Up & Coming Weekly

November 08, 2022

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 13 of 28

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NOVEMBER 9 - 15, 2022 UCW 13 Soldier makes musical impact on and off post by HANNAH LEE Despite growing up in San Antonio — an Air Force Town — Kristopher Vargas never thought about joining the military. He instead wanted to gig around the country with his trumpet. However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, gigs dried up, and Vargas needed work. "I actually ended up doing construction for a year once COVID hit and didn't play at all for about a year," Vargas said. "I was like, 'Okay, something's got to give.' And then there was a band liaison — that's kind of a band recruiter — who reached out to me and talked about auditioning." In late 2020, Vargas auditioned and enlisted in the Army. Last year, right out of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, Vargas was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division All- American Band. e 82nd Airborne Division All-American Band and Chorus provide music to Fort Bragg and the local area telling the Army story in support of sol- diers and their families, community and recruiting initiatives, and music education programs. Since 2016, the band has included several ensembles: Ceremonial Band, Brass Quintet, Woodwind Quin- tet, Jazz Ensemble, Rock Ensemble, Concert Band and the All-American Chorus. His experience working with the band in the Army has been moving. Some of the missions of the musicians are to play for ceremonies, special events and presidential visits. Spc. Vargas was selected to play for President Joe Biden's visit last year during anksgiving Week. "I had been here maybe four or five months, and they selected a brass quintet — five of us to go and play for President Biden. And, you know, he rolled up at Pope Field and it was just like, 'okay, woah,' that was a cool experience," Vargas said. "at was my first introduction to the Army and Fayetteville and Fort Bragg." Despite the big welcome at Fort Bragg by playing for the president, Vargas says he is always humbled by the other missions he and the entire band is tasked to do. "Everything that you do in the Army bands, every little mission you do, whether it is playing for a retirement home, playing for the president or something like playing at a school for kids — every- thing has a deeper meaning to it," he said. Some occasions offer something special, he said, like playing for retirements. "We played two retirements yesterday for people who were really special," Vargas said. "e biggest honor of it all is memorials and funerals. at is a part of the job that unfortunately does accompany the bands," he said. Vargas is one out of seven at Fort Bragg who is approved to play the bugle at funerals and memo- rials. For many funerals, a pre-recorded "Taps" is played. "It's an incredible experience. It's humbling. It's something that is heavy, but it's reserved for buglers. So there's a lot of people in our band field who don't get to do it, only the trumpet players do it, and there's an etiquette to it when you play," Vargas said. "I played 'Taps' for the Gold Star ceremony for the JFK Special Forces School ... they were adding these names [to the Memorial Wall] and the Gold Star families were there. So it never gets lost on me." Vargas said band members are not necessarily at the front lines, like "our colleagues that we admire so much ... this is the way that we chose to serve and that we are fortunate enough to serve. It's what we learned how to do. And if this is the only way that we can help and serve then we're all for it." When he arrived to the Fayetteville area, Vargas was busy with the band, and his wife got a job at a local high school. He initially didn't want to do gigs out in town. "I actually was pretty adamant about not gigging before, and my wife was totally on board with it because, I mean, we never had a dinner together," Vargas said. "I worked every single night, like every major holiday was spent at some venue or club or something." His first encounter with the Fayetteville Sym- phony Orchestra was at one of their Symphony on Taps performances at the District House of Taps. e Jazz Trio from the symphony was playing and Vargas struck up a conversation with them. "ey asked me if I wanted to sit in with them and play, and I said 'no' because I didn't even have a horn. So I was leaving and I went, I got in my car, I realized that I did have it. So I grabbed my horn and I went back," Vargas said. "I played with them and they were like, 'who are you and where did you come from?'" at stroke of luck of having his trumpet with him brought him into the musical arena of Fayetteville. He, at first, started to be a substitute trumpet player with the FSO. By getting more in- volved, he found out about the Cape Fear Regional eatre. He played during the production of "e Color Purple," is currently in "e Odd Couple," and is getting ready for "Matilda: the Musical" in a few months. "I really enjoyed bringing whatever experience it was that I had from having worked in a big city and bringing that. And a lot of people who live here in Fayetteville, like, seemed really appreciative of it. And so I just kept doing that, started with that. And then my wife wanted to also continue playing. So we started volunteering with the Fayetteville Com- munity Band." Vargas is now leading the Jazz Group with the symphony. But as usual with the military, once you start getting into the flow of things, buying a house and start putting down roots, a military PCS move is right around the corner. "And just as soon as we're kind of getting going, we're going to be leaving here pretty soon. So it's kind of a bummer, but I've really enjoyed my time here in Fayetteville. Everybody's really appreciative and hospitable, and everybody has some type of tie to Fort Bragg or the Army," Vargas said. "ey understand the complexities of this life and why sometimes you can't commit to something, but it's been great." at PCS move may be to Mons, Belgium. Var- gas recently applied for a position in the SHAPE International Band. is band is part of NATO and is made up of 18 professional musicians from the United States Armed Forces as well as musicians from other allied countries. e now 29-year-old is looking forward to the future playing in military bands across the world. "Heading to Belgium is kind of a dream come true and we'll see where we go after that. We're in it for the long haul, and I'm looking forward to doing whatever it is that I can do to make an impact and support the preservation of Army bands and also helping drive whatever it is that I can do as one, you know, one individual." HANNAH LEE, Assistant Editor. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com. 910-484-6200. COVER Above: Spc. Kristopher Vargas warms up during rehearsal on Fort Bragg. Right: Vargas plays trumpet during a ceremony as part of the 82nd Airborne Division All-American Band. (Photos courtesy Kristopher Vargas)

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