North Dakota State Fair features National Guard’s 188th Army Band on Military Day
State Fair features National Guard musicians on Military Day
Uplifting the spirits of fellow military members is one of the functions of the 188th Army Band. It will be doing its duty at the North Dakota State Fair Tuesday.
Two of the band’s ensembles will be performing this week, reaching out not just to military members but to other fair-goers as well.
Flashbang, a six-member country/pop ensemble, will perform at 12:30 p.m. today on Stage 2 and at noon Tuesday during the 14th annual beef picnic sponsored by the North Dakota Beef Commission, Stockmen’s Association and Cattlewoman for active duty, reserve and National Guard members. The meal will be served from noon to 1 p.m. behind the Commercial II Building on the northeast end of the fairgrounds.
Military families will receive discounts on fair admission Tuesday. There will be discounted carnival rides for families with IDs from 1 to 3 p.m. Coupons are available from the Minot Area Chamber EDC or Minot Air Force Base Visitor Center.
Blues in Green, another Army band ensemble with about nine members, performs for the public today and Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Stage 2. Blues in Green is a rock/pop band that features brass instruments.
The 188th Army Band operates with 36 members, according to Chief Warrant Officer James Landman, commander of the band.
“Anybody can audition for a position in the 188th Army Band,” Landman said. “Once they have an audition process, they go through the regular joining of the military, through the medical process, and they attend basic training. Then they get specific music training afterwards, and that’s in Virginia.”
Once trained, they become a member of the 188th Army Band’s concert and marching bands. They also participate in various small groups called music performance teams, such as Flashbang and Blues in Green.
Landman explained the band’s smaller groups all have military-specific names. Flashbang is a type of military equipment and Blues in Green describes some of the uniforms.
Each small group has a musical director, responsible for setting up rehearsals and working with group members to select music.
Although anyone can audition – they don’t have to be from North Dakota – the band’s membership of part-time Guard members has been regional, from western North Dakota to eastern Minnesota. For instance, Landman works full-time as a band teacher in West Fargo.
The time commitment is similar to other Guard units. The band is authorized to be on duty 39 days each year, although that doesn’t take into account band members’ individual time spent practicing.
“Often, we are able to do a lot of performances. Each group varies how many they do. We have a brass quintet that does probably more than the rest of the groups because they play official military ceremonies as well as public performances,” Landman said.
Other groups might do 15 to 20 performances a year. The musicians also participate in a Music in Our Schools program in which they play at public schools throughout North Dakota.
“The connection to the communities over the years has been really important,” Landman said.
The bands have participated in community celebrations, such as centennials, where they have marched in parades and performed concerts. They often salute veterans with the Armed Forces medley and team up with local veterans organizations to give tribute to their service while creating a picture of the modern military, Landman said.
Many times, the band brings recruiters who can share the benefits of National Guard service with potential recruits.
Because opportunities to perform music can be limited in North Dakota, the 188th Army Band has provided an outlet for many talented musicians.
“Traditionally we have people that stick around for quite a while. We have recently had some people retire who had more than 30 years of service,” Landman said. “It’s an opportunity to use your craft and to get paid for it and give back to the community.
“We do have to maintain the same physical standards as anybody in the military,” Landman added. “We fire our weapons every year, just like every other National Guard unit does. So we are soldiers first, just like every other job in the Army. However, we I think we have the greatest job that exists as we get to bring music to people, whether that’s our comrades in arms, performing for our brothers and sisters, or performing for community events to continue to share the joy of life, music, and invite people to understand what the military mission is.”
The 188th Army Band has a Facebook page where requests can be submitted to have the band or an ensemble perform.
The full group generally only performs together as a concert band at select events, typically at least twice a year. The band’s smaller groups provide outreach into communities around the state. They have made multiple appearances at the North Dakota State Fair over the years.
“Obviously, the North Dakota State Fair is a pretty big deal,” Landman said. “We are super excited to come to Minot this week.”