Gary Sinise Foundation Blog

A Decade with the Lt. Dan Band

October 29th, 2014

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I’ve had the pleasure of working with Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band for ten years. I came on board a couple of years after the band started, so I’ve been around almost since the beginning.

The opportunity to serve those who serve
has been a life changing experience for me.

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Starting out as an assistant to the band, I learned as I went and gained responsibility over time. Before I knew it, I was flying all over the place on weekends while working a couple of jobs back home and attending school full time. I remember getting permission to miss the last two weeks of class before finals and studying while on the road in Europe, then coming home from tour and fighting through the jetlag to take finals the next day. It wasn’t easy but I thank my professor and mentor for that opportunity because ten years later I’ve seen the world, met lifelong friends and learned how to produce live entertainment.

The band has been all over the world — Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Japan, UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Canada and, of course, across the USA.

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Our band members are professional musicians, educators and colleagues who all have other jobs, live in different cities and come together for our show dates. The band is pretty big, too. There are up to twelve people performing on stage and a handful of crewmembers to make it all happen.

It's been my privilege to help lift the spirits of
thousands of military service members & their families.

As the band’s Tour & Production Manager, I am involved in every aspect of the show from start to finish. It’s my job to get everyone from point A to point B (and point C and D and E and back to A) and ensure the whole show works from a technical standpoint. This means I’m working with band members on a daily basis to take care of their logistics and working with production entities to secure the necessary equipment for each performance. We don’t travel with gear, so every show is a unique scenario that must be “advanced” or thoroughly planned ahead of time.

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In working with this band, I’ve seen every possible show scenario—everything from professional venues, to a fully set stage being dragged across a rodeo arena minutes before the band started, to playing in the Afghan desert on a truck bed in a haze of swirling dust. We’ve flown overseas to Kuwait in a single day to perform a show and have done extensive tours across Europe, Asia and the US that required crazy, near impossible travel logistics. Needless to say, this kind of work requires the ability to multitask, wear many hats and keep a lot of information straight. I’m also the “stunt bassist”. I play bass during sound checks and rehearsals when Gary may be visiting some military folks or doing interviews so I have to know the entire musical repertoire as well.

It’s been a very special ten years being part of Gary’s mission to show our service members that they are appreciated for what they do. I look forward to what lies ahead.

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While it may be a big job, it sure is rewarding. One thing I appreciate about this group is that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make the show happen. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan but everybody is really flexible.

Everyone in the band understands that any inconvenience experienced on the road can’t compare to what our service members & their families can experience in their daily lives.

I also believe I work with the best production crew in the business. They all work in the music or film industry and are awesome at what they do. It’s a team effort and these guys always deliver. We have a really great time together.

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I am grateful to all the volunteers, local crewmembers and organizations that have helped organize, set up and tear down the hundreds of shows we’ve done all these years. I’m especially thankful to all the wonderful folks I’ve worked with to organize these concerts—all MWR, USO, base command, and military and civilian POC’s. Their work is immeasurable and we could not do what we do without them.

And finally, thank you to all those who come out to see the shows.
Military audiences are the best!

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- James M. Stuckmann
Tour & Production Manager
Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band