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Military Orchestras

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I have a very dear friend who was a bass player for one of the Army bands (there are several of them).


I know that he had a rather strenuous audition process, that promotions are extremely slow, and that band members spend an inordinate amount of time away from home (eg: those with family members pretty much never see them).


The training is basic military training and then training in the ways of how to be in a military band, not necessarily the instrument itself, as you're expected to already know what you're doing (funny factoid: the real job of the military band is to protect the division headquarters). Most people don't realize just how high of a level a musician a person has to be to even GET this particular occupational specialty. For example, this friend of mine had already been offered a full tuition scholarship to Berkeley College of Music based on his skills.


There is more information here.






Edited by asta
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I have a piano student that was in the Navy Band. He was MILITARY first, foremost, and TOP. He was trained in other areas and there was no musical training per se...as in lessons on your instrument, music classes, etc. He already had to be at the top of his musical game in order to survive the rigorous audition process. (Trumpet for him)


Literally, he played well enough to go to Juliard on scholarship. This is why the military bands are so good despite not offering music training within the military...they only take the best and it takes forever plus a whole lot longer to get promoted to a chair position within the band or orchestra. Members rarely if ever see their families. Playing and group practice time is basically on top of regular military duties so it is similar to having two full time jobs or at least one intensive full time job and one rather intensive part time job. When others are getting leave, the player is off to perform somewhere. The above young man never saw his parents one time in the first five years he was in the military and performing. They did have an opportunity to go to a performance and see him from afar but they were not allowed to speak with him because he was still "on duty" even after the performance. Very, very strict.


He is no longer playing...he rose up the ranks in his other area of training in the navy and is now in command of his own naval destroyer. He did get to come home for his dad's funeral and also for his mother's. But, in the ten years preceding their deaths, he was only given leave to come home twice and that was just in the last five years. This would be horrible for most families....just about mentally cruel. It worked okay for him because he had a very poor relationship with his parents and wasn't emotionally attached to wanting to spend time with them. The sad thing is that his sister died, he was very close to her, and he was at sea...no leave given because of an alert issued to his boat right before her death.


Exercise caution if looking at playing with the Navy band...maybe the other branches are not so awful or they've reformed. This has been about 15-20 years ago so it's possible that the policies have softened.



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We also have friends who were in the AF band. One played oboe, and the other was percussion. They met in the band and married--otherwise, there is no way they would have had the time or opportunity to meet someone! Everything everyone else has said is accurate. It is so difficult to get into, and most of their friends had huge debt from the high caliber music schools and the advanced degrees they all had--but they were all enlisted, so with a low salary. Most of the people had side jobs, like as a sub with the philharmonic of the city we lived in, teaching lessons, or whatever. With all the traveling, it was indeed very difficult. Both of my friends are now out of the service, so that they could start a family.

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