By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)March 30, 2017
If there's one thing Sgt. 1st Class James Cipriano and Staff Sgt. Daniel Aston want you to know about their chosen instruments, it's this: Tubas can play lead, too.
"We actually can play fast notes," Cipriano said, adding that the tuba has "a very unique, lyrical capability" on par with other instruments, such as the trumpet or the trombone.
"The parts just don't necessarily always call for it," he said.
The two members of the 399th Army Band recently got a chance to not only display their abilities, but also promote their band, Fort Leonard Wood and the Army as a viable music career to some of the country's most talented college music majors.
As longtime members of the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, Cipriano and Aston participated in the organization's Great Plains Regional Conference, held March 2 to 4 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, as well as the Southeast Regional Conferences held March 9 through 11 at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They performed recitals at both conferences, primarily for collegiate tuba and euphonium players, while also letting attendees know about the U.S. Army Music Program.
Each two- to three-day workshop included performances, master classes, presentations and grand concerts.
"I've been going to these conferences for about 15 years, and there is usually some (Army) representation, but not performance representation. So, we went, and we performed in a recital at both conferences," Cipriano said.
"We also both presented a lecture and a panel discussion on careers in Army music. We had the Army recruiting liaison with us at both locations," he added. "We basically talked about our jobs and why we think it's a good career choice."
In addition to their own recitals, Cipriano and Aston also got a chance to perform in concerts alongside their fellow association members, many of whom are some of the top civilian tuba and euphonium players in the country.
"The most memorable parts for me were the actual performances," Aston said. "These are highly regarded conferences. They assemble some of the highest quality players in the country, and in some cases, the world."
"Being able to perform on that stage, we got to represent the Army at that same level. Being able to showcase the fact that the Army has that level and caliber of musicians was a hugely positive experience," he added.
Both Cipriano, who is originally from Neptune, New Jersey, and Aston, who hails from Monroe, Louisiana, have been a part of the 399th Army Band since 2015, and have played in numerous other Army bands since they went through Advanced Individual Training together at what is now the U.S. Army School of Music at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Cipriano said that, as musicians, the Army has given them opportunities to perform and travel the world.
"I've been in 17-plus years; he's been in 15-plus years," Cipriano said. "We have played all over the country and all over the world, in large venues and in small ceremonies."
Cipriano said the conferences provided him and Aston with a chance to tell "our Army story" to students, including some who could potentially become Army musicians themselves someday.
"We know that not everyone is going to join the Army; not everyone is interested in a military career, musically," Cipriano said. "But the folks who did come and engage with us were very receptive to what we had to say. It was our chance to show them that this is a viable career option, too."