The United States Army Field Band and the USAAAMB have a very special relationship. Each year, the Army Field Band comes to San Antonio to work with 125 of the best marching band members in the country, and the result is an incredibly rewarding experience, not only for the students, but for the Army Field Band members as well.
Sergeant Major Ginger Turner is a trumpet player for the Army Field Band, as well as the element leader for the Concert Band, which entails managing the rehearsal schedule, all personnel, budgets, reports, and the tour schedule among other things. Her love of music began at an early age. “I started playing the trumpet in 6th grade, and I never put it down,” recalls Sgt. Maj. Turner. “I totally loved band. I was in marching band and I was… the band president and was super active. I did all of the things that band kids did. I was first chair in All-State, I was that kid, that was me.” She received her Bachelor’s degree in music education from New Mexico State University. Following three years of teaching music in South Texas, she received her Master’s from Arizona State University. It was then that she joined the Army in 1990, a decision that was influenced by her passion for music. “I had an opportunity to make music with this incredibly talented ensemble and serve my country at the same time,” says Sgt. Maj. Turner. Once she had decided to pursue this path, Sgt. Maj. Turner faced a difficult challenge. First, candidates are required to send in audition tapes, which are reviewed through a blind process. Once the candidates are selected to move on to the second round, they are sent to a recruiter who will determine if they are qualified to join the Army. Following this, they are flown to the final round which is an in-person audition and interview. Approximately eight to twelve tapes are selected from the first round, and about six to ten candidates are chosen as finalists. Auditions for the Army Field Band are opened whenever a spot is vacated. Currently, there are just over one hundred members of the unit, with the Concert Band having around sixty.
Sgt. Maj. Turner is entering her sixth year working with the USAAAMB. She returns this year after mentoring the band from 2008-2012. In that time, Sgt. Maj. Turner has seen the band go through a lot of changes. “From the beginning, the first group of students selected were students that the first group of directors knew, because no one knew about this U.S. Army All-American Marching Band,” she states. “Now it is truly nationwide. The best applicant gets the job and the kids are amazing.” Her favorite part of about working with the band is seeing the end result on the field at halftime. “I always cry!” she says with a laugh.
As to what she hopes they get out of this experience, Sgt. Maj. Turner wants the students to gain personal, as well as musical skills. “I hope they walk away with more personal confidence than they came with and that they have an incredible impression of the Army’s professionalism,” she says. It is clear that the Army made that very impression on her when she originally decided to join. “When I won the job, I had no idea that I would stay and what life being a soldier was all about. Now, twenty-four years later, I am thrilled and proud to be a soldier and have an amazing job playing my trumpet,” she says.
You can check out the impact that the Army Field Band has had on the USAAAMB when they perform at halftime of the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl! The game is tomorrow, Saturday, January 3rd at 1pm EST/12pm EST