by Mary M. Rall
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs
10/22/2015 - SITKA -- The 9th
Army Band turned up the volume on their annual Alaska Day Festival
participation Oct. 14 and 15 by adding performances at five Sitka
schools to the community events the Soldiers traditionally support.
"Each one of us has our own story, and each one of us wants to tell our
story, and the way we tell it is through music," said 9th Army Band
commander Chief Warrant Officer Michael Krzmarzick, noting that telling
the Army's story is a significant aspect of the performances as well.
"The best time that we can do that is by reaching out to younger people
to show them that there's a lighter side to the military," Krzmarzick
said. "We're not just big guys with guns ... we're human beings, and you
can have fun in the military."
This is the first time in about ten years U.S. Army Alaska Soldiers have
offered performances in area schools, said Joan Berge, the Alaska Day
Festival Committee's military liaison.
Blatchley Middle School music teacher Mike Kernin, 40, has taught with
the Sitka School District for 20 years and said he's grateful the Fort
Wainwright Soldiers are once again performing in the schools while
they're in town.
"I try to maintain a little bit of youth in my old age, but you guys
brought a nice vibe to the room, and it's nice to not have to go to
YouTube to see cool stuff," he told the band members following their
Oct. 14 performance at the middle school. "Most of them didn't have
phones, so they were actually watching and listening to you instead of
pushing a button and staring at the screen, so it was pretty cool. They
were in the moment."
The band's Groovin' Grizzlies brass band and the Vernal Equinox rock
band performed a variety of music for area students, shaping their
performances to best meet the different tastes and educational needs of
the elementary, middle and high school audiences.
"It's great to see the transition from the beginning of the show when
you have a group of kids who don't know what to expect from an Army
band," Krzmarzick said, explaining students are often anticipating a
John Philip Sousa march and are thrown for a loop when they begin
performing something by an artist such as Ariana Grande.
"They had a lot of energy, and it was great to have them out here
rocking out first period," said Anders Marius, a sophomore who attended
the band's Oct. 15 performance at Sitka High School. "There's not a
better way to start the morning."
Sitka High sophomore Kincaid Parsons was impressed with Spc. Victor
Nichols, who performed as one of Vernal Equinox's vocalists and also
played the keyboard
"The keytar - it was insane. I was screaming," Parsons said with a
laugh. "I don't know how I'm going to finish my day, because I'm so
School performances are some of the band's favorite missions, said
trumpet player Spc. John LaCombe, because the students have an
opportunity to become completely involved and engaged in the concerts.
"I just think it's really fun to inspire these kids to show them how
much fun music can be, how much variety you can have and that the
fundamentals from middle school apply all the way up to the awesome
professional world," said trumpet player Sgt. Thomas Borgerding.
The band members also worked a question and answer session into their
performance at Blatchley Middle School, which served as an opportunity
for the soldiers to encourage the students to hone their musical skills.
"If you don't start when you're young, it can almost get to be too late
to catch up. You're going to be competing with other people who've been
playing forever," said Staff Sgt. Laura Lamecker following the middle
school concert. "You can always start making music, always get better
and always practice, but the earlier you start, the easier it is."
Band 1st Sgt. Michael Plachinski was previously stationed in Alaska from
1999 through 2005, and said he has fond memories of the band's
performances in Sitka schools. He recalled a letter the band once
received from a musician, who told the Soldiers he was inspired to begin
his musical career when the 9th Army Band performed at his middle
"Maybe there's more of that that's here that we're not aware of,"
Plachinski said. "We don't get to follow-up with those kind of things,
but I hope that the kids go home and they take their horn out and they
try to figure out 'Honey I'm Good.'"
The performances will be well worth it if they result in a little extra practice time, Plachinski said.
"It's just great to have you guys come back and start this up again,"
Kernin added, reassuring the first sergeant that the band's performance
is sure to positively impact his students' educational experience.
Kernin said faculty and students alike look forward to having the band perform at the school again next year.
"There's no faking with middle school kids," he said. "If they weren't liking it, you would have known."