Lennon bus makes stop at Fort Gillem

By Ed Brock

Fascination shone in the eyes of Rebecca Reyes as she watched musical engineer Galen Panosh demonstrate a high tech piece of equipment on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

"My daughter is into music, she plays the drums," Reyes said. "I'd like for her to see this, to see what's out there."

Young people like Reyes' 17-year-old daughter are the target audience for the tour, which made a stop at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park on Friday and Saturday.

Sponsored by the United Services Organization (USO) the bus' current tour is taking it around the country to give military personnel and their family an opportunity to learn the inner workings of the music business. The bus is a mobile recording studio with a drum set, guitar and other instruments and equipment for producing any form of music and videos.

"If they've never touched the drums before or guitars then we'll teach them," said Robert Healy, one of three California-based musicians who tours with the bus. "It turns out to be fun for everybody and that's the whole point, to have fun and to learn."

Just sitting in the bus and watching music videos recorded by high school students in other states where the bus had been was enough to inspire Col. Angela Manos, commander of Forts Gillem and McPherson.

"What makes this important is that so many schools now can't afford instruments," Manos said.

Teaching children about making music rounds off their education, Manos said.

"The younger you can get them involved in it the better," Manos said.

Manos said she would like to arrange to have the bus visit at the same time that the annual Army Soldiers' Show comes to town.

This is the second year for the tour but Mary Lou Austin, head of the USO center at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said this is the first time for the bus to visit here.

"It's a unique program," Austin said. "It brings a whole new dimension to the USO program."

Healy, Panosh and fellow musician Jeff Sobel conducted tours of the bus on Friday and on Saturday they were scheduled to have eight people on the bus to record their own music video.

Reyes, a retired Army master sergeant now living in Jonesboro, said on Friday that she would bring her daughter to see the bus that afternoon. Christina Dozier of Hampton visited the bus for her musically inclined husband.

"I told him I got an e-mail about it and I'd come check it out," Dozier said.

Outside the bus, 20-year-old USO volunteer Amy Mussel was hoping to get some tips on her piano playing.

"I haven't had a chance to really talk to them yet," said Mussel, who said she plays Christian music and jazz.

"Jazz is what I really like," Mussel said.

The bus is an offshoot of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. For more information on the tour or the contest call 1-888-884-5572 or go to www.jlsc.com.