Independence Rock puts recruiting effort to music
Sep 27, 2017
By Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire
State Public Affairs Office
It wasn’t long after the turn of the century that the Wyoming Army National Guard’s 67th Army Band sent its rock, pop and country ensemble on tour to entertain and inspire music students at a few of the Cowboy State’s high schools and colleges.
Today, that tour is still serving as inspiration to the band’s recruiting effort.
Independence Rock, the 67th’s current popular music group, kicked off a four-school tour this week in Wheatland, where the band is stationed. They also played Central High School in Cheyenne, and are set to perform at high schools in Riverton and Lander on Thursday.
The group’s noncommissioned officer in charge, Staff Sgt. Mike McCafferty said inspiration for the tour came from personal experience about 16 years ago when the band’s Howitzer 67 group rocked the auditorium at Torrington High School, where he was a senior. The performance sealed the fate of the young saxophone and guitar player, and inspired him to audition for and join the Army band.
“I’d been approached by a lot of recruiters and I kept thinking about the military, and I didn’t know how I was going to pay for college, but I couldn’t see myself doing what the unit in Torrington did,” said McCafferty, who in addition to his guard commitment, runs a bicycle taxi service in Denver. “But then I saw the 67th Army Band show and I said ‘there’s a place for me.’ ”[/su_column]
The band leadership recently brainstormed about how to recruit new members, and he brought up the idea of what inspired him. While the unit has played at schools in the time since the Howitzer 67 tour, it has been with the traditional ensembles and the full concert band. He made the suggestion of bringing the small group out, and now they are sharing their talent and their message.
While recruiters tagged along during the 2001 tour, and did most of the talking with students, the Independence Rock team took a different tact this year. Each member shared personal experiences and the benefits they’ve gained from their membership in the guard.
“We’re not gonna pretend we’re not gonna talk about joining the guard, and more specifically the 67th Army Band,” McCafferty told the high school music students. Their post-concert presentation covered many aspects of guard membership including benefits such as paid college tuition and civilian acquired skills, important to military occupations such as musicians. They also shared their initial fears and hesitations.
Sgt. Nate Hobbs, a drummer with the band, who joined the guard with his buddy Shawn Broad, now a specialist and fellow percussionist, said he didn’t see much music in his future while finishing his high school career at Central.
“We were talking in high school that this might be our last opportunity to play music,” Hobbs told the Indian Jazz Orchestra during the performance at Central High. “Then we learned about this band, and decided to sign up. This turned out to be a really good opportunity. We’re still playing music and getting paid for it.”
Central band teacher, Kevin Madigan, put a spotlight on the two, surprising his current students when he told them that “Nate and Shawn were part of our drum line and Nate also played in the jazz band. They auditioned for the Army band right here in this room. I’ve got to say, I’m really proud of these guys.”
“I was the last person you’d think would be joining the military,” said Spc. Nolan Budweg, who transferred to Wyoming from the Iowa Army Guard band not long ago. The keyboardist, singer and French horn player, who is a fulltime flight attendant with a major airline based in Denver, addressed the possibility of deploying to war, an often voiced fear of potential recruits.
“It really doesn’t happen for bands. If members want to deploy, they can always volunteer to attach to another unit,” he said. “I was lucky to deploy as a musician, doing a music mission.”
There were no immediate takers at the first two shows, but all of the audience members received cards with contact information and some cool swag and probably a song stuck in their head. They did have questions, however, according to Sgt. Trisha Fegler, a vocalist with the band.
“They had a lot of questions about what we do besides music,” Fegler explained. “They asked about physical fitness requirements and weapons qualification and things like that.”
A few of the Central students are entertaining military career options, but hadn’t thought about the band before today.
“I’m hoping to go to the academy and become a linguist officer,” said Christopher Hood, a senior and multi-instrumentalist with the Central band. He said he enjoyed the surprise concert. “I was impressed with how they used two guitars and some of the harmonies.”
“That was awesome and totally unexpected,” said Kaylin Shade, a junior trombonist at Central, of the late addition to the tour schedule. She said she was born and raised in eastern Michigan where the U.S. Coast Guard has a major presence. “If I go military, it will probably be Coast Guard.”