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2013 in Review


Happy 2014!

Well, we ended last year’s holiday letter by saying we hoped 2013 wouldn’t be as busy as 2012, but if anything it seems to have been a bit busier!

Jari started off the year by guest conducting a high school honor band in New Jersey, performing with pianist Helen Beedle in Roanoke, VA, and beginning plans for a special event to take place at Arlington National Cemetery in November.  We also enjoyed a visit from Heather’s sister Erika in February, even getting an extra day to share together as she was forced to leave her conference in Boston a day early to beat the big blizzard.  More guest conducting in upstate New York in May, and a combination work conference/vacation trip in Florida rounded out the spring for Jari.

The spring was eventful for Heather as she decided in March to resign from her position as Office Manager at Sunlight Natural Health where she had been for 3 years.  After spending several months trying to figure out how to make the job fit Heather, it finally became clear that this really wasn’t Heather’s job!  So April 30 was the last official day of nearly-full-time work, and then a transition to part-time, mostly one day a week, as new staff have been hired and oriented.  Heather is now just “on call” to answer questions as the new office staff learn the ropes, and it’s lovely having so much more time and energy to devote to other priorities.

One of those priorities was the long-awaited garden project that Heather was able to do in May along with lots of help from her best friend Alison, who traveled up from New Orleans to spend a week of hard labor, building raised beds in the back yard.  After moving mountains of soil and mulch (with Jari’s help), Heather was finally able to plant at the end of May, just in time for the hot weather to arrive.  The late planting limited the harvest somewhat, but we were still picking tomatoes up until the end of October, and the last of all the green tomatoes that we picked then just before the first freeze are still ripening in the house!  (And our first-ever fried green tomatoes were really delicious!)  Next year we’re looking forward to planting earlier and taking advantage of all Heather learned this year after not having had a garden for nearly 20 years.  Now this fall the gardening has turned to other yard work, and Heather has been busily weeding, pruning, planting bulbs, and mulching beds, and loving the opportunity to work outside so much.  She also continues with her independent study of holistic healing subjects such as homeopathy, Young Living essential oils, and German New Medicine, and she attended a German New Medicine Advanced Workshop in Vancouver, British Columbia in June.

Jari had the opportunity in 2013 to once again perform with the traditional Finnish-American brass ensemble Ameriikan Poijat (Boys of America) from Minnesota.  No trip to Finland this time, but he really enjoyed being part of their week-long tour of Finnish-American music and culture festivals throughout Minnesota and upper Michigan at the end of June.  Jari was back in Minnesota again in August with the 26th NC Regimental Band for the Vintage Band Music Festival, performing a number of concerts (great audiences!) and participating in a massed “battle of the bands” on the banks of the Cannon River in historic Northfield, MN (site of a famed bank raid by the Jesse James gang).  Jari’s third trip to MN this year was strictly work-related as he attended a conference of Military Funeral Honors Program Managers.

We had a nice little vacation at the apartment in Florida in September, but we hadn’t been back to see family in California since the 50th wedding anniversary of Heather’s parents in June 2011, so we made time for another trip this year.  The family part of the visit was really too short, but we were able to tie it into yet another new adventure, and make it part of a longer trip that included our first cruise!  Jari was invited by Princess Cruises to be part of a special veteran-themed “cruise for a cause” from the Port of Houston to Progreso, Mexico in early November, sounding Taps each evening on the ship and giving a special presentation on the history of Taps and military bugle calls.  He also got the chance to perform three numbers with the ship’s band (great opportunity to feature a couple of the Taps-related pieces that were on the MDDF Band’s “Day is Done” CD from 2011!), and to perform Taps as part of the evening shows by Army veteran and country music superstar Rockie Lynne, who was one of the guest performers on the cruise.  What a great experience!

Of course it wouldn’t be a year in the life of Jari Villanueva if there weren’t something about Taps…  J  This year it was the 50th anniversary of the sounding of Taps at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral by Army Sgt. Keith Clark.  Jari spent the year preparing and organizing and working together with the Clark family and Arlington National Cemetery, along with a new organization called Taps For Veterans, and in November Taps For Veterans put on a very successful event involving about 100 buglers from all across the country, who came together to sound Taps in honor of Keith Clark and that memorable occasion.  With guest speaker James Swanson, guest conductor Colonel Michael Colburn of The President’s Own United States Marine Band, music by The United States Army Band, and participation by Mrs. Clark and several other members of the Clark family, including Sgt. Clark’s brother and three of his daughters, it was really a fitting culmination to the decades that Jari has spent researching the events of November 1963 and the state funeral ceremonies that were held for the late president.


We had to say good-bye to our other lovely kitty Cerridwen in April at the age of 20.  She was pretty strong and healthy almost until the end (even climbed a tree in the yard at the age of 19 ½!), but went downhill very quickly last spring.  Fortunately we were able to be with her when she left us gently in her sleep on Heather’s lap.  It’s made all the traveling easier but it’s been hard adjusting to having no cats in the house after so many years.


Aside from the major events and travels, Jari is still the Director of the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard, overseeing the performance of military funeral honors for over 300 funerals each month in the state of Maryland as well as providing honors for ceremonies and special events.  He still leads the Federal City Brass Band and 26th North Carolina Regimental Band and they’re still in the middle of the 150th anniversary cycle of Civil War re-enactments and commemorations, which continues until 2015.  In addition to the festival in Minnesota, the bands participated in several events in 2013 related to the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg (where the original 26th NC Band played to cheer the troops during the battle), including another battle of the bands entitled “Cornets & Cannons,” which involved members from 16 different bands from across the country, and also one of the 150th anniversary battle reenactments.  In November we also attended the 40th anniversary reunion of Jari’s Patterson High School class of 1973.


Jari and Heather both still serve the state of Maryland as volunteers with the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) Band.  October 2013 marked 5 years since Jari received his commission as a Major in the MDDF, and he still serves as Commander and Conductor of the Band.  Heather holds the rank of Staff Sergeant and serves as woodwind group leader as well as playing flute and piccolo (and tenor sax if needed).  This year she took on the position of Chair of the MDDF Band Promotion Standards Committee to develop unit-specific enlisted promotion standards for the Band, and her committee expects to present their recommendations in early 2014.  The MDDF Band welcomes guest musicians and it was really fun to have Heather’s sister Erika play with the Band for our summer concert, originally scheduled for July but rained out and rescheduled for September.  Erika was able to arrange her vacation schedule to accommodate the rescheduled concert so that was quite special.  Two great concerts are planned by the MDDF Band for 2014.  On May 5 we will reprise our baseball concert, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Baltimore Orioles.  (Check out YouTube for some recordings of this concert last time we performed it!)  And in the summer and fall we will be presenting a special concert featuring music of The Star-Spangled Banner, commemorating the bicentennial of our national anthem in September!


Jari continues to do his JV Music contracting and arranging, including an arrangement in 2013 of “Funeral March for Abraham Lincoln” by J. G. Barnard that was performed by the Cleveland Winds, conducted by Loras Schissel, and his updated website at has really been doing well.  Expect to see several new arrangements available in 2014.  If you’re on Facebook and you haven’t connected with Jari yet, please do!  You can also follow his many activities through Facebook groups such as the 26th NC Regimental Band, Federal City Brass Band, MDDF Band, and Taps For Veterans.


We wish you and your loved ones an amazing and blessed 2014 filled with excellent health, abundant prosperity, wonderful music, and much love and happiness.

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