By Gabrielle KuholskiFebruary 21, 2014
The Military Intelligence Corps Band, or MI Corps Band, is the only active duty band in Arizona, and they are highly requested for military ceremonies and community events.
Aside from its popularity on and off post, over the years, Army bands have evolved to meet the needs of their audience, and the MI Corps Band is no different. Fort Huachuca's Army band was formerly known as the 36th Army Band. On June 14, 2011, it was reactivated as the 62nd Army Band.
Although it remains the 62nd Army Band, the public name has changed further to the MI Corps Band. This designation came from the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry the same day it became the 62nd Army Band. Chief Warrant Officer Tom Bauer, MI Corps Band commander, explained that the reason for the name change is due to the band?'s assignment to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, or USAICoE.
"We're here to be the strategic outreach for USAICoE, in whatever direction they want to deem necessary," Bauer said. "Basically, [the name] connects us to the population and the demographic that we?'re here to support."
As names change, so does the style of music. Staff Sgt. Ronni Hinkle, MI Corps Band, said that 15 years ago, marching bands and concert bands were the Army standard. However, the focus has changed to using small groups of musicians who play the same type of instrument or various genres of music.
"Certainly, Iraq and Afghanistan have shaped a lot of that," Hinkle said. "We put small, popular [music] groups out on the road and they entertain troops, so it's a very different mission than 15 years ago."
The MI Corps Band's small groups currently include two brass quintets, a flute and piano duo, woodwind, rock, and jazz ensembles and the Dixieland ensemble known as the "San Pedro River Ramblers." This also enables different sections of the band to play at the same time in multiple venues at far less cost to the Army.
While the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps Band is known for one thing -- playing music -- there's more to the song. Hinkle debunks the myth that the only task band members have is to perform. "Number one, we are Soldiers," he said, adding that the band is required to follow all Army duties and Soldier training and mission requirements.
An Army band member's military occupation specialty, or MOS, is music. After they attend basic training, members attend the Army School of Music on Joint Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Va. The school provides a 10-week, intensive music performance course for Army musicians.
Besides their Army musical training, many of the Soldiers already have a higher education degree in music or a performance degree. According to Hinkle, some Soldiers have already earned their doctorate.
"The Army Band field tends to lead the way in the percentage of people with degrees," he said. "For decades [the Army] has been one of the go-to places for music majors. A lot of people use [Army band experience] as a stepping stone to work up to bigger and better things."
Hinkle gave two examples of how joining the Army can advance a Soldier's musical career: a Soldier- musician auditioning for The United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own," or retiring from the Army to play full-time for a symphony.
With these "open doors" to other musical opportunities, Army bandsmen have one other decision to make -- which instrument to play.
Multi-instrumentalists are prevalent in the Army Band field, Hinkle said he is a multiple musician himself, having the ability to play the clarinet, banjo and saxophone. He can also sing.
For musicians like Spc. Jacob Beyer, MI Corps Band and top contender in the recent Best Warrior Competition on Fort Huachuca, the ability to play multiple instruments comes from his background in music education. Beyer noted while he is most comfortable playing any type of saxophone, because of his training, he can also play any string or wind instrument.
Beyer said being an instrumentalist can also help an individual become a better Soldier.
"Being a musician in general, we have to pay such attention to detail, it helps us in our training," he explained. "We can bring that same level of attentiveness to our training, being able to pay attention [and] pick up things more easily … it definitely helps."
MI Corps Band upcoming events
The MI Corps Band will hold its first concert of the year Sunday, 2 p.m., at the Ethel Berger Center, 2950 E. Tacoma St., Sierra Vista. The band will celebrate "Fat Tuesday" early with Mardis Gras-themed music from their Dixieland ensemble.
On March 23, the MI Corps Band returns to the Ethel Berger Center to present "The History of Jazz" featuring the jazz ensemble. The band will feature a chamber music recital at the same location on April 27. Both performances start at 2 p.m.
MI Corps Band Soldiers will partner with the Old Arizona Brass Band May 1 at 6:30 p.m. in Veterans' Memorial Park in Sierra Vista. The Old Arizona Brass Band is a re-enactment band of the 4th Calvary Regimental Band. Their attire, instruments and music reflect the 19th and early 20th century time periods. Veterans?' Memorial Park is located at 3105 E. Fry Blvd., Sierra Vista. For more information on upcoming concerts and appearances, visit www.music.army.mil/performances/.