Skip to comments.Military bands offer musicians great jobs, similar challenges to orchestras
Posted on 07/18/2014 9:18:42 AM PDT by Borges
In musical circles, theres a lot of disgruntlement that the government doesn't do more to subsidize the arts. In one area, though, the government does plenty. The military is one of the largest employers of musicians in the Washington area;
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Both the Twin Cities have had excellent orchestras for generations. They are starving for money now.
Nobody seems to realize this is an unintended consequence of driving all the rich people out of the state with our confiscatory taxes.
Everyone knows that only pop music is needed. </sarcasm>
We still have Prince.
I don’t know if it’s changed, but in the Corps division band members were also the graves and registration personnel (battlefield corpse finders.)
My niece a very talented flutist tried out for one of the military bands and didn’t make the cut. It must be tough competition because she played a solo with the first chair flutist in the Pitssburg symphony in high school.
If she hasn’t already found a position, tell her to try out again. You never know when you’re going to have the audition of your life, so she should keep trying if that’s what she wants.
It is competitive and most, but not all, members of the military bands based in DC are graduates of music conservatories with master’s degrees.
There are military field bands all over the world, but they require more soldiering than the elite ones do.
Some of the elite bands (President’s Own Marine Band, Navy Band at Annapolis, Pershing’s Own, e.g.) are music only, but I believe all but the President’s Own still require some military training-not sure which ones. The President’s Own requires no military training, but there are strict health and weight requirements.
Even the military bands have suffered severe funding cutbacks. Tours have been cut in half from what they were a few years ago and personnel have been cut (at this point, retirements have sufficed for this). So the opportunities in this area are much less than they used to be, hence more competitive.
My niece has a Masters in performance. She is currently a member of an Ensemble in Pittsburgh and they are recording original music and doing concerts. I think at this point she does not want to move to another city. I think she is still trying to get on with the Pittsburgh symphony and do studio work.
Good for her. Pittsburgh is a nice place to live.
I read an article that listed Pittsburgh as in the top 5 cities with the best quality of life. I was surprised.
There are military field bands all over the world, but they require more soldiering than the elite ones do.
Some of the elite bands (Presidents Own Marine Band, Navy Band at Annapolis, Pershings Own, e.g.) are music only, but I believe all but the Presidents Own still require some military training-not sure which ones. The Presidents Own requires no military training, but there are strict health and weight requirements.
My niece a very talented flutist tried out for one of the military bands and didnt make the cut. It must be tough competition because she played a solo with the first chair flutist in the Pitssburg symphony in high school.
If I am not mistaken, while members of some of the elite military bands dont have to undergo the most grueling basic military training and arent likely to be deployed to a combat unit, all are still members of the military and it still entails military life and all that comes with it, good and bad even if they some have a more flexible assignment. FWIU, you cant audition as a civilian for a military band and expect to remain a civilian.
Many moons ago, my husband was good friends with a fellow he marched with in civilian (DCA) Drum & Bugle corps. IIRC, his friend was a graduate of Peabody Institute in Baltimore with a Masters in Music Theory and was a very talented trumpet player. He auditioned for the Army Band several times before he finally got a spot but had to enlist and had to undergo the rigors of basic training and after several years in the DC area, got shipped off to a base in Germany where he spent the next 8 years along with his wife and then small children.
When he came back state side, he was transferred and stationed in the Virginia Beach area (what was then Fort Story, now the Joint Expeditionary Base East) at the U.S. Army School of Music and he got in touch with my husband and invited us down for the weekend. Super nice guy really nice family.
They had housing right off but very close to the base and the beach and he and his wife took us on a tour of the base which was especially cool as they were having a base open house that weekend lots of military displays and demonstrations for the public. And this military installation was not just an Army base but also had Navy and Naval Air corps personnel IIRC. But being that we were staying with and being accompanied around the base by an Army sergeant, we got to tour some places that other civilian tourists didnt, including a tour of his office and the school of music.
His Army job by then was not performing music anymore but teaching music theory at the school and scoring musical arrangements and even composing a few original pieces of music, mostly original Jazz pieces for various US Army bands (and I think also for Navy and Marine Corps bands) that were perform all over the world.
He loved his job as he was doing what he loved, but he also explained to us that he was still active duty Army. We got there late on a Friday night and after having a light dinner, he went off to bed explaining that he had to get up very early the next morning to complete his required weekly 10 mile run. He also explained that while he loved the VA Beach area and wanted to stay there and he had enough time in and rank and a specialized skill, that it wasnt likely hed be shipped off to some back water base, nothing in the military was guaranteed and even back then (mid 1980s) funding and budget cuts were a concern.
I know present day members of the President’s Own Marine Band. Yes, they enter as staff sergeants and are members of the Marine Corps - not civilians. They are based in DC (Marine Corps barracks at 8th and I SE), and will always remain in DC as long as they are members of the band. This is the case with the four elite bands based in DC and affiliated with the four branches of the military.
It’s a goal of most members to make 20 years, but as you get older, it gets more difficult to endure those outdoor jobs (Arlington, etc.) standing in the 100 deg. heat for hours in wool uniforms. I know, nothing like what combat soldiers endure, but these are just premiere musicians who are chosen for their area of expertise, not hardened combat soldiers.
Members of these bands live in civilian neighborhoods in and around the DC area, not military housing. Those with children of school age seek out neighborhoods with good schools and housing they can afford (a tall order in suburban DC) within commuting distance. DC schools are awful.
There are scheduled events (rehearsals, concerts, ceremonies), but there can always be last minute duty calls, so they are to be available 24/7, even on weekends. They don’t get Sat. and Sun. off unless they ask for it and then it counts as a personal or vacation day. So they can’t make a last minute decision to go out of town “for the weekend”. Days off, weekends included, must be planned and asked for months in advance. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you’re not called by 10 AM and don’t have a previously scheduled event that day, then you have the day off. But you still wouldn’t want to risk going out of town.
Whenever a former president (who has requested a state funeral) gets seriously ill, leave time is suspended for all members. Recently, GHWB was in the hospital with a close call. No leave.
The President’s Own has enough personnel to field two full bands. They also have enough string players for a chamber orchestra and a male and female emcee/vocalist. Plus dozens of support staff.
Half of the band goes on tour every October (used to be six weeks, but that was cut back about five years ago). The half that stays home cannot take leave during Sept. (while those going on tour prepare music for it) or Oct. when the touring half is gone.
There are other “no leave” times like an inauguration.
The President’s Own has one of the largest music libraries in the world and employs seven librarians (all Corps members). They each do different tasks, (preparing music folders, getting copyright permission and arranging for royalties, writing and editing program notes, arranging for music loans, etc.)
You might find this interesting:
If you’re interested, you might consider signing up for the mailing list. Then you’ll be alerted when the band tours to your area and also get alerts of live streaming concerts, which are occurring more and more frequently.
Sounds like an incredible waste of money.
Thanks! I will check that out. Many of friends and members of my family have been active marching members or senior instructors or directors of civilian Drum and Bugle corps, both senior and junior corps and several have also taught or teched for competitive HS marching bands and so Ive been to many drum and bugle and band shows but it is always the highlight of any show when the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corp perform in exhibition.
The Presidents Own Marine Band are amazing too.
Then there is the Army Jazz band. I remember when I was in HS the Army Jazz band performing a concert at my school.
Of all the things our government wastes money on, this would rank very low on my list. YMMV.
For one thing, US Armed services bands perform at official military and State functions, everything from military funerals and military parades, presidential inaugurations, state funerals, State Arrival Ceremonies. They also entertain our troops both here at home and overseas. They also serve as ambassadors to our youth, introducing them to not only traditional military and patriotic music but also to some great music overall.
Established in 1798 by an act of Congress, the U.S. Marine Band "The President's Own" is the oldest professional musical organization in the U.S. It is well known for its public performances (about 500 per year across the U.S.) and performances at the White House and Inauguration Day festivities. The U.S. Marine Band includes the Marine Band proper as well as the Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles. John Philip Sousa led the band from 1880 to 1892. The U.S. Marine Band was headquartered at Marine Barracks Washington at 8th Street, SE and I Street, SE in Washington, D.C. until September 2004, when it moved to the new Marine Barracks Annex and Marine Band Support Facility, located at 7th Street SE and Virginia Avenue SE.
The U.S. Marine Band "The President's Own" and its traditions goes back to the very founding of our nation. That you think it is an incredible waste of money tells me all I need to know about you.
Dont you have some South Korean TV soap operas youd rather watch instead of listening to some great American music performed by Americans?
Perhaps you think this is an incredible waste of money as well? Shouldnt these people be doing something more productive?
MD Expat, thanks for your rousing defense of the tradition and ceremony of music in military life and service, past and present.
In addition to the duties you have listed, there are break out groups from the bands that play big band, pop, jazz, orchestral, and even country music for all sorts of official and impromptu gatherings-large and small. They don’t just sit around playing Sousa marches (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
People who do not value music and its impact on the quality of life are to be pitied.
If you’re in DC and have occasion to see a Marine Band concert (several public ones a week in the summer), your eyes will swell up with tears and your heart will beat with patriotic pride when you hear our National Anthem, Armed Services Medley, and Stars and Stripes.
What else does the government spend money on which would evoke such a response? Nothing I can think of.
This is about as interesting a thread as I have encountered in my brief 15 years here. Yes, the musical arts have been subsidized (perish the thought!) since this Republic’s founding, but in a limited way, and presumably to enhance the morale of those serving with distinction in the armed forces. I am all for a leaner FedGov, but maintaining these accomplished ensembles is not equivalent to funding the creation of so-called art involving the immersion of religious objects in bodily fluids.
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