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Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby DiveBomber » Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:01 am

I am currently a junior in high school and as such I have had the opportunity to talk to military recruiters from multiple different branches (Marine and Army). As per what seem standard operating procedure for recruiters when I told them I liked band the said I should come play for the military. The information I have been able to locate seems rather sparse and is almost always on military websites which I would consider somewhat biased. I have decided that before I go any further talking to recruiters I should ask for information and opinions from people who have more experience and are more informed of matters of this type, I would prefer to no waste my time or the time of the recruiter. I want to know if this is a legitimate career option in music, what sort of long term careers this could open up and the difficulty to get in. I have read the listed audition requirements that I could find, they seemed to effectively say, have all 48 scales and a solo of level IV or higher, along with some other smaller items. I thank anyone who for the time they spend reading and responding to this.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby mikebmiller » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:43 am

There have been a lot of posts about military bands over the years. I think the general consensus is that you should talk to the band and get an official acceptance before talking to a recruiter. Also, many of the folks going into military bands these days have Bachelors or even Masters degrees in music. I'm sure others with more knowledge than me can elaborate.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby Davy » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:51 am

The Army Music audition process works differently from the other branches; they want to hear 5 minutes of varying styles of music (solos, excerpts, etc), excerpts of provided ceremonial music, and a packet of "quickly prepared" music, which you have for less than 24 hrs. Marines/Navy are prepared solo, Major and Minor (all 3) scales in at least 2 octaves, and sight reading. Of course, these are for the "normal" bands, and not the special service bands. They have their own auditions and their own requirements.

From a "regular" Army standpoint, I am happy with what I do. It isn't all music 24 hrs a day, though. All members have "shop" jobs that they do (administrative, supply jobs, etc) as well as keep up with training the Army says you need. It is a job you could retire from after 20 years, and from my experience, is a legitimate music job, with the oppritunity to learn other skill to help you get other work if/when you get out.

There was a discussion on something similar to this not too long ago, and someone brought up a good point; don't waste anyone's time if you aren't willing to do the full job. You would be, after all, a service member and a musician, and deploying is a certain possibility.

Others will chime in (hopefully) but feel free to PM me if you have other questions.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby swillafew » Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:46 am

I am coaching a person whose Marine band audition is tomorrow. The music is short sections of band and orchestra music. He submitted a video to get an appointment for an in person audition. My student has a little training, I think his competition includes players with years of full time study and completed degrees from excellent schools.

I have not been in the military myself. When I was of the age to ask about military bands (1983), a recruiter told me he was looking to fill one job only, aircraft navigator. It was a very short conversation.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby Three Valves » Tue Nov 07, 2017 11:47 am

DiveBomber wrote: I want to know if this is a legitimate career option in music,
what sort of long term careers this could open up
and the difficulty to get in.


1) Yes.
2) For most musicians in full time bands, this is the epitome of their career, not a stepping stone to another career.
3) Very difficult to get in.

Unless you have won a serious JR competition, you may also want to consider a National Guard or Reserve band if one is available in your area.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby scottw » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:20 pm

A young trombonist that I have played with for several years will be heading to the School of Music after Marine basic training at Parris Island. He auditioned last spring as a senior in HS and was accepted. He goes in at the end of this month. He is a very fine player as a recent HS graduate and has little-to-no formal training other than what he got in HS. Another 18 yo sax player I know went the exact same route 2 years ago and is now in the Marine band in N.O. So, it can be done, too, in your situation if you can play.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby EdFirth » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:34 pm

I was in the Army from 1970 to 1973 first with the band at Ft Lee, Va., then the band at West Point.At Ft Lee there were no non musical activities except when we had to live at a camp for a week supposedly doing Army stuff but the office just booked school concerts every day so it was just business as usual. Guys got levied, usually to Germany or Hawaii every so often I got levied to Germany for the third time while in New York auditioning for West Point.My commanding officer was Marcus Calender, cousin of Red Calender a great musician, boss and guy and he got me pulled from the levy. West Point, on the other hand was permanent so unless you screwed up really bad you could stay there for your whole time in the Army.They started P(hysical) T(raining)tests while I was there and the newest 30 guys had to do clean up stuff(the dirty 30) and once a year we had to participate, all of us, in "Leaf Raking" which was a post beautification thing. The band had 13 tuba players. Now they have 2. The bands are shrinking away. The Ft. Lee band is gone and they're going away service wide. That being said if you can get in and go through the School of Music it's well worth your time. You, as a tuba player, have to proficiency out on Bass Guitar as well as Bass Fiddle and then hone your skills for the rest of your enlistment. My Only regret is that they just put me in the Ft. Lee band and skipped the school. You would be wise to hook up with smeone who is in now or recently got out and let them help you deal with the recruiter. And make sure you get everything in writing Before you swear in. I know my information is quite out of date, hell, we didn't even have girls in the band yet but even if you only get one hitch in before they dump your band you'll be way ahead of the game musically and you'll have the GI Bill for school and home finance. I had been out 10 years when the West Point guys contacted me about comming back because they were cutting down to 3 tubas and they needed strong players, not practice room artists. I didn't go because they could go weeks without a day off since they were still covering all of their work with less people. And I forgot to mention that the School of Music is for regular bandsmen, not special band folks. Best of luck to you. Ed
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby timothy42b » Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:22 pm

Ed,
I'm at Fort Lee but I'm not in the band.

The band is back. I don't know any details but the decision to eliminate it was reversed.
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby EdFirth » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:23 am

Tim, Thanks for the good news. Ed
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby Karl H. » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:37 pm

DiveBomber,
I was a Navy Fleet musician from 1977-82, then a member of the US Navy Band in D.C. from 1992-2013, so I have a decent knowledge of both regular and special military bands. Briefly, the special (premiere, D.C.-based) are as difficult to get into as most orchestral jobs, with equally high standards and a physically-fit/weight requirement as well. The regular bands have easier audition requirements, but the standards have gone up gone up considerably in recent years, due to the fewer number of bands and, most importantly to consider, the excellent benefits that the military service gives.
Each service is different and benefits change all the time (but are grandfathered): check the websites you mentioned. But the healthcare, education, and retirement benefits are equal or better than just about any musical career.
Would a military career be worth considering? As a tuba player, absolutely!
I could go on at length, but my best advice is to prepare your best and take any audition that comes along. You can always say 'no' after you win: you do NOT have to make any obligation before auditioning. In fact, at one time Pershing's Own (DC Army premiere band) paid for travel to the finalists selected for their auditions ... all without any commitment by the candidate!
Good luck!
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Re: Questions Regarding Military Bands

Postby Leland » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:34 pm

Karl H. wrote:I was a Navy Fleet musician from 1977-82, then a member of the US Navy Band in D.C. from 1992-2013,...

You were in the Navy band ("The Chief's Own"?) when the group came to my school in Nebraska, then. I was the tuba student (along with other students, one per instrument) who came onstage to join in to play National Emblem. That was one of three moments in my last couple years of college when I decided that a military music career would be a good thing.

To the OP --
Legitimate career? Yup, maybe even more so than other music fields, if only because many military units do their own management and operations (as briefly outlined in other posts) -- so not only do you have a chance to work on your music craft, you can also learn how to manage personnel, organizational finances, record keeping, and all the other good stuff that'll help in any career after the military.

Other things -- physical fitness is still a factor, as you're expected to look the part of a skilled warfighter and not just a practice room jockey.

Moral fitness matters, too, especially in the premiere DC bands where you'll be in close proximity to world leaders and will need a security clearance to match.
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