By Todd Martin
Thousands of Killeen ISD fifth-graders cheered and sang along and some danced in the aisles and on the stage Thursday to the varied sounds of the 1st Cavalry Division Band.
In all, more than 3,200 fifth-graders from all the district's elementary schools took part in three different concerts at the Killeen High School auditorium.
Fine Arts Director Karen Herrera praised the band, composed of active duty soldiers, for volunteering their time to introduce students to a wide range of instruments while putting on an entertaining show.
In coming months, fifth-graders will make choices regarding middle school electives, including fine arts offerings like band, choir and orchestra.
In the concerts, students heard formal marches as well as classical, pop, jazz and rock music. The show included video that mixed footage of soldiers training and performing music, as well as photos of famous athletes and clips of popular movies.
From the stage, Sgt. First Class Alan Herold, serving as master of ceremonies, explained that music is part of everyday life, including pop culture familiar to students. Selections included music from the movie "The Incredibles," to Bruno Mars to patriotic pieces.
Musicians, like great athletes, Herold said, started as beginners in middle school and worked diligently to reach the highest performance levels.
"These musicians all started at about your age," Herrera said, addressing the huge audience of fifth-graders. "They were beginners and they dedicated themselves to their music and now they get to do this."
Maj. Curtis Kinzey, band conductor commander, said the soldier musicians wanted to share their love of music and their country.
"We want to generate excitement and enthusiasm to get into music," he said following the final concert. Through elementary school, students take part in music as part of the standard curriculum, but from sixth grade, music is an elective, he pointed out.
"We also love the opportunity to get into the community and show a different face of the Army," he said. "We want people to feel good about America."
The high-energy concerts shifted from soldiers playing on stage, to elements of the band moving into the audience. During some pieces, the musicians chose student to join them.
Selected students got a chance to hold the conductor's baton and lead the band and to dance during the finale, "Living in America."
"It was a great experience for them to see," said Timber Ridge Elementary School music teacher Ralph Deffendall. "They can see that going into middle school if they start now and focus this is something to work toward."
"It was very engaging for our students," said Hay Branch Elementary School music teacher Davis Hamilton. "They heard a variety of genres from classical to rock. It was interactive and they were able to participate."
District and school leaders appreciated the positive influence of uniformed soldiers performing music at a high caliber, especially as students begin to choose electives for middle school and beyond.
"These are perfect role models for what musicians can do," Hamilton said. "It's good cultural exposure to experience a live performance," Deffendall said.
"They gave a phenomenal performance," Herrera said. "This was wonderful for our fifth-graders."
March 9, 2018