JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON -- The United States Military’s musicians were awarded the National Medal of Arts, Nov. 21, 2019, including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s (JBER) 9th Army Band.
“It is an honor to be recognized for the highest government award presented to artists,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Leon T. Butler, 9th Army Band first sergeant. “We will continue to uphold the pride and traditions of military musicians as we have since the Civil War.”
Stationed at JBER since October 2016, the 9th Army “Arctic Warrior” Band performs at military functions and morale events, and engages in community and educational outreach in the JBER community and Alaska.
Through the Partners in Education program, the 9th Army Band visits high schools and middle schools in Anchorage and Eagle River to assist band classes and work with students, said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Colin Lippy, oboe player and 9th Army Band noncommissioned officer in charge of operations. The band also works with the University of Alaska Anchorage to augment their music group, Sinfonia. Additionally, the 9th Army Band is involved with the Anchorage Downtown Partnership to help provide a series of summer concerts in downtown Anchorage called Live After Five.
“Our goal as military musicians is to be stewards of the profession of arms while providing a common interest,” Butler said. “The 9th Army Band is in the community performing on behalf of U.S. Army Alaska [USARAK] and the U.S. Army more than any other organization in Alaska. Through music, we can provide education and entertainment outreach to the community while establishing long-lasting relationships.”
In addition to performing at JBER and in the surrounding area, the band’s tunes can regularly be heard further afield.
Each October, the 9th Army Band travels to Sitka to perform for the Alaska Day Festival, an annual event that commemorates the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. The band travels to Fairbanks for community outreach events on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Fourth of July.
“The USARAK command realizes the size and scope of Alaska, and attempts to reach all corners of the state,” Butler said. “By sending the 9th Army Band to these locations, we are a direct link between USARAK and the citizens of these cities. We can promote the Army message while giving back to the community. The small musical performance teams can provide music for any setting and range in groups from five to 40 Soldiers. They perform all genres of music from ceremonial to today's hits.”
Also in support of community outreach, the 9th Army Band has built a relationship with the 673d Medical Group’s music therapy program at JBER.
“Once a month, we send musicians out to perform for clinic sessions,” Lippy said. “We can send our rhythm players out with their guitars to jam with them. Army band leadership has taken particular notice of the work the 9th Army Band is doing with the music therapy program at JBER.”
Beyond music, military bands play an important part in preserving military traditions while at the same time representing military professionalism to the public.
“Army bands are the keepers of history and tradition for the military,” Lippy said. “They embody the spirit of a ceremony in a way few other things can. They are also the most public vehicle the military has. We’re out in public more than almost any other aspect of the military. Often, we’re the ones who present the image professionalism of the United States military to the American people.”