Williamsport native brings bluegrass home

August 25, 1999

Patrick WhiteBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer

A military bluegrass band?

Playing bluegrass and country music is exactly what Country Current does and will do tonight at 6:30 in the band shell at Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport.

The concert kicks off C&O Canal Days, which continues through Sunday.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Williamsport native Patrick J. White will be on stage playing down-home music on his fiddle. White, who also sings and plays mandolin, joined Country Current in January 1995.

If you go

When: Tonight at 6:30

Where: Band shell, Byron Memorial Park, U.S. 11, Williamsport



Bring a lawn chair

C&O Canal Days schedule of events

The specialty unit of the United States Navy Band headquartered in Washington, D.C., was formed in 1973.

There are no blue jeans on stage for the seven members of the band. Like all the other U.S. military bands, Country Current performs in military uniforms, White says. "It tends to throw a lot of people off," he adds.

Musician First Class White, 27, hails from a musical family. His dad plays saxophone and did a stint in the U.S. Air Force band. "He's kind of a jazzer," White says.

His sister plays violin and older brother plays clarinet. Both studied music at West Virginia University. A younger White brother plays saxophone and keyboard, and family members have played together, White says.

Three years ago White married Amy Kunkle, a fellow Williamsport High School graduate and Blue Band member. She played clarinet and still does, in the Williamsport Community Band under the direction of her mother, Susie Kunkle, a music resource specialist with the Washington County Board of Education.

Her father, Noel Kunkle, is the director of bands at Frostburg State University, and her sister, Nancy, a saxophone player, is married to the band master at Fort Gordon, Ga.

The White and Kunkle familes have never played together. "We're afraid to," says Susie Kunkle with a laugh.

Pat White says he kind of picked up playing the violin on his own. He always like the sound when he heard it on the radio, he says. His dad made him take some lessons, but he says he really didn't get into it until he got to high school and started studying with Todd Medcalf, a violinist and director of orchestras at Springfield Middle and Williamsport High schools.

White also studied administration of justice at Hagerstown Junior College and was offered a music scholarship from East Tennessee State University, but chose not to go. He figured his options with music were to perform or teach. He didn't want to teach and didn't need a degree to perform, he says.

He spent two or three years touring the United States with the Hazel River Band, based in Culpepper, Va. Then he got word of an opening for a fiddler in Country Current. That's a rare occurrence, according to White. A spot with the group usually is a permanent post, he says.

He auditioned, playing with other band members. "You have to have really good ears," he says.

They threw some surprises at him to see how well he could play. He must have done OK, because he was offered the job that day.

Country Current constantly is working up new material, White says. The band does about 230 performances a year, and that doesn't include travel days, he says. Some tours last 20 to 25 days, doing several shows in a region.

Navy bands perform in support of recruiting, to raise awareness and to give something back to the taxpayers, White says. The First Class Petty Officer started his second enlistment this year, so he'll be with the Navy in his noncombatant role for at least four years. "Our job for the Navy is music. ... It's a great job," White says.

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