When Ken Wiesman was a boy growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, his parents insisted that the Wiesman kids take music lessons. So, when he was in third grade, Ken started piano lessons.
"I was the youngest in the family and all my brothers and sisters played piano and one other instrument," he said.
Wiesman has loved music and performing ever since and it has stayed with him all his life.
When he got older, he enlisted in the US Army Reserves and served as a combat engineer. Then he heard the army was auditioning for players in army bands. He decided to give it a try and he won a spot in a military band.
Now he is a member of the 399th Army Band, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. As a member of the band, Sgt. 1st Class Wiesman came to Neosho this week to entertain the veterans who attended the Veterans Fish Derby.
A select group of musicians in Delta Company formed to make a small jazz band that kept the crowd happy during the derby. They played mostly jazz and classic rock, and even though the veterans were fishing and volunteers were working, everyone was enjoying the music as exemplified by swaying bodies and tapping toes.
Sgt. Wiesman has served in the military for 19 years, putting in time in Germany, Alabama, Hawaii, New York, Iraq and now Missouri. He has enjoyed his service as an army musician, having played for presidents, vice-presidents and foreign heads of state.
Although he is proud to have performed for dignitaries, he most enjoys playing for ordinary soldiers. He thinks music is good for their morale. Overseas, he enjoyed playing for U.S. soldiers and for the soldiers of coalition forces.
This is the second year the musicians from Fort Leonard Wood have performed at the Veterans Fishing Derby. This is Sgt. Wiesman's first trip, but he heard good things about it last year, so this year he volunteered.
In a few years, Sgt. Wiesman is will retire from the army, but he won't retire from music. He's hoping to get involved in community theater.
"I love local theater," he said. "But I'm not an actor and don't want to be on stage. I want to be in the orchestra pit."
Sgt. Wiesman and the other musicians had a good time performing in Neosho and they even took a little time to fish. Most caught their limit, and they were looking forward to a fish dinner when they got back to Fort Leonard Wood.
A man who likes fishing and likes Neosho — that makes him a prime candidate for this week's good neighbor.