Dedication and distance: Army bandsman goes the extra mile for the 202nd

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By: Spc. Michelle Waters, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Staff Sgt. Michael Embury plays the bassoon with his Music Performance Team with the 202nd Army Band in Frankfort, Ky., on Feb. 6.

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Whether it’s a difficult set of chords, or 13 miles on pavement, Kentucky National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael Embury puts a tremendous amount of dedication into his two passions: music and running.

“He truly is a great guy and leader,” said Sgt. Sharon Cates, a clarinetist with the Kentucky National Guard’s 202nd Army Band.  “He is always there to help someone along with their PT or their music.

“He’s always willing to put in extra hours to train a Soldier with running or to help them with difficult music selections.  You just know that, with music, he is truly doing what he loves,” she said.

Embury’s fascination with music began in the 5th grade, when notes on paper where nothing more than secret codes.  Using his imagination, Embury would decipher the codes, unscrambling the keys to sweet songs with his trumpet.

In 1993, Embury joined the Guard’s 202nd Army Band where he played trumpet on drill weekends and annual training to help pay for tuition expenses of college. He mastered his craft at Eastern Kentucky University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education in 1996.

In 2004, Embury found himself in the student’s seat again working towards a master’s degree in education at Miami University in Ohio. He was forced to learn a new instrument to complete the program.  The choice was simple—the bassoon.  But not because he was overly enthusiastic about the woodwind instrument; rather because the 202nd was in need of a bassoonist or it wouldn’t have a complete ensemble.

“It’s quite an accomplishment for a musician to go from a three fingered brass instrument to a required 10-fingered woodwind instrument in such a short amount of time,” Cates said.  “It takes tremendous dedication to and have the willingness to consistently practice on your own time.”

For Embury, it was merely something that he felt he needed to do to help out his unit, but it was a bonus to his career.

“This really isn’t about me at all,” Embury said. “It’s about them.”

They are Embury’s Soldiers.  More than forty musicians assigned to the Kentucky National Guard’s 202nd Army Band.  No matter what accolades the unit gives him, Embury is quick to remember the band mates he plays with.

“It’s such an exhilarating experience to have the opportunity to perform on stage with such accomplished musicians,” he said.  “I love my job.”

The only thing as exhilarating as sitting on stage behind the hot lights making music with other Guardsmen is the runner’s high Embury experiences each time his foot hits the pavement crossing the finish line of

Staff Sgt. Michael Embury, who is a member of the Kentucky Army National Guard Marathon Team, performs physical training during the 202nd band’s drill weekend in Frankfort, Ky., Feb 6.

another marathon.

“It’s a rush.  Of course, running is made easier by playing instruments because of breathing. I just really enjoy it,” he said. “Running is no different than playing an instrument. If you want to be good at it, you have to devote time to work at it.”

In 2010, Embury joined the Kentucky National Guard’s marathon team because it seemed like a fun and exciting challenge.

He’s a consistent top contender in most of the half marathons he’s participated in, with a recent 1st place for his age group at the Erie Half Marathon in Erie, Pa., and 1st in the military division for the Army Half Marathon in November.

“It feels great to be able to devote yourself to something and see the hard work pay off,” said Embury.

Embury hopes to eventually attend the Advanced Non-Commissioned Officers Course in the next year.

“I had a brief break in service a few years back. While I was out, I realized how much I missed it because it was like a second family. It’s my goal to continue my career in the Guard and enjoy every minute of it,” he said.

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