Summer Tours are starting at the end of this month! The Jazz Ambassadors journey to Michigan and back, performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at The Henry Ford's 24th Annual Salute! to America, with other performances along the way. The Concert Band and Soldiers' Chorus join forces again with the Boston Pops for their Fireworks Spectacular, while inspiring audiences through New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York.
Stay tuned for updates by visiting our website and social media outlets.
On May 28th, the Soldiers' Chorus of The U.S. Army Field Band rejoined the National Symphony Orchestra, Laurence Fishburne, Joe Mantegna, musicians from its sister services, and many more for the annual PBS National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, DC.
"This is an amazing experience every year," says Sergeant First Class Charis Strange, Soprano with the Soldiers' Chorus. "I always look forward to collaborating with musicians from the other services, the NSO, and [conductor] Jack Everly. But what I find most rewarding is learning new stories of amazing servicemembers. It's an honor to celebrate their heroism."
From left to right: SSG Keenan McCarter, Vanessa Williams, and 1LT Alexandra Borza
Since 1989, the Public Broadcasting Service has hosted the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, DC. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken part in the event every year, as have many of America's most prominent musicians and actors, including Tom Hanks, B.B. King, Vanessa Williams, Gloria Estefan, Ed Harris, George Clooney, Gladys Knight, Ossie Davis, and Forest Whitaker. This year, the concert was hosted by returning hosts Joe Mantegna and Laurence Fishburne, with music by renowned opera singer Renée Fleming, Five for Fighting, and as always, the National Symphony Orchestra and musicians from the Armed Forces bands of Washington, DC.
"The most difficult moment of these performances," remembers SFC Strange, "is the tribute to a family. It's the moment when we meet a real hero, or sometimes a family left behind, after hearing their story from a great speaker like Katie Holmes, Gary Sinise, or Laurence Fishburne. It's an extremely emotional moment every year."
The Soldier-Musicians of The U.S. Army Field Band have the mission of telling the Army Story to the American people, honoring our veterans and our follow active duty soldiers alike. There is no better opportunity for that than the PBS National Memorial Day Concert. "I am deeply honored and grateful to be a part of this grand tradition," said SFC Strange. "It's so important to hear these stories, grieve with these families, and celebrate our heroes as a nation. This is part of why I love being a Soldier-Musician."
SERGEANT MAJOR VIRGINIA TURNER RETIRES
In 1990, two years into a Doctorate at Arizona State University, Virginia Turner got a call from a classmate about an audition for The U.S. Army Field Band. She took the audition on a dare. 27 years later, she's retiring.
Turner always wanted to be a professional trumpet player, but her journey to Principal Trumpet and Element Leader of the Army Field Band was unimaginable as a young student. She began playing in "bar bands" at age 18, but at her parents' wishes, she pursued a degree in Music Education rather than Trumpet Performance. After college, she spent three years as an assistant band director in Texas (where "band is king," she remembers) before starting a Master of Music degree in Trumpet Performance at Arizona State.
When she won the audition, Turner was 30 years old, earning her the nickname "Grandma" at Basic Combat Training. A self-proclaimed "desert rat" from New Mexico, she nevertheless survived the Fort Jackson, South Carolina humidity and began her career as a military bandsman.
Being the only woman in the trumpet section could have been extremely daunting, but this situation was not new to Turner, or to any female brass player at the time. Brass music was primarily a "man's world." Fortunately, she always remembered her high school band director's faith in her and her talent. He encouraged her to follow the lead of Susan Slaughter, then the only female principal trumpet player of a major orchestra. The fact that Slaughter had broken that glass ceiling inspired Turner to follow her dream.
Turner paid her dues in the Army Field Band, and was quick to make her own mark. She co-founded one of the first official Army Field Band chamber groups, helped launch the educational outreach program, and performed as featured soloist with the band many times.
One of Turner's defining characteristics is her energy. In addition to her duties as Sergeant Major, for many years she was (and continues to be) intensely involved with the International Women's Brass Conference, an organization that provides education, support, and inspiration to female brass players. Turner has served on the IWBC Board of Directors, and in 2004, she founded the Holiday Brass Concert, an annual event that funds scholarships for female brass players. As a tribute to Turner's dedication to the organization, this week the 2017 IWBC is hosting the inaugural Ginger Turner Ensemble Competition.
For Turner, "retirement" doesn't mean "rest." She has secured a position as an educational artist for Conn-Selmer, is pursuing adjunct teaching positions and freelance performing, and looks forward to spending her free time in Baltimore and Columbus with her wife, Kim Siriporn, their beautiful children, grandchildren, and two dogs, hoping to sprinkle in some biking and hiking along the way. Her advice to incoming Army Field Band members: "Do what you love first and foremost every day: be an incredible instrumentalist. Then, figure out what else you're good at that would benefit the Army." After that? "Just stay positive."
And to her friend who challenged her to take the audition: "Thanks for the dare, man. It worked out great."