Military music: 28th Division Band to perform at Mishler

The band Daniel Klingbeil directs has to turn down 40 to 50 jobs a year, which is an enviable position for any music group.

But this isn’t just any band, and the 42 musicians in it have a special job to do. They travel the state – and even the world – promoting America and its soldiers to audiences everywhere, so they hate to turn any job away, Staff Sgt. Klingbeil said.

“The biggest part of our job is community relations,” he said.

Klingbeil is the director of the U.S. Army National Guard 28th Division Band, which will play the first of a series of free concerts at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona on July 2.

The 28th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Keystone” division, is the oldest division in the U.S. Army. It formed in 1879, and elements of it have roots dating back to Benjamin Franklin’s time. Members have participated in all major conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the current war in Afghanistan.

The band’s second role is to support the division – and the military itself – by playing at ceremonies, like those at Fort Indiantown Gap, Klingbeil said. A third responsibility is maintaining troop morale, he added.

That job has gotten tougher as the Army has split itself into smaller parts in recent years, he said. Not all of the division moves as one group as it did previously, so the band has had to make adjustments, Klingbeil said.

The band breaks into smaller groups to adapt to whatever the situation calls for, said acting commander First Sgt. Robert Baranik. The people who play in the band are skilled musicians who learn new music quickly. They had to audition for their spots in the band, with only about a quarter of them holding college degrees in music and the rest coming from a variety of backgrounds.

“A lot of folks can get a good sound on a trumpet or saxophone, but they can’t read music, so they wouldn’t pass the audition,” Baranik said. “What you’re getting is really a professional level of musicians.”

Baranik, who plays trumpet in the band, said the concert will feature some patriotic songs but also a variety of jazz and other types of music. It’s also the first time the band has played at the historic Altoona theater, although the band is based at the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home.

“This is something that I’ve wanted to do in my 30-plus years with the band,” he said. “It’s on my bucket list.”

Band members will be in different parts of the theater, such as the balcony, when they perform some numbers, Baranik said, calling the effort more of a “production” rather than just a concert.

Kate Shaffer, executive director of the Blair County Arts Foundation, which sponsors the event, said she’s thrilled that the band will finally play at the Mishler. She noted that the band has played at the foundation’s arts festival in the past.

“They’re just an extraordinary group of musicians,” she said.