Talk about coincidences.
That’s exactly the case with former band member of the 257th Army Band, known as The Band of the Nation’s Capital based in Washington, D.C.— Rosalie Wilson.
In a recent interview, Wilson now a resident of Ennis, elaborated on her 13 years of musical experiences as a part of this historical nationwide band as well as life changing situations.
“I played in two bands for a total of 13 years while I was living in the D.C. area,” Wilson explained. “During those 13 years, I was a member of the 257th Army Band for nine years as the principal oboist, where I played the oboe in the Concert Band. I also played the flute and the piccolo in the ceremonial marching band, and the pianos and electric keyboards in the Jazz Band.
“I spent time as a member of the 29th Infantry Division Band in Virginia, and before that, I was with the Naval Intelligence Command at the Pentagon,” she continued.
“As a member of the 29th Infantry, I played the oboe and flute, but the oboe was always my specialty. It was always the oboe, the flute and the piano that were known as my MOS’s—military occupational specialties. As a part of the Naval Intelligence Command, I served as a translator. I studied Russian while attending college so I did translation work there before I joined the band.”
Performing a wide range of music through chamber ensembles and small groups, Wilson said the band also played for parties, change of command ceremonies, concerts and several other ceremonial events.
“This band is a concert that breaks down into many performing elements and one was the G.I. Jive,” she explained. “I played the keyboard and piano for that segment. We also did a lot of swing tunes of the 1940s in World War II uniforms. We had a little bit of Irish, Woodwind Quintet band and other band involvement.
“We played a lot of marches, Broadway show tunes, popular music and some very serious concert works that were used to challenge our musicians,” she continued.
“We had a huge variety of music we played. We played a lot of national anthems for whatever country we were visiting or any event we were attending. We also played for troops morale, which they were so grateful.”
The band traveled to some of the most appealing places including The Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Ky; The Kennedy Center, Millennium Stage in Washington, D.C.; West Point Military Academy in New York; City of Parkersburg Concert Series in West Virginia; The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. as well as numerous other concert venues throughout the entire Eastern United States.
“We played a lot of concerts in the D.C. area on the Mall (in front of the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Institute); we played on the steps of the State Capitol, we played at many parks and we traveled from city to city playing at concert halls,” Wilson said.
“We played at the U.S. Park Services for the Bi-Centennial at Yorktown, Va.; we played at Mount Vernon, Woodlawn Plantation, the Lee Mansion and Stretford Hall in Virginia. There were many other good concerts during those years.”
Being a part of the band wasn’t always about playing and marching; there were times for traveling and sight seeing as well.
“We traveled worldwide to different countries such as Crete, Greece, Greenland, Iceland and Portugal,” Wilson recalled. “We took a trip to the U.S. Virgin Island, where we played in St. Thomas and St. Croix. We also traveled to Panama. I loved it when we played in upstate New York, the time we spent at Bethany Beach and at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. We also visited Ocean City in Maryland.”
Recalling her fondest memory of her busy years, Wilson said the most significant thing about being in the band was the finding of her spiritual belief in God through the guidance of her band mate and good friend, Randy Huntley, who played the trombone in the band at the time.
“Becoming a believer in Jesus Christ is the most important thing that happened to me while playing in the band,” she said. “An Army Chaplain led me to the Lord and that walk of life totally changed my life. Randy was my mentor at that time and he helped me to become stronger in my faith. During this time, the band was leaving for Greece.”
Wilson has played musical instruments majority of her life, which she credits her musical experiences with the Arlington Symphony and attending Duke University in North Carolina.
“When I was younger, I played in the Arlington Triangle Symphony, which included the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill areas of North Carolina,” she remembered. “While in college, I was the principal flute in the Duke University Concert Band.”
Even though she has been retired from the playing field for a little while, Wilson said she still attends band reunions to reminisce and rekindle old friendships.
“In July 2006, I flew back to D.C. for a band reunion concert that was held at the Washington Monument,” she said, saying she had no way of knowing that wouldn’t be the last reunion and mingling with old friends.
Much to her fortune, Wilson will get a chance to see and mingle with her old band mates once more, and also new members of band in a week to come.
The Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau will host the 257th Army Band in concert at the Chautauqua Auditorium at 7 p.m., Monday, July 23.
“I’m originally from Harrisonburg, Va., and I would’ve never thought that the band I enjoyed so much playing with would be so close in range,” she said with a smile.
“The feeling is surprising but delightful and I can’t wait to see them. It will be wonderful for me to see them again. We keep in touch with one another and I usually see them when I travel back to D.C. I loved being a part of the band and some of my friends in the band are still some of my closest friends today.”
To her knowledge, this is the first time the band has traveled to Texas but Wilson said that would not stop the steady flow of excited feelings she will experience.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time the band has traveled to Texas and I will be right there to greet them at the concert,” she said with a laugh. “Most of our concerts were held in the D.C. area because that’s where we were based. They’re a really terrific band, but much smaller than the band I played with. They’re going to do such a terrific job next week and I’m really looking forward to it. At the concert, the band will have several vocalists, feature different instruments and play all types of music. The concert is free to the public and I know that people will enjoy it. It will be fun for the entire family.”
Enjoying her retirement from band performances and teaching music, Wilson spends much of her free time attending her church, Tabernacle Baptist Church, and singing in the church choir under the leadership of Bro. Colin Colburn.
“I really love music and I’ve played so much but I am so glad I’ve retired,” she said with smile. “I love my church and I love Ennis. It’s just great to come to Ennis and gain a wonderful church, wonderful friends and family, and a wonderful home.”
E-mail Chicarra at firstname.lastname@example.org