By Kerry Drager, Correspondent
Music is a powerful, sincere way to connect with the world. It is universal and an intricate part of human culture. Stories of courage, loss and motivation can be found in the lyrics and notes of song. Ashley Maciej of Swanville is beginning a life journey in discovering her role in music and helping U.S. troops find the momentum to keep marching.
By the 10th grade, Maciej had made the decision that she would join the military upon high school graduation. She explored her employment options within the military while visiting Camp Ripley. Many options were available to her, including an Air Craft Fueler, but her talents called her into a field she was better-suited for.
“I’ve been in band since the fourth grade. My band teacher mentioned the military band and told me I should get in contact with the correct person. I did and auditioned with the chief. He told me that he liked the way I played. I needed to practice, but he’d give me a shot,” said Maciej.
Music became an important part of Maciej’s life after her mother passed away. She found her mom’s golden trumpet and wanted to learn how to play it. Her teacher gave her a music book and gave her lessons. She later self-taught herself to play other instruments, including the piano, drum line-ups and her sister’s clarinet.
The military will help fine-tune her skills with the trumpet and reading music. She has already completed some of her training at Rosemount National Guard Training and Community Center and has earned her way up into a higher tier of her profession.
“I was just promoted to E-2. I’m waiting to become an E-4 Specialist. It’s a bigger title with a little better pay. They pay you every time you do a drill and perform for people,” said Maciej
She will need to finish her basic training at Fort Lauderdale, Mo., which she is leaving for in September. After a visit home for Christmas, she will continue training into February. Upon completion of basic training, she will join the A-Team and will begin advanced training in music.
“I will learn everything there is to learn about music. The different ways to read music and the different ways to play it.”
The military band plays for events like parades, patriotic performances and memorial services. Many of the songs that the military band plays represent certain wars and times. Memorizing a wide array of songs will be Maciej’s main task.
Currently enrolled in a six-year contract, she dedicates one weekend a month and two weeks a year to the National Guard. At the six-year mark, a decision will have to be made on if she would like to enroll for another six years. If her services are needed while she is enrolled, she will be excused from work or school so that she may perform.
“Since I haven’t gone to basics, I can only do one drill a month. When I get back from basic, I’ll be able to do as many parades and performances as they want.”
Maciej has plans to enroll in college by next fall. She hopes to continue her career in music by obtaining a psychology degree in music therapy. Her life struggles led her to music and she understands how therapeutic it can be for those who are suffering.
“It’s a type of art. When I was having a bad day, I would go to music class. That would change my mood,” she said.
The military issued Maciej a silver trumpet but is allowed to use her mother’s instrument if she pleases. She is thrilled to have a sleek, silver trumpet, but the gold one is sentimental and has been her instrument since she was 10 years old.
Music has guided Maciej through heartbreak and loss to ambition and a chance at a meaningful future. She is nervous but is not afraid. The rich sound of her trumpet will help guide her through the testing times that were promised to her when she enlisted.
“Always expect the worst but hope for the best in the military. You never know what is going to happen,” said Maciej.