The Bayonet

Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2012

MCoE Band commander to join US Army Band

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Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremiah Keillor has been making music with military bands for nearly 20 years, and soon he’ll reach the top musical tier in the Army — the United States Army Band. Known as “Pershing’s Own,” it’s the largest of the four special Army bands, featuring 10 ensembles and 270 members who perform at official functions in the capital and around the world.

Now the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band commander, Keillor will become the newest associate conductor of the band in June. His main duties will be serving as officer in charge of the Army Blues, a jazz ensemble, and for Downrange, a 10-person rock band, though he’ll also be called upon to conduct the ceremonial and concert bands as needed.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I already know I have the best job in the Army. It’s music — whether it’s music here at Fort Benning or it’s music out on the White House lawn. I’m quite humbled to have the opportunity to be a part of (the Army Band). It means a lot to me.” Keillor was one of three warrant officers who made it to the final stage of the selection process: an audition Oct. 12 at Fort Myer, Va.

“It’s the only job I’ve had to interview for in the Army,” he said.

The process, he said, was rigorous. The three bandmasters had to prepare scores, critique the rock band, listen to the jazz band to find mistakes intentionally thrown in, narrate a full show and conduct the concert band.

“If nothing else, just having the opportunity to conduct that band was pretty remarkable,” Keillor said. “That’s a 70-piece concert band, and you’re talking the best musicians in the Army. It was amazing just to see the way they respond to every nuance. You can have so much fun conducting the music and enjoying the music while you are directing such a fine ensemble.”

A French horn player by trade, Keillor said working with the jazz band challenged him the most, but he’s already looking at ways to increase his familiarity with the genre.

After the interview that afternoon, the winner was announced. Keillor said it’s the teachers and NCOs who’ve shown him how to improve over the years who have made the difference in his career. Commanding the MCoE Band for the last 15 months was helpful, too, he said.

“Working with the MCoE Band has made me a better conductor because I have been challenged as a conductor,” he said. “The MCoE Band is comprised of a great group of musicians and generally is staffed at over 90 percent. This combination of numbers of musicians and the talent level of the musicians has allowed me to program more difficult selections that require more of the band musically — and more of myself as a conductor.”

Keillor said he would work hard in his new assignment, but it would be with the same enthusiasm he gives his work here.

“I can’t guarantee I’m going to excel,” he said, “but I guarantee I’ll do the things that have made me successful to this point. Whether I’m at Fort Benning or the Army Band, that doesn’t change the way I’m going to do my job. My job here will not change until the day I have my change of command ceremony in late April. We’re going to go after it, and we’re going to keep doing our mission, and we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.”

While his role here and his anticipated position with the Army Band are very different, Keillor said both ultimately come down to inspiring Americans — and everyone who hears the music — with the best the Army has to offer.

“We have an opportunity to serve our country, but we have an opportunity to play music,” he said.

“That’s the mission of Army bands: to promote patriotism. In Iraq, we played for our troops; that was my focus. (Here), we have the opportunity as a band program for people to see Soldiers in a different light. Sometimes it may be the only connection they get with a Soldier. We have an opportunity to go into a community and play music and instill patriotism and show them that we can have a good time doing what we’re doing. And that’s pretty cool.”

Though Keillor said he wishes he could have stayed on post longer, he is looking forward to the stability of a longer assignment and the educational and historic sites that proliferate in the capital region.

He and his Family leave the Fort Benning area in May to begin the process of relocating to Fort Myer. His replacement, Chief Warrant Officer 1 Brian Raya, currently the executive officer of the 323rd Army Band at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is scheduled to arrive on post in early April.

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