FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – Approximately 30 members of the 399th Army Band from Fort Leonard Wood are scheduled to perform for students at area schools throughout the month of March as part of the national celebration of Music Month in our schools.
Launched by the National Association for Music Education in 1985, the program raises awareness each March about the importance of providing high quality music education to all children.
While their full schedule is still in the works, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Joseph, the 399th Army’s NCO in charge of operations, said the unit plans to send a variety of ensemble groups – including their marching band, brass quintet, jazz combo, rock band and their wind quintet – in schools so far. far as Jefferson City, Missouri. The band is also producing virtual product during a one-day recording session on March 1, with all the Cowan Civic Center ensembles in Lebanon, Missouri, for schools where they cannot physically perform. The virtual program will be available on the Fort Leonard Wood Community Resources webpage.
For Spc. Douglas Olenik, a tuba player from Creston, Ohio, who taught music in public schools for seven years before joining the military, the ensembles provide opportunities that sending a larger concert band doesn’t. might not have provided.
“They see an orchestra every day at school, but they won’t hear a brass quintet playing new music that they’re excited about,” he said. “They may have a jazz program – my school didn’t – so they see a more unique application for what they do.”
Olenik said he has seen firsthand the effect a military band performance can have on young people.
“Every time we brought in military musicians, the kids were just thrilled,” he added. “A lot of them didn’t know you could do this as a profession, let alone in the military. In today’s society, there’s a lot of talk about the opportunities children have in sport. “You don’t hear about the opportunities you might have in music. When kids learn about those possibilities, they can start dreaming about those possibilities.”
“They see someone playing the clarinet and they can say to themselves, ‘I play the clarinet or I play the tuba. I didn’t know you could do this with a snorkel – it’s fun,” the Staff Sgt added. Alex Nikiforoff, who performs with the jazz combo ensemble. “Then they can see that connection between what they’re doing now and how it could potentially continue in other areas.”
Staff Sgt. Brian Mackie, who plays bass guitar in rock band Rough Riders, said music had a profound effect on him growing up in Melbourne, Florida.
“When I was in middle school, my parents separated,” he said. “Add to that the pressures and stress that come from school and there are plenty of opportunities to make the wrong choice. I picked up the trumpet because my boyfriend did – he was walking in a parade and I thought it was cool. After a short time, I discovered that I was really good at it, so it helped build self-esteem. The practice regimen builds discipline. All of these things have really contributed to my academic success. Even today, I have long conversations with the principal of my high school group, because I really feel like he saved my life. He saw the potential in me and didn’t give up on me. I would be in a very different situation right now if I didn’t have that to keep me on track, to keep me focused and to give me that discipline.
Learning music also has applications in almost every other aspect of a curriculum, said Cpl. Anthony Barnwell, who taught middle school harmony for two years in Manassas, Va., before joining the military.
“Music is one of the few cross-curricular activities that cuts across many school subjects,” he said. “Music can help you learn a foreign language. All the expression marks you learn, you mainly use Italian. It can help with math – you need to understand common denominators, for example. With science, because you have to know the frequency of sound 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 aspect of teamwork – working together to produce a product – but also the fact that you have to be on top of your own thing if you want that to happen. So music is important on an individual level and it’s also important on a team level. Children who receive a quality musical education learn it from day one.
For more information on the 399th Army Band and their upcoming performances, visit their Facebook page.