How many of us know someone in the armed forces? Probably a few, but not many (I know I hadn’t before meeting my husband back in 2000).

How many know someone musical, perhaps in a band? I expect this may get a few more head nods than my first question, but still not many.

My first post introduced you to Operation Encore, a group of active-duty and retired U.S. service members who share their experiences through music. These talented artists span the military branches and are now completing their second album. To help the members — many of whom are stationed overseas — connect and collaborate, I introduced them to Cisco Spark.

When I suggested the idea of streamlining communications, the group’s founders called it a “no brainer.” Replacing all the email strings and Facebook messages with a more centralized and dynamic tool was exactly what they needed. Now, using Spark, the group can house and share all their files in dedicated Spark “rooms,” which helps with version control and accessibility. With group messaging, feedback from all team members can be captured in one place. Plus Cisco Spark meetings offer on-demand video conferencing capabilities for live, face-to-face interaction.

A lot of planning is in the works as the November CD launch approaches. In addition to producing the actual CD, Operation Encore needs to complete set lists, work on song arrangements, find sponsors, and organize the event itself. They are even getting a head start on a few new songs for their third album. One of those is Waiting, an original song written by Jerry Maniscalco.

Waiting is a great example of how the group has benefited from Cisco Spark. A Navy helicopter pilot deployed in the Middle East, Jerry’s ability to connect with the Operation Encore team is tough, to say the least. With co-founders Erik Brine based in Washington, D.C., and Rob “Trip” Raymond stationed in Germany, connecting with Jerry in any sort of meaningful way would be almost impossible. But Cisco Spark helps them stay in touch, despite the distance, and get more done.

In the Spark app, they have created a secure, virtual “room” just for Waiting where they discuss vocal arrangements and guitar tones, and agree on final details for the studio back in the States. To lock down the guitar tones, they post audio files and share comments. They can even meet face-to-face over video with a single click. You certainly can’t do all that with email.  

“In the past, we’d be lucky to speak with a deployed artist once or twice over the phone, and then wait for email responses the rest of the time. Collaborating in real-time is a game changer. We are much further along than we ever thought we would be, thanks to the Cisco Spark app.” – Trip Raymond

Recently, Trip and Jerry connected over a Spark Meeting so they could both see the mixing software on Trip’s screen. They experimented with various tones and sound treatments – and in a 30-minute video call accomplished what would have previously taken weeks over email. By the next day, the studio had what it needed to complete the final song mix. And Trip and Jerry were able to shift their focus to their next tasks – musical or otherwise.

Even with the advances we’ve seen in technology over recent years, and new apps entering our lives almost daily, Operation Encore is a great example of how Cisco Spark brings people together in a more effective and satisfying way.

Learn how Cisco Spark can help your organization, and follow Operation Encore on Facebook

To close out this post, I’d like to share more about Operation Encore artist Jerry Maniscalco.

Jerry always wanted to fly, so he joined the United States Naval Academy. After graduating in 2007, he completed three deployments as an SH-60B Seahawk pilot. During his time in the military, he has found that music offers an escape from his high-stress lifestyle. He was even a member of the United States Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club. Now, through his collaboration with Operation Encore, he can share his experience with a broader audience.


Erin Broecker

No Longer with Cisco