Washington, D.C. –
U.S. Army Sgt. Vicki Golding has served 29 years in the military– first in the Australian army and reserves, and then 17 years in the District of Columbia Army National Guard. But her career goals are not about progressing in rank or earning retirement. For her, the opportunity to perform as a singer and musician is the reason to remain in uniform.
“My goal as a singer is always to make the audience feel something, to tell a story. If I get an audience member to cry, then my work is done,” Golding says.
“Outside of the military it’s a bit harder to get that. That’s probably one of the reasons why I want to stay in as long as I can–it’s a wonderful opportunity to perform, with a full band, for one thing.”
Golding’s musical education started with her father, an opera singer and brass instrument teacher in Australia. She started playing brass at age 8 and sang with her family performing group.
“The Von Trapp Family Singers -thing was a standard joke among us,” she said, referencing the real-world performing family depicted in “The Sound of Music.”
Graduating conservatory with a degree in Tuba, Golding joined the Australian reserve band in order to make supplemental income and found herself singing more often. After seven years in the reserve, she joined the active duty band.
When emigrating to the U.S., one of her primary goals was to join a top-tier military band based in the D.C-area. In 2005, she found a new musical family in the D.C. National Guard’s 257th Army Band:
“It really is a family and they look after you,” Golding said. “There are lifelong friends I will always have, because of the people in this band.”
Maintaining a civilian career while performing with the 257th and also moonlighting as a gig vocalist, Golding has had a wide variety of experiences– from being the 2006 “Military Idol” singing contest winner to a vocal coach for the 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show and performing National Anthems for major sporting events, singing at military tattoos and events– to performing swanky jazz standards at D.C.’s Ritz-Carlton hotel lounge as a civilian sidenote.
“Getting to perform as part of the military is a huge blessing. It’s a gift, and that I get to do it is an amazing thing.”
At the same time, Golding says she is looking to produce her own show in which she would headline with a group of musicians, and is writing original songs. Following a recent foray into a community theater production of “Pygmalion” (the George Bernard Shaw play the musical “My Fair Lady” is based on), Golding is eager to pursue theater and musicals as well.
“Spoiler alert: I will be singing during the band’s Summer Concert Series in August,” Golding teased.
Being able to present summer public performances is a very welcome change for Golding following COVID-19 challenges and the 257th Band being activated for civil unrest support missions in summer 2020 and following the events of Jan. 6th, 2021. She counts being activated for these difficult missions as the greatest challenges she has faced as a Guardsman.
“Technically speaking, that’s what I signed up for,” she said. “But I (mainly) signed up to do music, to make people happy and bring joy to people’s lives.”
As a member of Colors of Freedom, an off-duty performance group formed of military members from diverse backgrounds and different branches, Golding enjoys collaborating in a racially representative group. But she also brings a bit of musical and global diversity in celebrating her “Australianness” with audiences.
“I was very grateful the Band let me introduce them to an Australian kids’ Christmas song, ‘Six White Boomers.’ The song basically explains that it’s too hot for Santa to get pulled around by reindeer, so his sled is pulled by kangaroos, which we call ‘boomers.’ So when we say ‘Okay, boomer’ it’s got a whole different context,” she joked.
“But it’s this funny little song, and I wrote an arrangement with a bit more ‘oomph’ to it, and the Band just loves it, because it’s new to them. It’s a bit weird for me because I’ve done the song with the Australian army band forever, but when I’m here, it gives me a touch of home. I get to share my Australianness with people and actually get to sing a song in an Australian accent, which is another thing.”
Regardless of what performance opportunities await her, Golding says the lifelong motivation to keep making music is simple:
“I feel the most ‘me’ and the happiest when I’m getting to perform.”
The 257th Army Band’s summer concert series kicks off 7 p.m Thursday, Aug. 4th at Lincoln Park in D.C., with several other performances scheduled throughout the National Capital Region ending Aug. 13th. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/257thArmyBand.