On this episode of the Marketing Music Education podcast, I speak with Colonel Jim R. Keene, Master Sergeant Jason Stephens, and Staff Sergeant Heidi Ackerman of The United States Army Field Band. We discuss the group’s mission, where they fit in among the Army’s many other music ensembles, handling stress and burnout, and much more. In particular, we talk about their use of social media (especially live streaming) to achieve their goals, and how YOU can use it to achieve your music program’s goals!
Colonel Jim R. Keene
Colonel Jim R. Keene became the Commander of The United States Army Field Band in January 2015. Prior to this assignment, he served as Commander of the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, New York; Commandant of the Army School of Music at Norfolk, Virginia; and at The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, DC, the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Army Ground Forces Band in Atlanta, Georgia.
COL Keene has led numerous performances for international military and civilian leaders, dignitaries, and heads of state. During his time as Commander of the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, he led performances for the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, co-directed the music for A&E’s and the National Park Service’s “A New Birth of Freedom” special for the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, and a one-hour music special holiday production by the West Point Band aired on Fox News, “A West Point Holiday.” COL Keene led The U.S. Army Chorus in performances at the interments of former Presidents Ronald Reagan in Simi Valley, California, and Gerald R. Ford in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has performed for seven U.S. presidents, at the 1996 Summer Olympic and Para-Olympic Games in Atlanta, the dedication of the National WWII Memorial, the one-year anniversary of 9/11 at the Pentagon, the “Kennedy Center Honors,” and the Military District of Washington’s production, “Spirit of America.” He has worked with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Chorus and the National Symphony Orchestra, and has conducted the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.
Prior to joining the Army, COL Keene served as Assistant Conductor of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Symphony, Orchestra Conductor at the SMU International Conservatory Summer Festival in Taos, New Mexico, and Music Director of the Albuquerque Civic Light Opera. He holds a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from the University of New Mexico. He is a violinist, fiddler, pianist, accompanist, and songwriter, and is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Master Sergeant Jason Stephens
Master Sergeant Jason Stephens earned a Master of Arts degree from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of South Florida. He served in the 392nd Army Band. MSG Stephens has worked as a middle school band director, tuba player for Walt Disney World, and adjunct professor of Tuba at Troy State University. He currently serves as the Educational Activities Coordinator for The U.S. Army Field Band.
Staff Sergeant Heidi Ackerman
Staff Sergeant Heidi Ackerman received a Master of Music degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. She debuted with the Phoenix Symphony in 2011 singing Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and enjoyed three seasons as a professional chorister with Arizona Opera. Before joining The U.S. Army Field Band, SSG Ackerman sang with the Cantos de Taos at the Taos Opera Institute, conducted church and community choirs, taught junior high music, and sang professionally throughout the greater Phoenix area.
Links & resources mentioned in this episode with the United States Army Field Band
Military Band Funding
“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun.”
— Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
The Pentagon’s battle of the bands by Ellen Mitchell
Music in the military is a storied tradition, but some lawmakers say $437 million in yearly spending is too much.