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Military Matters: Making sweet music with Fort Benning’s marching band

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FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) -

We've all heard that music is the universal language that translates regardless of where it's played.

Our men and women in uniform realize this, especially those involved in music. We visit with those soldiers in our Military Matters segment.

When you see members of a military band playing, do you ever stop to think that's what they get paid to do? That's their actual job? A lot of folks don't. 

"That seems to be the consensus," said SSGT Christopher Parks, euphonium player. "Most people don't even realize that there are soldiers that actually do music for a living." 

They do, and they play incredibly well, especially members of the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band at Fort Benning. 

Band commander CWO3 Jeremiah Keillor explains why they're so good.

"In the last 20 years there's been a remarkable increase in the level of our military bands," said Keillor. "A lot of it is just because they've gotten so much smaller. They're so much more competitive to get into."

In fact Keillor, who plays the French horn, says he's not sure he could make the band today without lots of practice. 

Speaking of French horn, Iowa native Kelsey Ferneau specializes in that instrument.

"I have lots of fun," said Ferneau, who is the band's youngest member at 19. "This is the dream! I get to play music every single day with all sorts of talented musicians from all different walks of life, and they each have their own gifts and talents, that I get to work with every day. It's great!"

One of those musicians is drummer SFC Robert Davidson, who joined the military way back in 1991.    

"Graduated college and I saw one of the Army bands playing, in Syracuse, traveling through," Davidson said. "Got to talking to those guys, next thing you know I was scheduling an audition, and the fact that I could do this for a living and wear the uniform just seemed really appealing at the time."

Davidson and others say being in the band helps tell a story.

"That's the neat thing about this job here at Fort Benning. We get to take Army music, or just the Army story a little bit, out to the community and really we love that. It's a great job."

If you've ever been to any of Fort Benning's graduation ceremonies you've seen the band.

They perform every Thursday and Friday outside the National Infantry Museum. They'll also march in the bi-city Christmas parade this Saturday Dec. 14.

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