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For those about to rock…we salute you

The 156th Army Rockband plays a show at Chimi V’s Fajita Factory in Bossier City. The Musical Performance team of the Army National Guard is starting to gain a following due to their choice of music. (Photo courtesy of Ivy B Photography)

156th Army Rockband gets recognized locally for talent

The Army National Guard offers a number of opportunities for individuals interested in serving. One lesser known offered opportunity is the chance to be a part of one of the Guard’s various bands.

“We are organized into several different groups within the 156th National Guard called MPTs, or musical performance teams,” said Spc. Matt Stevens. “Our MPTs are the Woodwind Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Ceremonial band, Jazz combo, and Rockband. The Rockband has recently added some new talent and is beginning to receive some recognition around the Shreveport/Bossier areas.”

The 156th Army Rockband was originally known as the 156th Infantry Band of Louisiana National Guard, which was organized in 1937. In the early 1970s it was disbanded. It wasn’t until August 28, 2005, that the band was reactivated to aid in Hurricane Katrina efforts.

“We support missions in various parts of the state throughout the year,” said Stevens. “These missions have varied from musical missions, hurricane relief efforts, and in 2010, a deployment to Baghdad for Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

For many members, the rock band’s purpose has proven two-fold. First, as a constant mission to support the goals and missions of the  Louisiana Army National Guard. And second, as recently discovered, an incredible recruiting tool.  Not many people know that there is an Army band in the Louisiana Army National Guard, much less that they’re looking for lead guitar players, bass guitar players and drummers.

The most recent performance of the 156th Army Band was at the Bossier restaurant, Chimi V’s Fagita Factory.

“After our first performance at Nicky’s Mexican Restaruant, we were offered another gig at Chimi V’s,” said Stevens. “For both gigs, our attending audience was around a hundred people. The intent of both performances was to put the Army band in the public view and begin to paint the picture that the Army band is no longer the traditional marching band of the past.”

The band, today, consists of members Sgt. 1st Class David Slocum, saxophone/banjo/director, Staff Sgt. Chris Darnell, lead male vocals/trainer, Spc. Becca Thompson, female vocals, Spc. Nic Schaff, vocals/piano/accordion, Spc. Brandon “Beje” Johnson, lead guitar, Spc. Keaton Cole, rhythm guitar, Spc. Antoine Stewart, bass guitar, Spc. Matt Stevens, drums/percussion, Spc. Lane Worthington, trumpet, and Sgt. David Anderson and Spc. Brad David, sound tech.

“We as a band, come from different walks of life,” said Spc. Brandon “Beje” Johnson. “We understand, however, that music brings people together. I believe the most important aspect of the band is that we all have the same love and dedication to music as an art and form of expression. For a performance, we choose a proper set list for the environment and audience, that expresses the right message. We show them the military does in fact have a real, fun-loving, and artistic side.”

The band’s next performance is going to be held at the 2013 Red River Revel, one of the most attended festivals in north Louisiana.

“We are scheduled to perform at 11 a.m. at the Chase Stage on October 12,” said Stevens. “We have been preparing for this performance for about two months. We are only afforded the opportunity to rehearse on drill weekends, which are once per month. Rehearsal time usually lasts for around six hours per day for that ensemble. Other than that, all rehearsal is done individually. We are not able to rehearse outside of our drill weekends because several of our members live outside of the Shreveport/Bossier area where our armory is located.

“Being able to perform at the Revel presents the 156th Army Rock Band with a unique opportunity to showcase its talent and serve as an effective recruiting tool for the LAARNG.”