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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

Army Band Reunion Celebrates 'Making Connections' With Public

For decades, military bands have served as a bridge between the armed forces and the public. During the 1950s through the 1970s, one such band was stationed here in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston. This Sunday at 5:30 p.m., Fort Sam’s current musical ensemble, the 323d Army Band, welcomes up to 60 former members of the U.S. 4th Army Band, about 20 of whom will join the Fort Sam’s own for a performance that is free and open to the public.

Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Ward is the 323d Army Band’s commander, and he was enthusiastic about the upcoming reunion, noting one former member who lives in New Braunfels, John Dunlap, has written a special piece for the occasion, “March for the ROF.” ROF stands for “Retired Old Folks,” he explained with a smile. “It’s a great piece of music,” Ward said, “very imaginative.”

The concert will be modeled on the old radio broadcasts the 4th Army Band transmitted over the airwaves back in the day, entertaining audiences across South Texas with their big band sounds. “We’re going to go back in time and play some of the older music from their era,” Ward explained. “The biggest thing for us is having these older musicians that have so many stories to tell.”

The 4th Army Band existed during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history, Ward noted. The 1960s saw the escalation of the Vietnam war, and as he explained, “This band carried on. They played great music and did their best to make the military come off as a positive thing. Even if you disagreed with Washington politics, you could still respect the people who served.”

That sentiment carries on today. “So often, especially in San Antonio, you walk around and everyone says ‘thank you for your service,’” Ward said. “A band is a way for the Army to say ‘you’re welcome.’”

The 323d Army Band welcomes the 4th Army Band reunion in concert on Sunday, October 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the historic Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston. The Quadrangle is open to the public; no I.D. is required to enter. The concert is free and open to the public. The easiest way to get there is to take Grayson east from Broadway. For a map, click here.


Hear the original 4th Army Band in concert, recorded in 1955 in Brownsville, Texas: http://us4tharmyband.org/index.php/fab-1955

A story from CWO Jonathan Ward about how music can make connections:

"[When I was stationed in Hawaii] we got a request that came in from India. That’s a pretty expensive trip, from Hawaii to New Delhi. But we managed to get a small group out there ... and they actually got an Indian navy band to come in, and they did a joint concert together, and they were in the embassy doing this concert. The ambassador said, ‘We’ve been trying to get some of these military guys into the embassy for so long, and all we had to do was bring a band! Now we’re having conversations with them. It’s opening up diplomatic relations, and all we had to do was invite a band in to play some music, and the gap is filled.’ Remarkably, that’s what [military] bands have been doing since their inception. Some people may see us as a fighting force, and we are that, but we’re also people that can make a human connection."