Members of the Nebraska National Guard have served our country in the military and now use their musical talents to serve the citizens of Nebraska. Members of the 43rd Army Band will travel to several Panhandle communities to perform free concerts, beginning July 1.
The musicians had to audition for a seat in the band, something Commanding Officer 2 Paul Kenney remembers from his teenage years.
“I was in high school and my band manager called me and I met Jeff Klintberg, who was the commander of the Army Band at the time,” he said. “He invited me to come and audition for the band and I passed. I was a trumpeter in the Army Band for 15 years before I was offered the next commander job.
Throughout the tour, Kenney said he hopes the band can bring something special to every community, acknowledging that not every community has the opportunity to listen to a professional military band.
“Because we are part of the Nebraska National Guard, we have this great opportunity, duty and honor to serve the citizens of Nebraska by going out into the communities and playing for those members of the community, service members and everyone really,” Kenney said. .
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The band will perform in Hay Springs, Fort Robinson, Alliance, Scottsbluff as part of the Bands on Broadway series and Chadron for Fur Trade Days.
“I hope they feel connected to the Army and the National Guard and can be proud of the Nebraska Army and I hope we represent it well,” he said.
Fort Robinson and Alliance will host the group a few days before the 4th of July, a holiday from which the group is inspired to choose a setlist.
“We’ve selected tracks from all of the bands performing this summer that really highlight the idea that we’re special because of our independence,” Kenney said. “It really ties into the music we choose, so it’s part of our set list and the repertoire that we will bring to each community.”
Throughout the 90-minute concert, audiences will hear music including patriotic selections, marches and popular music performed by the 37-member band. Some of the songs guests will hear include: “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa, a military service medley, and “1812 Overture” by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky.
“We do marches because it’s very closely tied to the history of military bands, so we like to play marches,” he said. “The 1812 Overture has a rich history of revolution and patriotism and generally really excites the crowds.”
They will also perform songs from Disney’s “Encanto.”
During the mix of service, active and retired members will be recognized. This patriotic moment is a highlight for the community and the group. As these servicemen stand up, Kenney hopes the young people will see people they know stand up. He also wants young people to understand the multitude of opportunities available to them through the military.
“There are a lot of jobs in the military and people in the military do a lot of different things,” he said. “Sometimes I think young people don’t realize how big the military is and maybe they don’t understand that we’re a military musician, that’s a good thing for them.”
While leading the band, Kenney said he loves playing with the unit and connecting with each of them throughout the performance, but what means the most is connecting with the audience. He also hopes the concert series is a return to normal for audiences to engage in the arts, after the pandemic limited several in-person performance opportunities.
“I really enjoy connecting with the public and community members,” he said. “One of the nicest things for me is after a show ends and we all pack up and some people feel compelled to come and tell you how much they appreciate what you’ve done. That’s one of the things that excites me the most – coming out and playing with this band is just understanding and feeling how important people are.
The 37-member band will perform in all communities. However, there are smaller musical performance groups which vary from place to place. There is a country band called “Heartland Revival”, a wind band called “Sharp Shooter Winds”, a marching band called “Black Hawk Brass”, and a rock and pop band called “Sierra Niner”.