On-Corps Group Unites Veterans in Community Music-Making Endeavors

Elizabeth Dale

A newly formed group, On-Corps, brings veterans together and harnesses their shared experiences in the military to bolster their community and make music.

On-Corps, a group formed at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is bringing together military veterans to form a musical community that emphasizes shared experiences as they create music. The program is led by the Director of the School of Music at The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Tracy Cowden and former commander of the Air Force Band of the West, Dean Zarmbinski. At the encouragement of Dr. Roy Ernst and using a model similar to the New Horizon's International Music Association, the group provides a valuable community music-making opportunity for those who have served in the U.S. military.

After a handful of rehearsals, Cowden reflected on the group's success, "I see the benefits of intergenerational connection as the veterans get to know the UTSA School of Music student and faculty mentors, and among the veterans as they represent a wide range of ages, years of service, and military branches. But the shared experience as veterans and now, as music learners, has the potential to provide significant benefits to their well-being over time, which is a goal of this program."

New Horizons On-Corps

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Zarmbinski spoke about the program, saying, “There are many in the veteran community who don't have the opportunity to engage with other adults, especially other veterans with a shared experience. Many have suffered injuries or gone through difficulties related to their military service. I've been heartened to see how something as simple as learning to play an instrument can become an important way for these veterans to relate to others and engage in their community. Friendships are developing, group cohesion is beginning to happen, and they're proud of what they're doing. As the program grows, I hope that it becomes an integral part of the support system found here in San Antonio for its enormous veteran population.”

The veteran-centric program aims to provide music-making opportunities to our nation’s servicemembers, a holistic approach accepted by most leading professionals that making music can be used as a therapeutic approach to aid veterans seeking to improve their mental health.

In initiating this collaborative approach to offering music-making opportunities to veterans, Ernst says, “My hope is to one day see a band, comprised of veterans, marching in the President’s inaugural parade or the Rose Bowl Parade.”

For more information from UTSA, including its programs, please visit https://music.utsa.edu/index.php/site_url