Proud to be an American: The Maryland Defense Force Band to perform Sunday

June 05, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • The Maryland Defense Force Band will open the Red, White and Blue Summer Concert Series on Sunday, June 9, at Hagerstown Community College.
Submitted photo

The powerful chord struck by most patriotic American songs isn’t necessarily the music. It’s the sentiment.

Songs like “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic” can lift spirits during hard times, enrich our appreciation of heritage and inspire a strong love of country.

Some originally were written as poems, others are anthems that span the centuries — from the earliest days of our nation to contemporary country and rock hits.

But they all have one thing in common: They’re proudly made in the U.S.A.

Songs sung red, white and blue will take center stage when the Maryland Defense Force Band appears at Hagerstown Community College on Sunday, June 9. The concert, co-sponsored by HCC’s Alumni Association and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, will begin at 6:15 p.m. at the Alumni Amphitheater and is free and open to the public.

It will serve as the kickoff performance in the college’s annual Red, White and Blue Summer Concert series, which continues through Saturday, Sept. 14, with a schedule of nine military bands.

Known as “Maryland’s Musical Ambassadors,” the Maryland Defense Force Band is a ceremonial unit of the Maryland Defense Force, a volunteer military agency that provides professional and technical assistance to the Maryland Military Department.

The wind and brass band consists of about 30 members, who work together to enhance community relations, general recruitment and troop morale, said Maj. Jari Villanueva, commander and conductor.

This will be the third year that the Maryland Defense Force Band has performed at HCC, as part of the summer concert series, he noted.

“This year, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, we will present a Civil War themed music program and also will salute the veterans in the audience,” Villanueva said.

The Alumni Association’s website notes that the concert will be dedicated to Korean War veterans, as part of the 60th anniversary of the truce ending the Korean War.

Music will include a Stephen Foster medley, “Civil War Fantasy” by Jerry Bilik, “Variations on a Shaker Theme” by Aaron Copland, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” as well as marches and some modern pop tunes.

The upcoming concert is typical of the performances presented by the band, Villanueva said.

“We appear at parades and music programs for the public and also support musical military missions for the Maryland Military Department,” he explained.  “Last year, we performed at an arrival ceremony for the Defense Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, performed for the graduation of the Maryland National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program and this year, supported a special luncheon at the Government House in Annapolis for the governor and high-ranking officials.”

According to Villanueva, the band was activated in March of 2009, and he has been with the band since its inception.

But the Maryland Defense Force Band isn’t, by far, his first musical or military experience.  Villanueva is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he spent 23 years with the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C., and is considered the country’s foremost expert on military bugle calls, particularly the call of taps, which is sounded at military funerals.

While in the Air Force, Villanueva said he was the noncommissioned officer in charge of The USAF Band’s State Funeral Plans and oversaw the arrival and departure ceremonies at Andrews Air Force Base for the late Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

As ceremonial trumpeter, he participated in more than 5,000 ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and was responsible for all the music performed by the USAF bands for state funerals.

In 2007, Villanueva was inducted into the Buglers Hall of fame  — the first active duty military bugler to be so honored.

From 1998 to 2010, he was an adjunct professor in the Music Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he served as director of bands.

A Civil War historian and re-enactor, Villanueva is artistic director of the National Association for Civil War Brass Music Inc., and directs and leads The Federal City Brass Band and the 26th North Carolina Regimental Band — recreated regimental bands of the Civil War area. He also is music director for the National Civil War Field Music School, where students learn to play fife, drum and bugle.

If you go ...       


WHAT: Red, White and Blue Summer Concert Series, featuring the Maryland Defense Force Band

6:15 p.m. Sunday, June 9

Hagerstown Community College, Alumni Amphitheater, off Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown

Free and open to the public

Call 240-500-2346 or go to

The Red, White and Blue Summer Concert Series continues through Saturday, Sept. 14. Concessions will be available for purchase. No outside food is permitted on the amphitheater grounds.

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