Near central Pennsylvania's Bald Eagle Mountain, with a population of only 1,613, Mill Hall is an ideal location for The United States Army Field Band to perform. The Concert Band and Soldiers' Chorus recently performed at Mill Hall's Central Mountain Middle School for an energetic audience of more than 600 citizens. Bob Rolley, Jr., publisher of The Express (Mill Hall's local newspaper and Army Field Band concert sponsor), was enthusiastic about bringing the Army Field Band to his town. "In the days leading up to the concert," said Rolley, "people couldn't stop talking about it, and will no doubt talk about it for days to come. The impact that the Army Field Band has on a small community like Mill Hall is immeasurable."
The Mill Hall community came together to make the Army Field Band concert possible, drawing support from schools and service organizations. The Central Pennsylvania 82nd Airborne Division Association served as color guard for the concert, eight middle school chorus members volunteered as ushers, and nineteen students from Central Mountain Middle and High Schools joined the Concert Band and Soldiers' Chorus onstage for "The March of the Army Field Band."
The day after the concert, students of Central Mountain Middle School were treated to a presentation by Army Field Band Commander Colonel Timothy Holtan, who brought two enlisted Soldiers to address a student assembly. Following Staff Sergeant Brendan Curran's a cappella rendition of "America the Beautiful," Colonel Holtan spoke at length about pursuing goals and staying motivated in school.
Central Mountain Middle School boasts a successful 160-member chorus, whose members related to Staff Sergeant Curran's story of singing as a teenager in rural Fairbanks, Alaska. His experience in public school chorus programs eventually led to a career as a successful musician. Colonel Holtan and Staff Sergeant Curran encouraged students to pursue subjects they enjoy, until interest develops into discipline and, for some, a profession. "Growing up in a small town," said Curran, "I never knew what you could do as a singer, other than Broadway. Perhaps meeting members of the Army Field Band will help these young students set their sights on career paths they never considered."
Many small towns like Mill Hall have long traditions of military service. "In small 'grassroots' communities, there is typically a strong veteran presence, and patriotic sentiment runs deep," said Sergeant Major Daniel Hopkins, Road Manager and tenor with the Soldiers' Chorus. "There is invariably great excitement when the Army Field Band comes to town, and Mill Hall was no exception. This really epitomizes the heart and soul of the Army Field Band's musical mission to keep the American public connected to their Army."
After touring with the Soldiers' Chorus for more than thirty years, Sergeant Major Hopkins believes that performing in locations like Mill Hall is what the Army Field Band does best. "I've witnessed the proof untold times in the eyes and voices of grateful people, from small towns all across the United States. They walk away from our performances feeling good about themselves, their Army, and their country."