be a lot more nervous than I was but once I got out there the adrenaline pretty much got me through it," said Chapman.
The group received high fives from those above as they quietly celebrated themselves.
"I wasn't really sure, you really don't know how you did until you get comments and I got some good comments and some criticism on how to improve," said Chapman.
The band and vocalists felt as though they had hit home runs along with the Rangers team, who beat the White Sox 5-0.