Artilleryman-turned-bagpiper joins 77th U.S. Army Band
February 21, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- He was a 12-year old boy listening to an AC/DC album.
As one song, 'Long Way to the Top,' played, he was in awe of a particular sound featured in it.
The sound stood out so much that he simply described it as amazing.
After doing a little research, he realized that the amazing sound was emitting from a bagpipe, which is an instrument that is not normally associated with a rock band.
From that moment, the preteen, now Spc. Vincent C. Wolfe, 22, an artilleryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, 75th Fires Brigade, never escaped the mystique of the bagpipe as it hovered like a cloud of fog in his mind until his curiosity was stirred up.
Wolfe said that while standing in formation, 1st Sgt. Curtis Blizzard Jr. asked if anyone was interested in playing the bagpipe with Fort Sill's 77th U.S. Army Band.
"I received a golden opportunity when my first sergeant offered it," said Wolfe.
That golden opportunity came with a bit of a price that Wolfe was all too eager to pay.
Wolfe said the first sergeant's term for releasing him to the band was simple: If Wolfe could help the unit prepare for and pass an upcoming arms room inspection, his request to be attached temporarily reassigned to the band would be honored.
After working in the arms room for roughly two months, Wolfe's contribution to the unit's preparation for the arms room inspection paid off.
"After I passed my first inspection, he pulled me into his office and told me I could go," said the Camp Lejeune, N.C., native.
Wolfe, soon after, reported to the band and was introduced to Staff Sgt. Robert Fortuner, leader of the bagpipe section, which goes by the moniker "Costello's Own."
According to Fortuner, Sill is the only Army installation that features a bagpipe section partially because the Army does not recognize the bagpipe as an official-band instrument.
Wolfe recalled the first time he attempted to play his newly acquired instrument.
"I had never touched the bag pipe before," said the artilleryman. "I didn't even know how to read music. I saw it and I was like, this is not going to be so bad. I put it on and started blowing. I nearly passed out! I saw stars."
The artilleryman did not let that experience deter him; he continually practiced and underwent breathing-conditioning regimens.
"It takes about 90 pounds per square inch to fill that bag," said Fortuner. "It takes more pressure [to fill up the bag] than what it takes to fill your tire.
Nearly three months after joining the band, Wolfe can now read music and has can play "Amazing Grace" fluently. He acknowledged that "Amazing Grace" is the only song that he currently can play in its entirety, however, he has been asked to play the song at various places. One of the most unconventional places he played at was a parking lot.
"There is a certain feeling that the bag pipe gives you," said Fortuner. "It is an instrument of the warrior."
As a warrior who is cashing in on a rare opportunity, Wolfe said he plans to purchase a bagpipe of his own so that he can continue to develop as a musician after he returns to his unit of assignment upon completion of his scheduled one-year tenure with "Costello's Own."