By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 9, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Band, Fort Rucker Detachment rock band Crossfire is tuning up to ensure this year's Freedom Fest is an event to remember for the thousands of Wiregrass residents expected to attend.
The band will take to the stage during the Independence Day celebration at the Fort Rucker Festival Fields June 30 where it will perform a patriotic concert with a mix of rock-and-roll, funk and country music, according to Staff Sgt. William Peters, Crossfire NCO in charge.
"We want to be able to put on a performance that people will enjoy," he said. "For Freedom Fest, we're celebrating the Fourth of July, so it's a time for people to relax, celebrate and watch the fireworks. We want them to get enjoyment out of the performance."
Crossfire consists of six band members: Peters and Staff Sgt. Stephen Gassett, who both play drums; Sgt. Jay Park and Sgt. Justin Smith, both playing guitar; Sgt. Shanti Chapman, who's on keyboard; and Staff Sgt. Jason Paull, on bass and vocals.
With six members who must be on the same level and on the same page, the performance can only be made right through hours and hours of rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the event, according to Sgt. 1st Class James Sproul, detachment sergeant for the MCOE Fort Rucker Detachment.
"Our board is full of rehearsals," said Sproul. "We have a brass quartet here, a Jazz combo and Crossfire, and we try to get each group to have at least two rehearsals a week. When something like Freedom Fest comes around, our rehearsals are significantly more. We add maybe two additional rehearsals a week and it's close to 10 hours a week of [practice]."
In addition to the scheduled rehearsal times, Sproul said each band member must not only conduct individual practices, but the band must find time to work out the logistics of their sets, as well, including working on the order of their songs and the transitions.
According to Peters, much more work goes into producing a set list for a concert like Freedom Fest than just picking out songs to play.
"When deciding on a set list to play, a lot of it comes from our strengths and our weaknesses as a band," said the Crossfire NCOIC. "It really depends on our group members, like depending on who we have singing, it varies what we can or can't do."
Another deciding factor is the crowd that the band will be playing too, as well, said Peters. If they are set to play for an elementary school, the songs will be tailored toward that demographic, but for Freedom Fest, the goal is for people to have a good time.
"People are trying to have fun, so we pick songs that we can do comfortably and that we think the audience will enjoy, so the set list just kind of evolves around that," said Peters.
When choosing the songs, it's also taken into consideration the complexity of the song and if it can be adapted by the band to fit its members. Peters said that, oftentimes, it's difficult to emulate the sounds of a song people hear on the radio because the music can be overproduced, making the sound difficult to reproduce in a live setting.
"We tailor it to our needs," he said. "Sometimes a song might have three keyboard players and we only have one, so we have to figure out how to transition that song.
"A lot of times it's a group effort and we just kind of mess with the song and try different things to see what works," he continued. "It's a lot of trial and error."
Out of all of the hard work they put in, though, comes a performance that promises to be memorable for all who attend the celebration, which is what Sproul said he hopes the band is able to accomplish.
"We want people to remember the performance and go away from [the concert] thinking about it," he said.