MARSHALL - It's the mission of the Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band of Washington, D.C. to get out into the "grassroots" of the country and the musicians are enjoying the smaller-city venues they've been performing in such as the "beautiful old hall" in Calumet, Mich., said the 19-piece band's bandmaster, Chief Warrant Officer William S. McCulloch.
"You think about its history, about the other performers who have played there," he said.
In addition, McCulloch said the band enjoys the "intimacy" of a smaller venue "designed for groups like ours," he said. "You can interact more with the audience."
The Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band of Washington, D.C.
The Jazz Ambassadors will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts at Marshall High School. Doors open at 6 p.m. Ticket holders will be seated by 6:45 p.m. Non-ticket holders will be seated at 6:50 p.m.
McCulloch, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1991 as a percussionist and was appointed army bandmaster in 2000, has traveled all around the United States and overseas. In addition to touring with the Jazz Ambassadors, he toured with bands based in Hawaii, Kentucky, Alaska, New York and Virginia. He deployed with the 10th Mountain Division Band from 2008 to 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We tour 100 days out of the year," he said. "We have spring and fall tours and then smaller tours in the summer."
The United States Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors will take the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday at Marshall High School for a free concert sponsored by the Independent. A limited number of tickets are available at the Independent (537-1551).
For the current tour, the 19-piece band and one vocalist will visit 11 states.
"So far we've had great audiences," he said by phone Thursday from Oshkosh, Wis. "Out of 31 concerts, we've played 13 and we've had a fantastic response. The concerts have been packed."
The Jazz Ambassadors, America's Big Band, is the United States Army's premier touring big band. As a component of The United States Army Field Band of Washington, D.C., the organization travels thousands of miles each year to present jazz to audiences in every state in the nation and around the world.
Formal public concerts, school assemblies, clinics, music festivals, and radio and television appearances are all part of the Jazz Ambassadors' yearly schedule.
The band has appeared in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan and the Republic of India. Notable performances include participation in the inaugurations of presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, appearances at the Nice Jazz Festival in France, the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, and the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island.
The band's repertoire attempts to deliver a smattering of "100 years of jazz," said McCulloch.
The band will start out with Duke Ellington's "Such Sweet Thunder" and also include "A Sleepin' Bee" by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote which was introduced in the 1954 musical, "House of Flowers." "A Sleepin' Bee" will be sung by Master Sergeant Marva Lewis. Other selections include "Embraceable You" by George and Ira Gershwin.
The music performed includes big band, standards, Dixieland, patriotic, bebop and Latin.
As well as having the mission to bring American music to the heartland, the band also offers a "music education outreach" program and often performs clinics in the schools, said McCulloch. The band also offers printable charts for free for school band directors. For more information, visit www.armyfieldband.com
"We've had a lot of good reactions," said McCulloch. "As band programs have been cut, it helps to offer free resources."