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Indiana Soldier gains confidence through musical talents

By Staff Sgt. Ashley Westfall | Indiana National Guard | Dec. 7, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS - A quiet 17-year-old from the band halls of R. Nelson Snider High School discovered a lot about herself when she decided to join the military to pursue her love of music.

"I was a passive and quiet band geek that lived and breathed band hall," said Staff Sgt. LeeAnn Boaz."First period was band and orchestra, second period was choir, third period was music theory and fourth period would be either math or English."

During her senior year in high school Boaz began taking college courses to continue her education in music. Later receiving her bachelor's degree in psychology as it was the closest field to music therapy that Indiana University Purdue University offered.

Boaz recalled taking a personality test at the university called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. It was no surprise to Boaz that her results were introversion, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving or INFP. Although these results were against the Myers-Briggs military personality type, it did not discourage her from pursuing the military.

"I knew I wanted to join the military but I also wanted to be a professional musician," said Boaz."So I began reaching out to recruiters in search of a military band."

After meeting with local Navy and Air Force recruiters Boaz said a friend told her about the 38th Infantry Division Band in Indianapolis. Since she was already attending a local college she said it felt like the perfect opportunity. In September 2004 Boaz began her journey as a Hoosier Guard member when she joined the Indiana Army National Guard.

After completing her basic Soldier training, she was assigned to the 38th Infantry Division Band as a bassoon instrumentalist. She recalled dusting off a bassoon that had not been touched in decades and with all eyes on her, she played her first warm-up tune.

Boaz continued to perform and excel as the primary bassoonist but eventually her vocal talents resonated with her bandmates. At a young age she performed with the Indianapolis Children's Choir but for Boaz being a vocalist came second to the bassoon. In 2009 the Defense Department asked Boaz to participate in a pilot program for military vocalist4 at The School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia.

"Knowing Boaz, I wholeheartedly believe this attributed to her increased level of self-confidence and elevated her ability to perform in front of an audience," said Lt. Col. Lisa Kopczynski, the officer in charge of Indiana National Guard vocalists.

Boaz now performs with the 38th Infantry Division Band and the ceremonial unit music section. She has become the lead vocalist for the Indiana National Guard and is often asked to sing at venues like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana War Memorial, which strengthened her character as a leader and noncommissioned officer.

"From these experiences her stage presence and ability to connect to any audience took flight," said Kopczynski."She has continued to excel in her performance, guiding her to be the leader she is today."

By 2013 Boaz was working full time for the Guard and was married with a second child on the way. This pregnancy brought new challenges for Boaz that significantly changed her path as a service member. Her son was delivered through a cesarean section surgery, which she said led to a very difficult and traumatic recovery. She had worked so hard to stay fit and healthy through the pregnancy so that she would not struggle through her next annual physical fitness test or APFT.

"You don't realize how much you use your abdomen until it is cut open," said Boaz."I vowed to get back up within four weeks, so that I could start getting ready for my fitness test."

Boaz said running was never her strength and she always struggled to pass her annual fitness test. After all, music was her passion, not fitness. She recalled the negative criticism she received in high school when she tried out for cross country. She said that broke down her confidence as a runner, but she knew it was time to overcome that fear. So Boaz built up the courage to ask coworkers if she could join them during their morning or afternoon runs.

"I had no idea I could enjoy running, but they gave me so much positive feedback and inspiration, that I ran my first 5K on Oct 13, 2013, just one month after my C-section" said Boaz.

From that day forward Boaz completed dozens of races to include two mini marathons. In 2016 she received her first APFT badge and she said she felt healthier than ever, which lifted her confidence as a runner. It was at that time that Boaz knew she was ready for another challenge, so she signed up for the Master Fitness Trainer course.

Arriving at the MFT course Boaz felt she was at the bottom of the totem pole and being only one of two women at the course, the atmosphere was intimidating. Feeling more confident than ever, Boaz fought through the physical and mental obstacles and completed the course in April 2017.

Boaz said she is now working on her license to be a civilian fitness trainer and nutritionist, something she never felt a shy bandsman would achieve. She now enjoys fitness and brings that with her on training weekends where she plans and executes fitness events for the 38th ID Band.

"Her leadership and knowledge as the unit Master Fitness Trainer has helped the unit achieve the best pass or fail APFT percentage in several years," said Sgt. 1st Class Angela Seeley, readiness noncommissioned officer for the band.

"If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would ever be a confident fitness leader for my unit, I would have said you are crazy," said Boaz.

Curious about how Myers-Briggs would now rate her personality type, Boaz retook the test in March. She now rates as extroversion, intuitive, feeling and perceiving or ENFP personality type. She understood her previous personality type, but that did stop her from taking a chance to become a military musician.

So that's how one shy band geek transformed into an extrovert and a confident leader in the Indiana Army National Guard.