Members of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” wind ensemble prepare for a recent livestreamed “United We Stand” performance. Photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Chris Branagan

'Pershing's Own' keeps mission going despite social distance constraints

COVID-19 safety requirements may have halted live concerts at Brucker Hall, home of The U.S. Army Band on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, but TUSAB has found a new way to entertain music lovers around the Military District of Washington, and beyond. Since late March, TUSAB has been offering live streamed weekly performances on a number of social networking platforms.

According to Col. Andrew Esch, band commander and conductor, the virtual “United We Stand” concerts were a natural extension of work TUSAB had already started, to increase outreach to a wider audience.

“Understanding that so many people get their news, information and entertainment online had already led us to build the infrastructure and develop the capabilities,” explained Esch. “Most of our efforts up to now have been either short offerings designed as social media posts or the rebroadcast of a live performance.

“Engaging people online is definitely different, but adapting is what we do, it’s what the Army does. Under the current situation, we’re really focusing our efforts on it and progress is much more rapid than it might have been otherwise. In the end, I’m confident we’ll emerge even more capable, and versatile than ever before.”

TUSAB will be streaming the “United We Stand” performances on their web and social network sites every Tuesday at 2 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Fridays at 4 p.m. Esch stated that TUSAB is strictly following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health safety guidelines to keep Soldiers safe. He said the recording is done in the large rehearsal hall which allows proper spacing and there are never more than 10 people in the room at a time. Each performer’s position is marked on the stage to further ensure proper distancing. The cameras and operators are in a separate viewing room to help maintain the 10-person limit.

“When we realized we were going to shift in this direction the first thing we did was ask for volunteers and for their ideas,” Esch said. “The response was immediate and overwhelming. These folks are American Soldiers. They’re resilient, they want to contribute and they’re ready to go. So, everything you’re seeing and hearing are products they themselves are putting together.”

He also noted that band members are supporting the Military District of Washington and JBM-HH in special duty details at Rader Health Clinic and the commissary.

Recognizing that there are children now at home, TUSAB is developing programming geared to them. Esch said that band member Master Sgt. Leigh Lafosse, who has two education degrees and a doctorate in Musical Arts, is coordinating efforts to develop educational musical videos for all ages. The goal is to create products that support not just music teachers, but STEAM teachers as well, he explained.

Viewers have an opportunity to influence TUSAB’s weekly shows. People can use any social networking platform they prefer to submit music requests and TUSAB will do their best to incorporate as many as possible Esch noted.

Since the streaming performances began, the shows have reached an estimated 100,000 people and have had 40,000 views reported band officials.

Esch said that “Pershing’s Own” is ready to stage the performances for as long as needed.

“We have no shortage of creativity or will,” he said. “As you know, music has an incredible power to unite people and create powerful connections, even in the digital space, so we’ll continue the mission as long as America and the Army needs us.”

To learn more about the “United We Stand” concerts, visit www.usarmyband.com.