The 399th Army Band’s Rough Riders rock band performs at Rolla Middle School, in Rolla, Missouri, in 2021. Five ensemble groups — including the Rough Riders — from Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band are scheduled to perform for students in local area schools throughout March, as part of the nationwide Music in Our Schools Month observance. Started by the National Association for Music Education in 1985, the program raises awareness each March, about the importance of providing high-quality music education for all children.
The 399th Army Band’s Rough Riders rock band performs at Rolla Middle School, in Rolla, Missouri, in 2021. Five ensemble groups — including the Rough Riders — from Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band are scheduled to perform for students in local area schools throughout March, as part of the nationwide Music in Our Schools Month observance. Started by the National Association for Music Education in 1985, the program raises awareness each March, about the importance of providing high-quality music education for all children. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — About 30 members of Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band are scheduled to perform for students in local area schools throughout March, as part of the nationwide Music in Our Schools Month observance.

Started by the National Association for Music Education in 1985, the program raises awareness each March, about the importance of providing high-quality music education for all children.

While their complete schedule is still in the works, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Joseph, NCO in charge of operations for the 399th Army Band, said the unit is planning on sending a variety of ensemble groups — including their brass band, brass quintet, jazz combo, rock band and woodwind quintet — to schools as far away as Jefferson City, Missouri. The band is also producing a virtual product during an all-day recording session on March 1, with all of the ensembles at Cowan Civic Center in Lebanon, Missouri, for schools at which they are unable to physically perform. The virtual program will be available to view on Fort Leonard Wood’s Community Resources web page.

For Spc. Douglas Olenik, a tuba player from Creston, Ohio, who taught music at public schools for seven years before joining the Army, the ensembles afford opportunities that sending a larger, concert band might not have provided.

“They see a concert band every day at school, but they’re not going to hear a brass quintet playing new music that’s exciting to them,” he said. “They might have a jazz program — my school didn’t — so, they’re seeing a more unique application for what they’re doing.”

Olenik said he has seen first-hand the effect a military band performance can have on young people.

“Any time we’d have military musicians come play, the kids were just ecstatic,” he added. “A lot of them didn’t realize you could do this as a profession, let alone, in the military. In today’s society, they talk a lot about the opportunities kids have in sports. You don’t hear about the opportunities you may have in music. When kids learn about those possibilities, they can start dreaming about those possibilities.”

“They get to see somebody playing clarinet, and they might think, ‘I play clarinet, or I play tuba. I didn’t know you could do that with a tuba — that’s fun,” added Staff Sgt. Alex Nikiforoff, who performs with the jazz combo ensemble. “Then they get to see that connection between what they’re currently doing and how that could potentially continue into other areas.”

Staff Sgt. Brian Mackie, who plays bass guitar in the Rough Riders rock band, said music had a profound effect on him, growing up in Melbourne, Florida.

“When I was in junior high school, my parents split up,” he said. “Couple that with the pressures and the stress that come from school and there are a lot of opportunities to make the wrong choice. I picked up the trumpet because my buddy did it — he was marching in a parade and I thought that was cool. After a short time, I found out I was really good at it, so it helped build self-esteem. The practice regimen built discipline. All of these things really factored into my success in school. Still to this day, I have long conversations with my high school band director, because I truly feel like he saved my life. He saw the potential in me and didn’t give up on me. I’d be in a very different place right now if I didn’t have that to keep me on track, to keep me focused and give me that discipline.”

Learning about music has applications in nearly every other aspect of an education curriculum as well, said Cpl. Anthony Barnwell, who taught middle school band for two years in Manassas, Virginia, before joining the Army.

“Music is one of the few cross-curricular activities that reaches out to many subjects in school,” he said. “Music can help you learn a foreign language. All of the expression markings you learn, you’re mainly using Italian. It can help with math — you have to understand common denominators, for example. With science, because you have to know about sound frequency when it comes to tuning an instrument. Music can help with so many different subjects in school.”

Ultimately, music is an outlet that also teaches people personal- and team-oriented skills, Olenik said.

“I think for a lot of people, music can be an emotional outlet; it can be an intellectual outlet; it can be a creative outlet,” he said. “There’s the teamwork aspect — working together to produce a product — but also the fact that you have to be on top of your own stuff if you’re going to make that happen. So, music is important on an individual level and it’s also important on a team level. The kids getting a quality music education learn that on day one.”

For more information on the 399th Army Band and their upcoming performances, visit their Facebook page.