By Staff Sgt. Bryan Michael Dominique (I Corps)March 14, 2017
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Since 1985 educational institutions across the nation have recognized March as Music in our School Month, and to celebrate, the 56th Army Band from I Corps at JBLM joined Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma for a joint performance, March 12.
Attendees of Sunday's concert enjoyed a performance of Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan by John Williams, Apocalyptic Dreams by David Gillingham and Symphonic Metamorphosis by Paul Hindemith.
"It's very well known that the United States Military is the number one employer of professional musicians in the entire world, and yet we take it for granted because we just always see them," said Dr. Edwin Powell, professor of music and director of bands at PLU. "To show our students that there are viable careers within the military is something that is pretty important. I see this as a unique opportunity for our student to learn,"
The 56th Army Band conducts about 600 performances annually. In 2016 they performed for a number of elementary schools across the state, at several Seattle Mariners home games, and provided a jazz ensemble to play at the Seattle Seahawks Armed Forces Appreciation Day game, just to name a few.
Despite PLUs proximity to JBLM, however, - which is just south of Tacoma - this was the first time the two had performed together.
"We play at special events and with other bands and schools all the time, but this [was] the first time ever holding a joint concert with PLU," said Sgt. 1st. Class Patricia Conyers, 56th Army Band operations manager. "Part of our job is connecting people to their military through music."
It is that idea of connecting and educating through music that motivated the joint performance.
"A number of months ago we received a communication asking us if we would be willing to participate in something that had to do with the music in the schools month," said Powell, "It just so happened that the wind ensemble was [performing] a concert on [March] 12, and we decided this would be a perfect opportunity to share our concert and share our stage."
Military musicians have a unique role as professional musicians. Their mission is to build bridges between the American people and their military through music.
"One of the jobs of military musicians is to connect the people to their government," said Chief Warrant Officer 4, Russell Houser, the 56th Army band director."We have a great musical product and we will inspire."
Dr. Powell believes that mission is at the heart of what musical programs are all about.
"Boosting music programs around the state is good for everybody involved, because we're coming to know that music is an essential part of what being a human being is, he said. "To help provide the highest quality of education possible is in everyone's best interests."