Military News

Thursday, October 22, 2015

9th Army Band inspires, educates through concerts in Sitka

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
and keytar.

"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 tired."

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 school.

"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."

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