What: 234th Army Band of the Oregon National Guard


• 2 p.m. Sunday — Empire Builders Concert Band at Tower Theater, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

• 7 p.m. Monday — Empire Builders Concert Band at Madras Performing Arts Center, 412 SE Buff St.

• 6:30 pm. Tuesday — General Dischord Classical Ensemble at Wille Hall, COCC, 2600 NW College Way, Bend 6:30pm

• 1 p.m. Wednesday — 45 Away Rock Band at Pioneer Park, 237-259 NE Elm St., Prineville

• Noon Wednesday — Brass Ops Brass Band at Deschutes Historical Museum, 129 NW Idaho Ave., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: facebook.com/234tharmyband

Marches, jazz, rock and more are on tap as the 234th Army Band of the Oregon National Guard returns to perform several concerts in Bend, Prineville and Madras as part of its annual two-week tour.

Though the band travels around the state annually, this year’s tour is special, said Staff Sgt. Ryan Cloutier.

“Our band goes back to 1919,” Cloutier said, and this year’s tour celebrates its centennial.

According to the 234th Army Band’s official history, the group first convened under the name Band section, Service Company, 162nd Infantry Regiment on June 20, 1919. In September 1940, the band was inducted into federal service. During World War II, it traveled to the South Pacific, where it participated in the campaigns at Luzon, New Guinea, and the Southern Philippines, earning the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for service. In 1947, the band was renamed the 234th Army Band, as it remains today.

The full, 40-member big band is known as the Empire Builders Concert Band, performing Sunday in Bend and Monday in Madras. Each of its players also plays in one of three smaller ensembles, also playing around Central Oregon during the tour’s Central Oregon stop: General Dischord, a 10-member woodwind ensemble, appears Tuesday at Wille Hall on Central Oregon Community College’s Bend campus; 45 Away, a rock ensemble, plays Wednesday at Pioneer Park in Prineville; finally, Brass Ops will bring 10 horns to Deschutes Historical Museum at noon on Wednesday.

Empire Builders’ program is built around the centennial.

“We’re basically doing a band history and music that the band would have performed during different eras, like World War I, World War II, the Vietnam era and then current.”

From 45 Away, one might hear contemporary songs such as “Uptown Funk” along with classics such as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Brass Ops focuses on jazzy tunes, such as the swinging “Jump Jive an Wail.” But don’t be surprised to hear ’80s pop classic “Walking on Sunshine” in its set list.

Cloutier, a bassoonist, plays in General Dischord, the woodwind ensemble.

“We mix it up. We do classical — we’re doing a couple of arias — featuring our vocalist, First Sergeant Tasha Cruz,” he said. “We’re doing some Bizet, and then we do some kind of popular stuff,” including The Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” Queen’s “Killer Queen,” and John Williams’ “Princess Leia’s Theme” from “Star Wars.”

Among the marches General Dischord plans to play is a rarity titled “Beaver March,” written in 1959 by a former member of the 234th Army Band.

“No one’s heard (it) before,” Cloutier said. “We’re incorporating that as part of our history. And then all the groups will do a medley of service songs at the end of our programs to kind of honor the veterans in our audience, and just in general.”

The flexible configuration of big band and smaller ensembles allows for some 80 concerts a year. Band members hail from around Oregon and southern Washington.

Cloutier does a lot of arranging for Empire Builders and General Dischord. Prior to joining, he played in the Marine Forces Pacific Band in Hawaii from 1997 to 2001, after which he moved to Oregon and joined the National Guard. He’s been with the 234th Army Band since 2006. The band tours every summer as part of its annual training, performing concerts for the residents of Oregon and beyond.

“They say one weekend a month, two weeks a year” in the National Guard, Cloutier said. “Our two weeks a year, that’s our concert tour.”

Based in Clackamas, the 234th Army Band visits different regions of the state each year.

“Geographically, we cannot cover everyone everywhere in two weeks,” said Chief Warrant Officer Ashley Alexander, who leads the band along with Cruz. “We’ll break it up like, I-5 corridor, Eastern Oregon, Oregon Coast.”

Because of Central Oregon’s location, they’re able to swing through more frequently — about every two years, Alexander said. But don’t sleep on this year’s visit.

“We try to do really entertaining shows,” he said. “It’s family-friendly. Bring everyone down. We honor the veterans. It’s one of our big focuses. If they have served, or know a family member that served, they should come down. They will leave feeling a greater sense of community and pride in themselves.”