By Jonathan Agee, JFHQNCR/MDWApril 15, 2013
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (April 15, 2013) -- April 1 was scheduled to be the start of Spring Tour 2013 for the United States Army Field Band, but sequestration and restricted travel guidance forced the band to refocus its efforts.
On March 5, Under Secretary of Defense Joseph W. Westphal directed all military bands to stop travel outside their local areas. This essentially put an end to the 139 performances scheduled in the Southeast as part of the Army Field Band's spring tour.
The band is now limited to a 100-mile travel radius from Fort Meade.
"On the one hand, it's a little disappointing to not be on the tour that we spent so much time and energy preparing," said Master Sgt. Shari Smith, Army Field Band clarinet section leader. "On the other hand, it is an exciting opportunity to spend time with the community here at home. We spend so much time on the road that we often don't have the chance to get in touch with the audience that is in our own backyards."
Local missions, such as educational clinics at Maryland high schools, are becoming commonplace. The Army Field Band is averaging about 20 outreach engagements per week, and is making an impact in the local community.
Chris McMahan, director of instrumental music at Glen Burnie High School, Md., appreciates the Soldier-musicians working with his students.
"One major benefit that I see is that students not only get to experience the performances, but also that there are career opportunities such as military bands for their future," McMahan said.
Army Field Band Soldier-musicians are also seeing the benefits of their efforts.
"The clinic at Glen Burnie High School was a very successful one," Smith said. "It is a small program compared to many schools that we have visited, but I was pleased to note that these students were unusually alert and receptive.
"Everyone had questions. It's great to see a program where the students have questions/input and are not held back from expressing their interest and curiosity," she said.
The Army Field Band is hopeful Congress will pass a balanced deficit reduction plan that the president can sign, ultimately reversing sequestration and allowing the band to bring the "Army story" to grass-roots America once again.
Until that time, the Soldier-musicians of the Army Field Band will continue to focus efforts in the local area, showcasing Army excellence through music.