Story by Alun Thomas on 06/03/2019TEMPE, Ariz. The Army assembled an all-female brass quintet to perform at the International Women's Brass Conference, Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State University, May 23, Tempe, Ariz.
The ensemble, comprised of Soldiers from the Army Reserve, National Guard, Regional Bands, and Army Premiere Bands, marked the first time the quintet had performed together.
The band consisted of Staff Sgt. Nicole Daley, from Tampa, Fla., trumpet, 82nd Airborne Division Band, Fort Bragg, N.C., Staff Sgt. Anna Leverenz, Cincinnati, horn, U.S. Army School of Music, Joint Base Little Creek, Va., Spc. Micayla Ceccio, Melbourne, Fla., tuba, 13th Army Band (National Guard), Miramar, Fla., Spc. Jihye Shim, Seoul, South Korea, trombone, 101st Airborne Division Band, Fort Campbell, Ky., and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Hoffer, Fairfax, Va., trumpet, U.S. Army Field Band, Ft. Meade, Md.
As part of their performance the band performed an original song titled Bridges' which was composed by Staff Sgt. Cena Duran, Sacramento, Calif., U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, Sembach, Germany.
Writing the song for the quintet was an honor for Duran, who said she has been performing music for the Army over the last 8 years, with an extensive background before joining the Army.
"Prior to joining the Army, I was a Music Theory Graduate Assistant at Northern Illinois University and performed in the New Music Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, and Philharmonic," Duran said. "Before that, I was an Elementary School Band Director at five schools in the San Juan Unified School District."
Duran said her parents were both retired from the military, which helped influence her decision to join the Army.
"I am a proud daughter of retired service members and it seemed natural for me to pursue a military career," Duran said. "When I discovered the Army had several bands in a variety of duty stations, I knew it would be an exciting opportunity for me to also serve my country while still being able to do what I love."
Being stationed in Europe has allowed Duran to experience different cultures while performing for the Army, leading to further develop her craft, while being afforded the chance to contribute her song for the conference.
"Performing with the United States Army Europe Soldiers' Chorus as a baritone saxophone player has been the highlight of my Army career so far," she said. "It was enjoyable to learn a new instrument, a new style of music, and to travel and play throughout Europe with such an amazing talented group of musicians."
Also honored to be included on the quintet was Daley, who also talked about her experience before joining the Army as a musician.
"Before I joined the Army, I received a Bachelor of Music in Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from University of South Florida," Daley said. "I then received a Master in Music in Trumpet Performance from Indiana University and worked at Disney as a trumpet player in the college band, as well as a few local orchestras in Florida."
The student loans from these degrees started to add up however, leading Daley to explore her options in the Army, to pay off her debt.
"The Army offered college loan repayment and I thought it was a good way to also continue my passion in music," she said. "Since then most of the musical training that I've received in the Army has been geared towards Army-specific tasks, such as drum majoring, which was a challenge for me. Trying to learn that skill gave me a new found respect for the drum majors in our field."
Being a part of the quintet was especially valuable to Hoffer, who said participating at the IWBC gave the ensemble a chance to inform other young musicians about musical opportunities in the Army.
"One really great thing about being at the IWBC was getting to meet and interact with young musicians who may be pursuing music careers, and give them information about this career path that they may not have already had," Hoffer said. "We got to demonstrate that the Army is a viable career option with a ton of positives. And not just for musicians either; there are 150 jobs in the Army, and music is just one of them. So whatever interests or skills you may have, the Army probably has a job for you.
This sentiment was also echoed by Ceccio, who hoped their performance left a lasting impact on those who saw it.
"A major highlight of this performance as an Army musician, was seeing the impact that myself and my bandmates were able to make on those listening to us," Ceccio said. "Seeing that I was able to make a positive impact or difference on someone's day just by playing for them was very special."