That was the title of the first session at this year’s Army Band Leader Training workshop, or as we like to call it – ABLT (sandwich). Simon Sinek began the workshop by giving his talk on leadership, organizational success, and how to inspire people to action. Being an Army officer, I’ve heard people speak about their leadership philosophy about…1,000,001 times; but Mr. Sinek was outstanding – and dare I say, inspiring. Dr. Juliana Pilon from the Institute of World Politics spoke to us about the role of military bands in public diplomacy; it was interesting to hear someone so intelligent and articulate speak from the perspective of someone who came to the U.S. from Romania, a former communist country. Her love for her adopted country was palpable and inspiring as well.
The interesting thing about this year’s ABLT is that, since it is organized and hosted by the Army School of Music, I was involved with the planning of the event rather than just showing up. Because of the cutbacks that are happening now and will grow in the near future, the Secretary of the Army is putting the microscope to all conferences, seminars, meetings, and the like. All such events will need to get his approval beginning this June. Although ABLT is more training event than conference – as almost every session is some type of training in our skills as musicians or Army leaders – it looks like it will be an uphill battle to have ABLT next year; we’ll see. We’ll begin formulating next year’s event and the corresponding paperwork to get it approved almost immediately. It’s too bad because in my opinion, events like ours are not what the Secretary is trying to reign in.
This year, in addition to learning about our role in public diplomacy, we received training on the new audition (or Army Musician Proficiency Assessment) and its standards – pretty important for Army band leaders to know and pretty tough to learn through distance learning. There were practical exercises on new skills learned, sessions on new training going on at the Army School of Music, classes on marketing and stage lighting, and a great training session with Tom Jackson, a live music producer that works with musicians on connecting with their audience – pretty important training for an Army Band Program charged with connecting the American Soldier to the American People, our country’s civilian and military leadership, and our foreign partners.
Besides all that, there were some outstanding performances by bands from across the country – Active Duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve. That includes a performance by my former band, The Army Ground Forces Band. It was great to see them and hear their progress – they were outstanding and very entertaining…not that I’m biased!