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Inside the Gates: 9th Army Band has the beat

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 3:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The U.S. Army’s 9th Army Band in Anchorage has entertained fans across the state, except for several years of inactivity, since 1951.

Sgt. Kenneth Fahle has performed with his saxophone in the 9th Army Band since 2013.

“When I was in college, I was a music education major,” Fahle said. “I knew I wanted music to be a part of my life.”

Fahle is one of the band’s 41 members. Enlisted personnel make up all but one of them.

“Sometimes we use them together in larger ensembles like our concert band, or marching band, or often times break off into smaller groups,” Fahle said.

The 9th Army Band has called Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson home since Oct. 13, 2016, when it moved from Fort Wainwright. Its history in Alaska goes back Jan. 10, 1951 when the Army activated the band at Fort Richardson. It got deactivated on Sept. 1, 1974 at Ladd Air Force Base, before the Army restored the unit Nov. 16, 1995 at Fort Wainwright.

The experience with the band has rewarded Fahle in many ways, and not just from the people he’s met.

“Large performances stand out, like playing for the Indianapolis 500, or just had the opportunity to be in Alaska and play in different areas around Anchorage or Fairbanks,” he said.

The band is a military unit. That’s created several obstacles. Most notably is the constant turnover from people who move in and out of it.

“Being able to have someone that you rehearse with for maybe two, three weeks and can rely on them to be professional and put on a great show,” Fahle said, as he and other band members practiced for their next performance.

The Army first activated the band on June 1, 1944 in New Guinea as the 236th Army Band. It formally became the 9th Army Band on May 17, 1947.

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