Following high school, many of our U.S. Army All-Americans go on to study music and become the next great musicians/teachers of our generation. Others choose to leave music studies as a high school memory that will remain in their hearts forever. And finally, there are some that participate in their school’s college marching band, continuing to enjoy playing and performing at the next level. These memories and experiences stay with us for all of time, and in many circumstances, life can bring us all back to these roots that have made us who we are. For musician and performer Staff Sergeant Glenn Robertson, that is exactly what happened.
SSG Glenn Robertson is a musician, and a member of the Army Rock Band, The Volunteers. He, along with MSG John Lamirande, SFC Tom Lindsey and SSG Brandon Boron are members of a smaller ensemble within the Volunteers known as the Six String Soldiers. They have all been mentors with the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band during Bowl week in San Antonio, TX. Robertson and Boron are alumni of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band as well. Playing quads in the drumline at UMass, Robertson found his way in life and learned what it means to be a family. Thom Hannum, the Assistant Band Director of the Minuteman Band, teaches his students to always take care of each other. Following his collegiate education, Robertson auditioned for the United States Army Field Band, where he learned the value of family again with a group of people that would change his life forever.
Glenn recently visited the University of Massachusetts – Amherst to play for the music students and talk about his life experiences. With the Six String Soldiers, he participated in a tech class for our very own UMass Drumline. Little to his knowledge, I myself was a student in that class and was lucky enough to hear Glenn’s story. Through his playing and speaking, he showed the students how the world around us is full of opportunity.
Through communicating with Glenn, I learned a wealth of knowledge about his life, and how he views music in our society today.
To all music students reading this, please hear Glenn’s story. Hear what he has to say. The arts are a huge part of the world we live in. To anyone who is discouraged thinking that they cannot make a career from performing in the arts, see what this man did to create the life he has today. It is truly inspirational.
Q: What has really gotten you into music and drumming?
A: “Music has always been a huge part of my life from when I was very young. My father was an event DJ and a music lover, so my house always had music playing and a wide variety of music at that. I believe that his passion as a music listener is where it all started for me. When I turned four they got me a toy drum kit which I learned to play by watching concert footage on VHS from my father’s collection. Eventually in the 5th grade I got a real set of drums and began studying.”
Q: How did being a part of the UMass Percussion Section change your views on music and life?
A: “I attended David Prouty High School in Spencer, MA. My first teachers at Prouty were Chris Constantine and Jon Boisjolie. Chris marched snare at UMass and Jon marched in the quad line as well as the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps. I am not sure of the years but it was all during the 90’s. These two were the people that introduced me to the UMass Drumline. Once I got introduced to UMass I was hooked. When it came time to apply to colleges I only applied to UMass for the sole purpose of getting into the drumline.
Long story short, I drove up to the spring tech class prior to entering UMass to get my foot in the door. By the time I got to Band Camp I had an understanding of the culture and work ethic. The big shock to me at band camp was the work load and daily expectation! The concepts of team work and accountability are band qualities, but at UMass it was taken to an entirely new level. My biggest take-aways from UMass are what it takes to be a team member, that personal accountability translates into team success and that more than anything to cherish the friendships you make and to take care of each other.”
Q: How did you get into the Army, what motivated you to incorporate the volunteers and the army bands into your life?
A: “Fast forward to 2009 and I auditioned to join The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band. The first thing you do in the Army is get sent off to basic training. The first thing you learn in the Army are the Army values: L.D.R.S.H.I.P. aka Leadership – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. The day that I was taught these core values I had realized that the Army was a place where I could thrive. Every single one of the Army Values are the same exact values that Thom Hannum and the UMass Marching Band was incorporating into the program. Having been in the Army now for 6 years I take great pride in knowing that the core values if the US Army were founded in me by my experience playing drums at UMass. It’s kind of a trip to look back on that progression, but it makes realize that the success of the UMass Drumline and marching band is much like the success of the US Army and I truly believe that these successes lie within a foundation of values that their members live their life’s by.”
Q: Finally, any advice for the All-Americans that I am writing to on life or just music in general?
A: “For both past and future alumni I say this. These are some of the most squared away people in our country. These are out future leaders. To these students I want to tell them to not be afraid to take risks. I am not talking about skydiving, although that is cool, I am talking about calculated risks with their school careers, or seeking a semester abroad, or at seas. To not be afraid to take career risks and shot for things that are hard and challenging. These are the people in this world that know how to overcome adversity, find the silver lining, and always land on their feet. So go out there, go big and don’t fear what you don’t know.”
Glen continues to perform with The Volunteers and their string band the Six String Soldiers to this day, never taking a moment for granted.
Check out their Facebook page to see more of their performances and where the group is today!
And also, take a look at this video of Six String Soldiers and the UMass Drumline tech class!