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Army rocks out Marlatt Mansion: Music in the military today

A select group of Army musicians enhanced a discussion at IWP on June 7, 2011 of the ways in which today’s military uses music in support of national objectives. Students and guests of the Institute were treated to an inspiring performance that reinforced the view that cultural diplomacy, and music in particular, is capable of playing a critical role in the winning of hearts and minds: an integral part of a nation’s grand strategy.

IWP President John Lenczowski introduced the event, describing public and cultural diplomacy, their importance, and how they can be used strategically. Colonel Thomas Palmatier, Commander and Conductor of The U.S. Army Field Band of
Washington, D.C., described the diverse missions of the Army’s musicians both at home – including Soldier and family support, recruiting support, giving free concerts, funeral honors, and raising morale – and abroad, where they perform for deployed U.S. troops and reach out to host nations. Army musicians give over 20,000 live performances each year, reaching over 30 million people.

COL Palmatier explained how U.S. Army Bands, if used strategically, can be an extremely effective tool of public diplomacy. He relayed an anecdote in which this “musical diplomacy” was used in a short-term tactical operation to achieve a specified objective – and worked. Often, though, musical diplomacy is used for long-term objectives, friend-building, and general outreach, which is also valuable for our country. He also noted that Army Bands have helped the Iraqi military band reform. (In fact, this military band was the most notable Iraqi military unit that was ethnically integrated – its members included Shi’ites, Sunnis, and Kurds.)

Students and guests were then treated to far more than just a discussion of music’s role in the Army when The Volunteers, a folk/pop ensemble that is part of The U.S. Army Field Band, delivered excellent live renditions of the
well-known American tunes “Hotel California,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and “American Soldier.” Classical music was also represented by soprano soloist Staff Sergeant Rachel Farber, who performed a resounding aria, accompanied by Staff Sergeant Darren Lael on piano.

The Army musicians concluded their performance with a media demonstration and a moving “unplugged” performance of the National Anthem.

This presentation was the last in a series of lectures and seminars for the 2010-2011 school year which comprised the Distinguished Military Speakers Series.

Army band at IWP, June 2011 2