When Frankfort native Ben Garnett graduated from college with a music degree, he worried his trumpet would sit neglected in its case as he moved on to adulthood and its responsibilities.
He knew his days of playing the school band were over, but he wasn’t ready to give up music. So he enlisted in the 100th Army Band, a reserve unit stationed at Fort Knox.
“If I hadn’t gone this route, my trumpet would probably be collecting dust in the closet right now,” he said by phone from Louisville, where he lives.
Garnett and his fellow band members will take the stage tonight at the next installment of the 2012 Summer Concert Series. The show starts at 7 p.m. on the Old Capitol lawn.
The band includes nearly 40 soldiers who split their time between the military and civilian life, where they hold regular jobs throughout Kentucky and surrounding states.
Garnett also works as a sound technician for Axxis Inc. at the Galt House in Louisville. The 2002 graduate of Franklin County High School joined the band four years ago after earning a bachelor’s degree in music business from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.
“I think it happens to a lot of people – once they are out of school, music kind of takes a backseat to having a job and paying rent,” he said.
“But the benefits to being in the Army were terrific. I pick up a paycheck for playing music, and I also get training and experience, so I went for it, and it’s been great ever since.”
Besides serving their “one weekend a month and two weeks a year” commitment to the Army Reserves, the musicians play several gigs a month of their own choosing.
Whenever they get an invite to perform, band members take an informal poll to see who’s available, Garnett said.
“If we get enough people to make a band, then we’re good to go – we can usually make it happen,” he said.
“Sometimes we’re very busy, and sometimes we’re not, but we average three or four times a month.”
They play for military events, community concerts and town parades – just as long as it’s free of cover charges or ticket fees, Garnett said. The band appeared in Frankfort twice last year, first at the Candlelight Tour and then the Christmas parade.
The group can morph from a traditional concert band or marching band to a brass quintet, jazz band or rock band, Garnett said.
Often it’s the ensembles that travel to play, since a smaller group is easier to organize and transport. Tonight’s concert will feature all but two of the members, he said.
With four years in, Garnett said he’s “still one of the new guys.” The band is expecting several new members, and soon the Army will allow vocalists and sound technicians to audition too.
Besides being musicians, the band members are regular soldiers. They go through basic training, physical fitness and have other roles – Garnett works in public affairs and recruiting for the group.
He said the Army Reserves is “a fantastic opportunity” for musicians who want to stick with their craft.
It also pays for soldiers’ education. The Army is helping Garnett pay off his undergraduate student loans, and he plans to apply for a master’s degree in communications at the University of Louisville with additional tuition assistance.
Garnett, the son of Dave Garnett and Chris Kellogg, said he’s looking forward to playing for his hometown crowd.
“I’ve been going to the Summer Concert Series since I was 5, but this is the first time I’ve been on stage for it,” he said.
“The performance will be a lot of fun, and we’ll play different styles of music, so come out and see us.”
The best way to contact the band is online at facebook.com/100thArmyBand.