Posts Tagged ‘Army bands’

THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

May 27, 2019

L e t ‘ s D I s c u s s

Chapter 1 — Marching Bands

The man with the baton, whose picture I took a few years ago, and I have something in common. He was leading the Williamsburg Drum and Fife Corps, representing the very first U.S. Army marching musical units. They started during the American Revolutionary War. Over time woodwinds and brass were added to become the Army bands like the 30th Army Band that I led as drum major in Munich.

Richmond 162

Fife and Drum Corps, WIlliamsburg, VA

It was a very good band. After all, Army bands are made up of professional musicians. The Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band is truly impressive right now, not only on parade, but in concert, also. Let me hastily add, the Munich band was quite good not because of me. My MOS was “percussionist.” I was good enough to know that I was outclassed by the rest of the section. However, I think I was quite proficient as a drum major, so I didn’t feel guilty about my musician status. That’s because I had been legendary band director Bob Barr’s first male Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band drum major. He accepted nothing less than a student’s absolutely best effort. And, not only did I lead the band in football game halftime shows, I led it in ROTC Pass in Review parades, so I already knew how to do that. As a side note, when he learned I wanted to be a radio announcer, he introduced me to WDAK’s Ed Snyder, a savvy announcer who had a degree in broadcasting from the University of Alabama. Ed became my mentor and helped me land my first job in broadcasting at WDAK in 1948. Pardon the digression. Back to the subject, marching bands.

Then, there is the college marching band. My experience there is quite limited. In the early 1950s, I was in the Mercer University ROTC band. It was the school’s only band at the time, formed when I was there to play for ROTC parades. I played snare drum in that one. Maybe someone reading this has big time college band experiences to tell us about, bands like Georgia’s, Auburn’s, Alabama’s, Tech’s, etc. I have four great-nephews and one great- niece who played at Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. I don’t know if any of them will see this, though.

If I get any comments on this way too long post, I’ll continue the series. The symphony will be Chapter 2.

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Musical Magic on the Jordan Stage

May 11, 2014
Selfie of mc in front  of Bob Barr  Community  Band

Selfie of me in front of the Bob Barr Community Band

The concert  that  was 25 years in the making graced the Jordan Vocational High School auditorium stage Saturday afternoon.  The Bob Barr Community Band never sounded better to me than when it played its Silver Anniversary Concert.  The audience loved it and so did  I.  

The are a number of reasons for that.  Top of the list has to be that its conductor, Fred Catchings,  is a lot like the man for  whom the band is named.  Retired educator Jimmy Motos, who plays clarinet and emcees the concerts,  told me that, and he should know, because he played in a Bob Barr JVHS band. “He rehearses the same way.  You keep doing it until you get it right.” Catchings is a retired U.S. Army band director.  His last assignment was as commander of the Fort Benning band.  How fitting. Bob Barr was stationed at Fort Benning when, in 1946, he took the job at Jordan. He wasn’t an army band director, though. He was an Officer’s Candidate School instructor during World War II.      

Another reason  the Bob Barr Community Band plays so well is that it has talented musicians from all walks of life.  Most live in the Columbus area, but some will travel a hundred miles or more to play in the band.  One of the talented musicans is Adam Mitchell, who is now director of the Jordan Band.  His band recently was awarded superior ratings.    

Since I was a member of the first Bob Barr band at Jordan, I was called on to  make a few remarks.  I told the audience about how I joined the Jordan band in 1945,  which was a year before Robert M. Barr took over.  The director of that quite small band was a student.  Not only did  he direct the band, but he played first clarinet and football.  “You can play drums, right.” Fellow classmate Wallace Helton, who convinced me to join,  had told him that.

“Well, yes, but I can’t read music.”

“You’ll fit right in. None of our drummers can read music.”

After Bob Barr, the band’s first paid full-time director, took over in 1946, he let me know that drummers would have to be able to read music.  He also told me that I was going to teach them.  I couldn’t read music, and I had to teach them. Well, you didn’t tell Mr. Barr “no.”  I would learn a lesson from a percussion textbook one day and teach it to the other drummers the next day.  It worked. We learned to read drum music. In no time at all some of them could read it better than I could. Oh, well.

Mr. Barr – all his former students still call him Mr. Barr – took that 17-piece band and in six months time had it up to about 60 members and, it went from playing the really simple “Military Escort” march to Beethoven’s “Eroica.”   Over the years it got so good it won contests and played concerts all over the country.

He didn’t just teach music, he also took a personal interest in his band kids. He connected me with WDAK radio announcer Ed Snyder who became my mentor and helped me get my first job in broadcasting. 

I can’t think of a better tribute to him than for our community band to proudly wear his name, especially since that band plays so well.  It’s next concert is for Arts in the Park on May 18th at 4 p.m. in the Werecoba Park band shell.  Be advised that the band shell does not provide the excellent acoustics that you get in the Jordan High auditorium.     

  

New Life for 35mm Slides

August 8, 2011

Like millions of others alive before digital cameras came along, I shot hundreds of film slides.  Since almost no one owns a 35mm slide projector any more, I figured if I wanted people, especially my family, to be able to see those slides, I had better transfer them to digital images.  I was delighted to learn that a 33mm slide scanner is available, and purchased one.

On the blog post I wrote about my grandson Benjamin going into the Air Force, I referred to my visits to some famous places in Europe while I was in the Army between 1954 and 1956. Risking the natural resistance to looking at other folks personal slides, I’m going to show you a few. That means it’s OK if you show me some of yours.

First of all, a look at  your photographer.

This was taken by a 30th Army Band buddy at a small post (don’t remember the name) in the Bavarian Alps, where we had gone to play for a parade.  Being the headquarters’ band for the Munich, Germany area, we played for a lot of  small posts that had no band, which meant we made a lot of trips up some interesting mountain roads.  My brother Elbert, who had toured Germany at the end of World War II, had told me what a beautiful countryside Germany possessed.  He was right.  To be honest, this is not one of the pictures I scanned. I had this one done a few years ago at Columbus Tape and Video, the only place I could find that would print a 35mm slide. They did it, if I remember correctly, by projecting it on a screen and taking a picture of it that could be printed.

Here’s one that I scanned with the $70 scanner I found online.

This is a shot of the Isar River that flows through Munich. It was taken late in the late afternoon, I think.  Munich did have a lot of overcast days, especially in the winter, one, we were told at  the  time, was one of the coldest on record.  One morning a DJ on the Armed Forces Radio Network said, “If you want to vacation somewhere that’s warmer today, let me suggest the North Pole.” I chose it because I read  it’s used now for white-water sports, just as we are about to do on the Chattahoochee at Columbus.

Now, here’s one that’s lit a little better.  It’s a picture of…well…you’ll know.

Now you can show me yours. That’s only fair. Just  hit the comment button and give me your URL so I find them