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Thread: SAX in the ARMY bands

  1. #1
    Musician and Composer saxchado's Avatar
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    Default SAX in the ARMY bands

    A recruiter just visited our University, and after asking a few detailed questions, the Army starts to look like a really good way to pay off my education debts and get valuable professional playing experience at the same time.

    Has anyone out there done the army gig? What was it like? would you recommend it?

    (if your feelings are too private to post, but you would still like to share them, feel free to drop an e-mail or pm!)
    Beware of sticky keys. --Chad

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    Administrator Emeritus Chris S's Avatar
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    I've not done it, but I know a few people who have. It's a pretty nice gig from what I understand. Your room and board is covered, and if you're good enough to get into one of the upper bands, then it's a REALLY good gig. I've thought about doing this as well, mostly because I don't really want to spend the next fifteen years of my life paying off student loans. I'd also be interested on others experiences.

    Chris S

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    Freind of mine Brad Hejl plays trumpet in the Military bands. He origionally did it for a smilar reason as you, i.e. pay off debts, but he loves it so much, he has decided to go career.

    Talking to him, the only part he didnt enjoy was the fact he still ad to go through basic, but after wards he has enjoyed it every moment of it!

    If you want, I'll see if he minds sharing his contact info to talk to you.

    Martin Williams
    Martin D. Williams
    Yeah, I did that.

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    Musician and Composer saxchado's Avatar
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    I can't speak for Chris, but I know I'd love to hear about his experiences! (and anyone else's, of course!)
    Beware of sticky keys. --Chad

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    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    saxchado - I apoligize, I was just reading, not commenting cause I have only a few minutes, but there was a fairly substantial thread, as I remember it, on military bands. Take a look on the Forum. If you don't find it, maybe I can help when I get back.

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    Professional Musician Vortex's Avatar
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    Explore the bands of different services to see what they offer too. I picked Navy cuz it seems to fit me best, but many cats would enjoy Air Force. I go into basic this summer and from there on it's the gig (after A school).
    A good sound comes from within. Long live jazz!
    V0l2TEX

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    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Well (he says with a sigh and frustration) I and this search engine just don't get along. I KNOW there was discussion here about this topic.

    However, here's another link that has quite a lot of information and discussion (and with a very efficient search engine, harumph). It begins with info about basic training/boot camp but then goes into other discussions about military band life and experiences. I think you all will find it interesting:

    http://www.trumpetherald.com/forum/v...ry&start=0

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    Musician and Composer saxchado's Avatar
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    Gary, Thanks for the link. Some good comments there.

    Vortex, what made you decide to go with the navy?

    I guess I should have included all branches in my original post. I'm not set on the army, it's just the only one I know anything about.
    Beware of sticky keys. --Chad

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    Definately have a shop around, have a decent look at all the pro marching and concert bands in the area.

    I don't know what its like there, but here the memberas of either the army band or the navy band (can't remember which) are issued with silver plated mark VIs for marching with!
    Sincerely, your local Lame Alto Busker

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    Professional Musician Vortex's Avatar
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    Well, lots of things weighed in on both ends, but to condense my reasoning:

    Marines:
    -A marine is a marine is a marine, regardless of what they do. I found out that this equates to them being relatively part-time musicians, an aspect I didn't like since I'm really only interested in playing my horn... iow they're marines first, musicians second (except for President's Own).

    Army:
    -Seemed to be in the same boat as Navy bands, BUT...
    -They are known for going 'camping' if you will
    -PT is a lot tougher than the Navy

    Air Force:
    -Had difficulty getting in touch with their recruiters regarding the band, for one thing
    -Audition requirements are MUCH tougher than the Navy's and when I was ready to try out for one of them I didn't feel up to their standards
    -Who knows, people do switch b/t service bands...

    This leaves only the Navy left, they've got the full-time musician aspect with a relatively laid-back attitude towards protocol compared to other services. The bands have great locations and all the benefits (imo) of the Army without the combat aspect.

    sax_appeal: I recently saw an Army NG band and they were ALL using Selmer Super Action 80 Series II's, also seen photos of the Marine bands marching with them. Seems to be something of a standard in the service bands.
    A good sound comes from within. Long live jazz!
    V0l2TEX

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    Distinguished SOTW Member OnyxSax's Avatar
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    Playing in DC, I get to rub elbows with a lot of the service band musicians, especially the Army guys. I just played with one this afternoon on our gig.

    It's a pretty good gig, and the Army lets you moonlight with non-service bands. Most of our add-on horn players are drawn from a pool of Army players. Being an Army player is a good thing in this town. The bandleader knows that you are going to be punctual and reliable and a solid player, so you can get a fair amount of side work.

    The one thing in D.C. is that you play a LOT of funerals. With the World War II generation dying out, there is a funeral almost every day. It's gotten to the point where the musicians know which chaplains are going to drag the service out and which ones do a shorter service. You end up developing a very morbid sense of humor to cope with attending funeral after funeral.

    There's also the funerals for those who have died in Iraq. Those are really tough to take. The trumpet player that I played with this afternoon was relaying a story of how the 6 year old son of a deceased soldier was sobbing uncontrollably as he tried to take the flag off the coffin. The trumpeter had to maintain his own composure and be able to play "Taps" after witnessing that.

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    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Speaking of the DC bands (only) I believe the Air Force Band has it's Ceremonial Band to take care of that the the funerals. Those and other ceremonial duties are not usually covered by the Concert Band or Airmen of Note musicians.

    Regarding the increase in burials, the age group with the most veterans, numerically, is the group that has been passing on and a crisis in having buglers is so serious that the military has actually been buying trumpets with built-in recordings so non-musicians in uniform can stand in as buglers.

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    Forum Contributor 2009 saxophrenic's Avatar
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    Default Bandsmen and Corpsmen

    Folks who are thinking of military bands:

    Looking back now, I sort of wish I had fulfilled my committment to Uncle Sam with a band. It never even occurred to me then. Since it was when there was a draft, band positions, I am sure were ultra hard to get.

    Instead I was a medical corpsman with the Navy and was assigned to the Marines. In Viet Nam you didn't get out of an I Corps Marine infantry unit as a corpsman without a purple heart. 75% casualty rate for corpsmen in those days. Yes, I got my purple heart.

    Where I am going is this --- I am a very lazy student of military history, but I know a little bit about the experiences of medical corps and musical corps personnel in different conflicts. Viet Nam, Persian, Gulf, and Iraq war so far have been easy on bandsmen. This was not always so. In the Civil War, World Wars I and II and even Korea, bandsmen were regularly pressed into combat roles when large areas of the front were collapsing (remember the Battle of the Bulge - the entry of the Chinese into the Korean War). At times, bandsmen, along with cooks and typists had to man the guns and fight for their lives in those conflicts. At other times, they were regularly pressed into service as stretcher bearers or messengers - very dangerous business. Now, corpsmen and medics are supposed to be non-combatants (not that it does them any good), but bandsmen as far as I know are not non-combatants.

    Next factoid. The regular services, reserves, and National Guard is stretched so thin right now, that they are changing peoples' MOS's (military occupational specialty) to what they need over in Iraq. Worst job right now in the military - truck driver. Guy I work with is a Physical Therapist and is an officer in a medical unit. The reserves are stripping his unit of medical enlisted - like laboratory technologists - sending them to a quickie truck driver's school and mobilizing them to Iraq to drive trucks in convoys.

    My point: If you go into the service for a band gig right now - be very aware of the military facts of life and of the context of the here and now. If the military needs bodies and the administration doesn't want to re-institute the draft , they can and they will re-train and re-assign other service members. Could bandsmen be re-assigned? Who knows. It is possible. If so, it might not be such a bad idea to consider your branch of service VERY carefully.

    Seems like enlisted Air Force haven't been in harms way really for over 50 years. Navy is probably safe, unless, they shuffle some over to the Marines. Army is probably the most hazardous because of manpower shortages. And finally Marines - at least they take fighting and training seriously and will guarantee that you learn how to fight and protect yourself. At least you will know which end of a weapon to point at the enemy.

    Given the pugnacious nature of our current administration, I think it is a good bet that U. S. troops will be getting involved in combat for quite some time - I am sorry to say.

    If you go, be ready in the back of your mind to accept that you may get taken up into combat situations. Can you do that and can you accept that you may be playing taps for an awful lot of funerals. That seems to be the curent reality.

    I don't want to sound grim but based upon my experiences, I thought someone should point out the possibilities.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you if you decide to sign on with Uncle Sam.

    P. S. Would I do it again? Under the right circumstances, sure.
    Are the circumstances right at this time - doesn't seem like it to me.
    The rest of what I think is not allowed on this Board.
    Chuck
    Make Music - Not War.

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    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bandsmen and Corpsmen

    Quote Originally Posted by saxophrenic
    Seems like enlisted Air Force haven't been in harms way really for over 50 years.
    Welllll. In 1967 I did a two week tour of Viet Nam as an Air Force bandsman. It had enough close calls for comfort for one of my lifetimes!

    - The evening of our first day there was a Viet Cong skirmish at the base's perimeter and two of the dead were barbers from our billets.

    - We played the bases Bob Hope would not go to. Every base we played at had fighting going on close enough to see the flares in the sky and the gunships shooting.

    - One morning we went out to the flightline near us to get on a plane and a helicopter was smoldering from a bomb set off sometime during the night.

    - One night a base we were playing at was under attack. Although there was no incoming shells the VC were close enough so that when we took off (and spiraled up from the base rather than flying in a straight direction) the sky was filled with tracers. We were so drunk we were fighting one another to press our faces up against the glass to "see the pretty colors in the sky". (Gad! That's drunk). The next morning when we went to the plane it loked like a piece of swiss cheese. We had taken a lot of ground-fire hits.

    - On Christmas morning church service, one of the Chapel assistances happened to look up in the overhead rafters to make sure the fans were working and saw a suspicious package. The Chapel was evacuated and that package turned out to be a bomb.

    - Our flight out back to Japan was cancelled and we sere stranded at Than Son Nhut for several hours. Our band leader, who was quite a hussler, got us on an unscheduled plane finally. We were about an hour out when the pilot told us that Than Son Nhut was under attack. I very likely would not be typing this right now if our band leader was less of a hussler than he was!

    Just as an aside, we spent a night in the Phillipines on the way to Viet Nam and, without going into detail, I and a couple of friends wound up in some sugar cane fields with a handful of locals with butterfly knives. It was not a pretty sight. Although, to be fair to the Air Force, that little episode was self-inflicted.

    While not as life-threatening as the above, our band also got stuck in Korea during the Pueblo crisis and war could've broken out at any moment. Even got a pretty medal to wear because of it.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member OnyxSax's Avatar
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    One of the sax players who works in one of our bands joined the Navy to play saxophone in the Navy band. He got to play, but, in between performances they assigned him to a Swift Boat...not exactly what he had in mind when he joined up...and for those who were wondering, he served in a different squadron and after John Kerry left Vietnam.

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    Professional Musician Vortex's Avatar
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    Onyx... I hate to be the "times have changed" type, but when considering the anecdotes of you and gary, I'm wondering how many bandsmen in these "safe" positions have similar experiences in the current times?
    A good sound comes from within. Long live jazz!
    V0l2TEX

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    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vortex
    ... I hate to be the "times have changed" type, but...I'm wondering how many bandsmen in these "safe" positions have similar experiences in the current times?
    Vortex, times have definitely changed, thank goodness. My comments, though, were referring to this:]
    Quote Originally Posted by saxophrenic
    Seems like enlisted Air Force haven't been in harms way really for over 50 years.
    , since my experience was more recent that 50 years.

    But to be more contemporary, I was just reading that there were at least three Army bands stationed in the Middle East. I believe thea are Division bands, which are closest to the "ground" as the newscasters like to say. I'll bet they could share some stories but, er, don't have the luxury that we have of sittling at the computer amusing one another, at the moment.

    Iraqi Freedom duty? Thank you...no.

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    I've been inspired to tell my story after reading all these comments about the military band life.
    I joined the Air Force in the Summer of '69. I didn't want to chance the draft and wasn't up to being Canadian. When I arrived at Lackland Air Force base in Texas for basic it was 110 degrees in the shade. The drill sargeants immediately started to hone our marching skills. I believe I made impression on them with my ability do left and right flanking maneuvers with little or no effort. Could it have been those 4 recent years of high school marching band training? Well, they didn't know and they didn't ask. So. I just kept on marching.
    Then it happened about half way through my basic training. The drill sargeant made an announcement.
    "Are there any musicians in this flight?"
    I raised my hand. At that time I didn't really consider myself to be a musician, but since no one else raised their hands I figured what the hell.
    "Well, Airman I want you to jog on down to bandroom and take an audition"
    He didn't even asked what I played. I figured they must have really been hard up for band members.
    At the audition they shoved an alto into my hands. Asked me what strength reed I was used to playing on. Gave me a reed and the first alto book and told me to play. After I played acouple of pieces a'capella, they asked me if I played clarinet. I said "a little". That's must have been an acceptable response because they didn't make me repeat the process with a clarinet (Thank God!).
    Two weeks later the drill sargeant read everyone's assignments. To my amazement I was assigned to an Air Force field band in Newburg NY for training.
    The next 4 years that I spent in various Air Force bands were probably the most enjoyable and exciting of my life.
    After 6 weeks training in Newburg NY I was assigned to a band in Ramstein, Germany. There I spent 3 years traveling all over Europe playing every winefest known to man. It was like a never-ending concert. We were on the road at least 10 months out of the year. We played in France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Austria, Africa, Belgium, Holland and more countries (that I have long since forgotten). It was truly an amazing journey.
    What can I say. I had just a high school education and no formal musical training. I was playing next to graduates from Eastman, Julliard and Berkley. I was a very fortunate and lucky "musician".

  19. #19
    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    You were lucky, indeed, to get into a band. I went in in 1966 and for the AF there was a three-month waiting list, but luckily, bandsmen were in a different quota system.

    Just a quick question, WG, and I don't want to mention full names, but when you were in Wiesbaden were you there with a flute player named L.L.? He probably would've been just leaving as you arrived. We are home boys and good long-time friends from Hawaii.

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    WG's Avatar
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    Gary,

    No I did'nt know a flute player named L.L. The flute player that I remember in our band had the initials S.S.

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