Guard

The 23rd Army Band of the Utah National Guard stands in front of the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City. [Photo courtesy of Quentin J. Hendriksen]

While they are part-time soldiers ever-ready to provide security and support during state emergencies, their military mission is to perform music. The 23rd Army Band of the Utah National Guard will play a wide range of songs when they perform for the Moab Free Concert Series at Swanny City Park on Friday, July 19.

Within the 41-member Army concert band are smaller groups — a brass quintet, woodwind quintet, jazz combo and a rock band — each of which will perform in the park on Friday, starting off with some of the smaller groups at 5 p.m., then moving into the entire concert band which will perform patriotic-themed songs, such as “God Bless America,” “God Bless the USA,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“We always include a tribute to those who have served in the armed forces, and their family members,” said staff sergeant Bryce Bird, who plays clarinet in the concert band and baritone saxophone for the jazz band. “We have them stand and be recognized.”

The West Jordan-based band will also pay tribute to the various branches of the armed services by performing each service hymn in a medley. Concertgoers can expect to hear marching music, as well.

“As an Army band we have an affinity for and love of marches,” Bird said. “We also do a tribute to those who have died in combat.” 

Then, from 7 to 8 p.m. it will be time to boogie with both the jazz and rock and roll bands taking turns performing. Expect to hear cover tunes from the past 40 years, including from The Beatles, possibly Elvis, as well as some country music, Bird said. The group also performs original songs. 

The Army band often performs for big band swing dances at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City, for the Excellence in the Community summer series. 

“Excellence in the Community has worked with the 23rd Army band many times over the years,” founder Jeff Whiteley told the Moab Sun News. “Great singers, great players, great repertoire and they are a pleasure to work with. They bring dancers to the dance floor; they bring smiles to faces.”

Those who aren’t dancing are tapping their toes, clapping their hands, or moving rhythmically, Whiteley said.

“The band plays with precision and grace, and brings that powerful, brassy, sophisticated yet accessible big band swing sound to our stages,” he said.

While the band performs mostly in Utah — during parades, and for inaugurations and official ceremonies for the governor, the musicians have also performed in other parts of the U.S., as well as internationally in Germany, Morocco and Russia, Bird said.

Members must audition to play in the band. Like other soldiers, they attend basic training for three months, followed by another three months attending the Army School of Music in Virginia. The band practices once a week for four hours at the armory in West Jordan. 

While Utah National Guard members have an initial 6-year obligation, most band members stay in the guard much longer, said Bird, who is in his 32nd year as a band member. 

And while regular guard members report for duty one weekend a month, the band’s four nights of rehearsal is considered equal to one weekend.  

“We plan these mini-tours every year,” Bird said. “It’s a great way to support the state and let people know what we do.”

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