In honor of Veterans Day, we salute current and former members of our country's Armed Forces. The Minnesota Orchestra is fortunate to have a number of military veterans among our current and retired musicians and staff. We asked some of them to tell us about their military experience and how it contributed to their roles in the Minnesota Orchestra.
Julie Gramolini Williams, oboe
As a member of the United States Air Force from 2002 through 2004, oboist Julie Gramolini Williams served as a Senior airman and Principal Oboe for the USAF Band of the West, also performing with the band’s woodwind quintet and working in both the music library and the auditions department. Williams comes from a long line of military veterans, including her father—a recipient of two purple hearts—who fought with the Army in Vietnam. In addition, both of her grandfathers served, one in the Merchant Marines and one who fought in World War II and the Korean War as a member of the Navy. Three of her uncles are veterans, one each having served in the Air National Guard, Marine Corps and the Army.
The photo above was taken during a ceremony in which Williams (along with the other members in the band) was awarded The Air Force Achievement Medal.
“I was proud to serve my country in the way I best could (by playing the oboe) especially after 9/11 occurred; a time when this country needed healing,” Williams said of her military career. “Despite this, I knew that I ultimately wanted to perform in an orchestra. The work that I did in the military gave me the drive to practice hard and achieve my goal of winning an orchestra job.” Within a year of her departure from the Air Force, Williams won a position with the Omaha Symphony, and soon thereafter she earned her current position with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Marcus Valerio, Vice President of Finance and Operations
Also a former member of the Air Force is the Orchestra’s Vice President of Finance and Operations Marcus Valerio, who served as Airman 1st Class and a military policeman from 1994 to 1998, in locations in both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. His brother, uncles and grandparents all had military careers, including service during World War II and in Vietnam.
This photo is from 1995 when Valerio was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Valerio’s military work and current role in finance have something significant in common, as he explains: “The same passion that motivated me to serve in the military also drives my desire to serve the nonprofit community. Through military service, you learn that there is a mission that is greater than any one individual and that each job or skill plays an integral role in accomplishing whatever the mission may be. I have found the same to be true at the Minnesota Orchestra. Whether you are the great Osmo Vänskä, a violinist or an accountant like me, we all have the privilege and passion to live the Orchestra’s mission daily—enriching, inspiring, and serving our community as an enduring symphony orchestra.”
Paul Gunther, retired Minnesota Orchestra Principal Librarian
Paul Gunther retired from his role as Principal Librarian of the Minnesota Orchestra in 2017, after working with the Orchestra for more than 30 years. A skilled percussionist, Gunther was a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969, stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His mother was a U.S. Navy Officer in the Women’s Reserve and his father a U.S. Army Master Sergeant; both served during World War II. Gunther’s military career was his first full-time job and thus started a professional trajectory that led to his long-term post with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Minnesota Orchestra musicians, from left to right: bass player Robert Anderson (Army), oboist Julie Gramolini Williams (Air Force), librarian Paul Gunther (Army), retired bass player Cliff Biggs (Army), retired stage manager Timothy Eickholt (Army), retired trumpet player Ron Hasselmann (Army), retired clarinetist Joseph Longo (Army), retired clarinetist Chester Milosovich (Army), and retired violinist Edward Stack (Air Force)
Robert Anderson, bass
Robert Anderson, a current member of the bass section, joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1974. For the three years prior to his appointment in Minnesota, he was a staff musician in the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” It remains the premiere musical ensemble of the U.S. Army, with its headquarters adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Fort Myer, Virginia.
Anderson noted that the U.S. Army Band is an organization that comprises several bands, an excellent chorus, a jazz and rock band, and a string section. “We string players used to play for state dinners at the White House as well as other White House functions. We also played at the State Department from time to time,” he explained. “Of course, playing for the president could be a rather stressful experience, so this was good training for a long career in performing.”
“This image shows the string section from the current website of U.S. Army Band ‘Pershing's Own.’ When I was in the band there were no women, but now they have many. The band has distinctive blue uniforms that no other branch of the Army wears.” - Robert Anderson
In 1970, a performing career was the goal for Anderson, a recent college graduate—but he also felt that he had additional responsibilities:
“It was during the time of the Vietnam War. Although most of us were eager to move along with our professional careers in the civilian sector, we all knew we had an important job to do, so we took it seriously when it came to performing. I have kept this ethic throughout my career.”
We are grateful to our U.S. military veterans for their dedication and service. Please join us for a special Veterans Day celebration at Orchestra Hall on Saturday, November 10, as the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club performs with the Minnesota Orchestra. Click here for ticket information, including military discounts >>