Saluting a Texas Military Band

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36th Inf Div Band -- from FBookIn honor of Veterans Day, we’ll salute a military band we visited last December, just a week after their renovated facility opened at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Updating History. For more than two decades, the 36th Infantry Division Band, part of the Texas Army National Guard, had used a building designed in 1918. It was built as a quick, cheap and temporary structure — basically just a wooden hangar – and it badly needed updating.

In the project, materials from the original building were reused, including pine siding, roof tresses and roof decking; the exterior reflects the original buttresses and patterns for windows and doors. The result is a unique and historic rehabilitation.

“This rehab project began in November 2011,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Lightsey, band commander during the opening ceremonies. “Over the past two years, the building has been transformed into a state-of-the-art band facility – with recording studios, secure storage for equipment and instruments, and practice halls of various sizes.”

Foundational Savings. After reviewing the Army’s specs, the design team determined that constructing brick-and-mortar practice rooms to spec would have cost $400,000 more than installing thirteen modular sound-isolation rooms from Wenger. The savings provided money for other aspects of the project, like re-doing the building’s foundation.

These rooms provide digital record/playback and realistic acoustical simulations that help musicians adjust their playing to suit different performing environments. The rooms’ excellent sound isolation meets the Army’s recommended decibel levels for individual music practice.

WENGER AUSTIN ARMYAffording Opportunities. “These facilities are great, and I think it will help with recruiting and retention in the future,” said Steve Phillippus, a former Band member. He’s the son of the late Chief Warrant Officer Paul T. Phillippus, the Band’s first commander, who served from 1950 to 1983, and in whose name the main rehearsal hall was dedicated.

“It’s hard to make a living with a musical career and being in this Band is the perfect way to do it,” added Phillippus. “You get paid, but also are afforded a lot of music opportunities you may not be outside the Army,”

This Band numbers more than 60 soldiers and features various performing ensembles, including the award-winning Concert Band, Jazz Big Band, Jazz Combo, Rock Band, Latin Band and Tejano Band, as well as smaller groups such as the Ceremonial Brass Band, Brass Quintet, Clarinet Choir and Flute Trio.

“The Army has changed into a modular concept, and so has the Band,” said Lightsey. “We currently have eight Military Performance Teams, and in this facility we can train those performance teams concurrently.” The 36th performs across Texas and surrounding areas in military functions and ceremonies, patriotic holidays, parades and professional sporting events.

Serving Community. The camp’s adjutant general, Major General John Nichols, has a goal of making the camp more community-based. Camp Mabry is located in a residential neighborhood and before 9/11 there weren’t fences surrounding the base.

One way is by inviting area high schools to use the Band’s recording capabilities for a nominal rental fee; all of the rehearsal rooms are wired for recordings. “A high school band that cannot afford to rent a professional recording space can utilize ours,” explains Staff Sergeant Randy Klingbeil. “We want the local community to feel like this is their base and that we’re an asset to them.”

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