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Army Band commander giving keynote address at SUNY Potsdam’s commencement

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POTSDAM -U.S. Army Band Leader and Commander Colonel Thomas H. Palmatier ‘75 is used to taking the stage before important audiences — including presidents and world leaders.

But on May 19, he will address a different kind of accomplished group — the SUNY Potsdam Class of 2013, whom he will join as the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Music degree.

Col. Palmatier will return to his alma mater for the college’s 2013 Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony at 10:15 a.m. May 19 in the Academic Quad. The Crane School of Music alumnus will offer the keynote address to approximately 750 bachelor’s graduates, along with hundreds of their family members and friends.

“SUNY Potsdam is proud to welcome Thomas Palmatier back to campus as our bachelor’s Commencement speaker, and to bestow him with the fitting honor of a doctorate of music from the State University of New York,” college President Dr. John F. Schwaller said. “As the senior musician in the Department of Defense, Colonel Palmatier has set an example of leadership through the arts, and has shown steadfast support for music education across the nation, and at Potsdam in particular.”

Originally from Ballston Spa, Col. Palmatier earned his Bachelor of Music degree, magna cum laude, in applied music from SUNY Potsdam in 1975, and went on to earn his Master of Fine Arts degree in music from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. He also later completed a Master of Strategic Studies degree from the U.S. Army War College. Col. Palmatier was honored with the 2010 Minerva Award by the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association.

Col. Palmatier was appointed ninth leader and commander of the U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” in August 2011. He previously served as commander and conductor of the U.S. Army Field Band, making him the first officer to command both of the Army’s top premier bands. Also, he has served as commandant of the U.S. Army School of Music, responsible for the training of Army Band soldiers and officers for the Army’s 106 bands worldwide. His previous assignments include commander of the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, executive officer to the Adjutant General of the Army, and serving as the Department of the Army Staff Bands officer, overseeing band activities for all Active, Reserve and National Guard bands. He is currently the senior military musician in the Department of Defense. His professional affiliations include the prestigious American Bandmasters Association, the National Band Association and the North American Brass Band Association, of which he is past president.

Among his accomplishments, Col. Palmatier has led the White House Herald Trumpets, performing at every ceremony the president of the United States attended, and supervised the group during the opening ceremonies for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

In addition, he conducted the first foreign band to perform inside the Kremlin, in honor of the 60th anniversary of V-E Day. He has conducted performances at five Presidential Inaugurations. Throughout his more than three and a half decades of distinguished service in the U.S. Army, Col. Palmatier has received numerous honors, to include three awards of the Legion of Merit. He was the first Army Band officer to earn both the Parachutist and Air Assault Badges, and earned the right to wear a combat patch for service in El Salvador and Iraq. In 2012, Col. Palmatier was named a Distinguished Member of the Regiment by the Adjutant General’s Corps.

His support for his alma mater has been unwavering, as he has returned to campus to lead masterclasses and conduct at The Crane School of Music, as well as for the Crane Youth Music camp.

Col. Palmatier has also generously established the Band Guest Artist Fund at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music to provide financial support for Crane’s band program in order to raise the program’s national profile. Palmatier’s fund provided financial support for the inaugural Band Guest Artist residency in March 2013 by Dr. Frank Battisti, conductor emeritus of the New England Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble and the past president of the College Band Directors National Association.

Palmatier and his wife, Shirley, are campaign leadership donors for Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam, which aims to raise $27 million to support the SUNY Potsdam student experience by the college’s bicentennial in 2016.

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