By Rhonda AppleJuly 22, 2011
Austin LaPointe, 16, has been working with The United States Army Band on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall since early July. The Advanced Placement (AP) Washington Lee High School student applied for Arlington Career Center’s PRIME internship program, attaining course credit for the summer internship which started July 5 and goes through July 29.
PRIME is an internship program for academically gifted students. The program provides young adults with the chance to work with professional organizations which relates to their fields of interest. Students spend 140 hours with mentors and attend seminars to fulfill the Fine Arts or Practical Arts requirement for graduation.
“I’ve been attending classes at the center for a few years now and while taking a course there, I heard about PRIME,” said LaPointe. “It sounded interesting so I applied and during the interview I was told about the opportunity to intern with The Army Band,” he said.
“I’ve been playing violin since I was four and I’m mostly self-taught in guitar since I was in middle school,” said LaPointe. “I’ve become more interested in guitar and began lessons this past year,” he said. LaPointe also plays the piano.
“This [internship] is giving me a lot of knowledge about music and this industry,” he said.
Sgt. 1st. Class Lorrie Brown, oboe section leader with The Army Concert Band, is LaPointe’s supervisory noncommissioned officer in charge. “When I set up the internship, I talked with Nancy Opsut, assistant principal at Arlington Career Center, went through the school’s website and tried to ensure we fit what the intent was, so there is actually learning and activity going on and not just doing tasks daily,” said Brown.
She said the internship includes helping band members, the sound crew and the various daily workings of the band.
LaPointe has been mentored by a variety of TUSAB members, including Staff Sgt. Chad Leader, guitarist with Downrange, Sgt. 1st. Class Harold Summey, percussionist with the Concert Band, Sgt. 1st. Class Dan Roberts, Downrange pianist and Staff Sgt. Dean Woods, bassoonist, Concert Band.
“I really enjoyed my bluegrass lesson on fiddle from Staff Sergeant Woods,” said LaPointe. “Staff Sergeant Leader and I meet twice weekly for guitar lessons and I’ve learned a lot from him,” he said. “I’ve done so much,” he said with a smile.
LaPointe has enjoyed attending band rehearsals. “I’ve been sitting on stage with the strings section, observing how they go through a performance,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast they prepare for events.”
“Aside from the important things we do as a band for the Army and the nation, we also take our skills and knowledge to the community. The best way to do that is by working with young people,” said Summey. “When I was a kid, the father of one of my friends was in The U.S. Army Band. That’s why I’m here and why I like helping others as a musician,” he added.
“Austin is a great kid, pays attention and is learning a lot,” said Summey, during a lesson on various percussion instruments used in The Concert Band.
LaPointe has spent time in the band’s library, helping file music, attended a retirement ceremony and a few TUSAB events, including The Army Blues and Downrange performances at Music in the Parks, Mason District Park Amphitheater in Annandale.
“I hung out with the sound crew at the Army Blues concert and attended the Downrange performance with Family and friends,” he said. “My Family and friends enjoyed the concert and we had a great time.” LaPointe finally was able to perform with a member of the band. He and Staff Sgt. Janice Shin, oboist, Army Concert Band, performed for the children at Cody Child Development Center recently.
“We played ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and talked to the kids about music,” LaPointe said. “Since Janice is Korean and I’m half Japanese, we both performed selections from our cultures,” he added. “My piece was called ‘Usagi,’ which means rabbit in Japanese.”
At the CDC, LaPointe played the bluegrass song “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” he learned during his bluegrass lesson at Brucker Hall. He also taught the children a few words in Japanese.
“I’m learning a lot, especially about what it’s like to be a professional musician and the day-to-day operation of The Army Band,” said LaPointe.
“One option I will consider is a career with The United States Army Band.”