Fort Riley, Kansas



‘Big Red One’ brass ensemble puts personal note on its performance for Music In Our Schools Month

By Sgt. Michael C. Roach | 19TH PUBLIC AFFAIRS DETACHMENT | March 22, 2017

     March is Music In Our Schools Month, an an­nual celebration created by the National Association for Music Education. But for one “Big Red One” Soldier, it is also an opportunity to bring his passion back home.

     Sgt. Jarod Willard, a trom­bone player with the 1st In­fantry Division Band and a Kansas native, used this month as a chance to give back to the community that helped give him his start in music. Origi­nally from Mound City, Kan­sas, Willard coordinated with the local Jayhawk Elementary School to set up a concert for the students of Unified School District 346 March 7.

     “It was really cool,” Willard said. “I got to go back home and show everybody that mu­sic is important and it can take you places in life — places you never thought you would have gone before.”

     Willard began coordinat­ing with Mark Proffitt, the principal of Jayhawk Elemen­tary School, about two months prior to the event.

     “We try to bring a little bit of everything,” Proffitt said. “Anytime we can get visitors to come and perform regard­less of what it is — anything with the arts — we love to have visitors.”

     Being a member of the 1st Inf. Div. Band’s brass ensem­ble, Willard was able to deliver a portfolio of music ranging from classic artists like James Brown to contemporary hits by Adele while still being able to reach back to the roots of brass band music.

     “Brass band is totally my fa­vorite kind of ensemble to play in because you can do anything you want with a brass band, you can play any style of mu­sic,” Willard said. “We’re with a group of people in the brass band that, musically, want to be happy and excited so it’s a lot of fun”

     Students from nearby Jay­hawk Linn Junior-Senior High were bussed to Jayhawk Elementary, giving the band a crowd of all ages. The musi­cians shed their Army Combat Uniform blouses for the con­cert, highlighting their black T-shirts that read “BRO Brass” as they tore through their cata­logue of songs for 45 minutes to the enthusiasm of the stu­dents in attendance. Cheers and applause began when one Soldier donned roller skates and began break dancing for the crowd.

      “I just wanted to inspire kids there into exploring mu­sical opportunities that they might not have been aware of, (like) joining the band and seeing what arts can do for them and their community,” Willard said. “I got an email from the principal this morn­ing that said lots of kids are asking to join band now.”

      This month’s observance began as a single statewide ad­vocacy day and celebration in New York in 1973 before cul­minating into a month-long celebration of school music by 1985, according to, the National Association for Music Education’s official site. The purpose of the program is to promote the benefits of high quality music education programs in schools.

      “We’re trying to get out into the communities that don’t so much have big-city arts, so we want to get out in the rural areas where they don’t get stuff like this as of­ten,” Willard said.

     BRO Brass, as well as other ensembles from the 1st Inf. Div. Band, have already done shows and worked with schools in Wichita and Topeka. While he is happy with the level of community involvement that they have accomplished this year, Wil­lard also sees opportunities to expand on the program and extend it beyond a single month.

     “Next March I will try and do even more schools than we did this year,” Willard said. “I want to go back and visit my school more than just in March. (I want to) take the band down there and work with them and just provide resources all across the state of Kansas, work with kids and show them that music is awesome.”


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