It began with a series of articles by an ill-informed Washington Post writer. Then came articles in the New York Times. Now another series of questions have arisen regarding military bands and their worth from another fuzzy math writer. It’s gotten to the point where some people wonder why we have military bands at all. Now, I’ve already talked a little about this here and here. But I will now offer a complete thesis on the subject:
I’ll defer final arguments to the band from 3rd Infantry Division
73 responses to “Military Bands: Who Needs Them?”
Funny. The astrologists use a military marching band to characterize this full moon cycle. Interesting coincidence with this post.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! Spot on! Hit the nail on the head. I get so TIRED of reading about what a waste of money milbands are.
Thanks for checking out my blog and commenting.
Great piece. Well done my friend.
Thanks, and thanks for sharing it!
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed seeing the different military bands perform over the years as I grew up (age 8-22) in the Panama Canal Zone. For an aspiring musician, it was the berries to see true professionals. My mother took me to all the concerts because she felt the same. Years later, I lived up the hill from the Iwo Jima Memorial and was able to see the USMC band practice one morning, then perform the next night. It made my heart sing. Kudos to all military bands.
How wonderful to grow up with access to those bands. Thank you for your continued support of military bands!
Please tell your Congressperson, both Representative and Senator. They need to hear from you, not from us. We military musicians are “only protecting our jobs.”
We know the value that military bands bring to the nation. The Air National Guard band I have been a member of since 1984 played a concert at the Veteran’s Hospital in Biloxi, MS in 2005. Our audience was wounded and sick veterans. During “Salute to the Armed Services,” when we ask those who have served to stand and be recognized when they hear their particular service song, one man in a wheelchair who had lost his leg in combat rose to his one foot, to honor his branch of service.
Those performing who saw this could hardly finish the piece, so overcome with emotion were they.
THAT’S the value we bring.
Nice post and blog. I was in the ACC band at Langley during 9/11 and retired a few years ago from Lackland (TX). Sorry to hear about Ft Monroe; I loved visiting there. Keep the music going!
Thanks. It is too bad about Monroe; it’s my favorite Army post so far.
Statements like that is why ALL Bands need to GO. What value did that Band have for Fort Monroe? ZERO! – These Music guys are all about themselves. The contribute NOTHING to the safety of Americans.
Anonymous – non sequitur much? I’m not sure how enjoying a place I worked equates to “it’s all about me.” Fort Monroe is a beautiful, historic military post with a lot of history. The band was integral to that history and the community. Stay tuned for a post later this week about it.
As an 11 year veteran of the Army Band Field, I thank you for publishing articles such as this one. Military Bands contribute so much more than just music! They provide support and give Soldiers in a deployed (among others) environment something to look forward to, which truly benefits everyone. It breaks my heart to hear of any Army Band closing down and I hope that their long and proud tradition carries on as long as we have a military.
Your welcome…you’re right…and I hope so!
I know you!
Thanks for your wonderful blog. My grandson is in the 10th Mtn Div Band in Afghanistan. I am so proud of him and all the members of the many Military Bands who serve so proudly. Thank you for standing up for them.
I’m in the 82D ABN DIV Band. We relieved 10th Mountain in KAF in september 2011
Thanks for your wonderful blog. My grandson is a member of the 10th Mtn Div Band in Afghanistan. I am so proud of him and all of the members who serve in the many military bands so proudly. Thanks for standing up for them.
Yes, Ma’am; I believe I know your grandson, David. If it is indeed David, he’s a fine Soldier and musician (trombonist). I hope you get to see him soon.
Excellent post and everything…truly outstanding! Got a story for you… Yesterday, we performed a concert an amusement park near Long Island. It was an interesting and strange place- like out of a “Twilight Zone” episode. After the performance I was approached by a distinguished looking lady who grabbed my arm rather tightly and said she needed to tell me something. I said something brilliant like, “o.k.” I thought to myself, “hmmm…I wonder who long this is going to take…” She explained that her son was in Iraq and that about two weeks ago she was called by someone in her son’s unit who said that her son was killed. As she was dealing with terrible information, about an hour later she received a visit by representatives from the Army in a government sedan who asked her to accompany them back to their offices. They were profusely apologetic and one was even in tears as he explained that the U.S. Army was very sorry but that somehow someone had made a mistake and that her son was just fine. She related to me that they took her to a place with large screens where her son greeted her on the other end live from Iraq. They talked and cried and she said she was overcome with emotion. She asked if I understood.
Bewildered as to what to say in response to the story, I told this poor lady that I was very sorry and that I couldn’t imagine what she must have gone through and how bad I felt. That’s when she told me that she had travelled a long way to find someone she could relate her story to and she saw that our band was performing. She wasn’t even sure why she came, but she thought she just needed to. She said that she needed to tell me how important was the job that we were doing and how thankful she was that she lived in such a great country. As I started to respond that I hadn’t had the opportunity to deploy, or that I was just in the band, or something that may have made some sense, she lost all control and was squeezing my arm tight and through teary eyes said that our music was a portal to her feelings and that she was so thankful that we were performing on Memorial Day weekend for people just like her. She said that she understood that we could choose to have the day off, but instead, she understood that we elected instead to perform for America’s citizens-many who remain in great pain for a variety of reasons and others who just needed to feel something as old-fashioned as comraderie with others in an environment of patriotism. She drew tears from my eyes as she reminded me that all around us were screaming children riding rides and having a great time as many ignored our performance just the way that most forget the sacrifices of the military of the past and of the present. Her charge to me was “keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t ever stop. Help us all remember what’s really important. If you don’t tell the story, nobody will- as a matter of fact…nobody else can tell it, and we’ll all be dead!” This lady along with hundreds of others sat in the baking sun as our band entertained them to the best of our ability and they rose and sang patriotic songs and many wore veteran’s hats, buttons, and some carried flags. My eyes had been opened by the woman and I don’t even know her name. She never introduced herself. One gentleman made me take a closer look at his button. He grinned as I read what it said, “Osama’s fate was seal’d.” The button was about 2 inches above his forearm where the unmistakable trident and eagle insignia of the Navy Seals was tattoo’d. I nodded in understanding and as I was about to move on, he struggled slowly to the position of attention from his wheelchair…and saluted, saying, “Thank you sir for the excellent concert-I enjoyed it very much-even if you are from West Point.” He waited till I dropped my salute and then he smiled wide and added with a twinkle in his eye that he had always hated saluting officers unless they deserved it. That made me smile for quite awhile.
I certainly hope members of Congress like Ms. McCollum get the chance someday to see the things we do and get the opportunity to feel the things we feel. They will be better for it and it would certainly assist them in serving our great country with the grace and wisdom it deserves.
Nice work dude…
Thanks for the story, Jim. The funny thing is, for a military musician, that story is not all that unique. We are the main conduit between the people of the United States and our allies, and the American Service Member. When they speak to us, they’re often speaking to that Soldier that is deployed half-way around the world. Your story is similar to when we played in NY weeks after 9/11. They changed my life and my outlook on our job.
You know me from the School of Music, so you know how much I agree with your and MAJ Robinson’s views about the need for military bands. Musicians have =always= been necessary for armies, navies, etc., for precisely the reasons mentioned. I am proud that, in my own way as a composer, I have been honored with the opportunity to write music for various military ensembles (mostly Navy so far). I hope what I do assists what all of the fine musicians/soldiers, sailors, marines in what they do to serve our country.
All the best,
Thank you for this! I was the Ops Chief at the U.S. Navy Band in DC on September 11, 2001. The Navy suffered many casualties that day at the Pentagon. I will never forget getting a thank you letter from a widow whose husband’s funeral we provided music for. Her loss was sudden, unexpected and monumental, but she thanked US! There is NO WAY we can ever adequately thank her for her sacrifice, but there she was thanking us. The fact that we were able to offer her any comfort and to show her in some small way that her sacrifice and her husband’s service mattered is beyond the comprehension of the bean counters.
Keep up your great work!
S.B. McLean, Master Chief MUSICIAN, U.S. Navy-Ret.
You bet, Master Chief. Thank you for your service.
As far back as I can remember, military bands have made a positive impact on me. My dad was a WWII Navy Veteran, and Anchors Aweigh was a staple of our family musical experience. And the pride my dad in his service was never more evident than when the Fleet Band from Corpus Christi marched in our hometown 4th of July parade. Dad made sure that I knew all the military service songs and when to render honors (I was 6 when this took place). In Junior High School on Saturday afternoons I would go out to the garage, sit in my mom’s old Buick, and listen to the Air Force Band’s “Serenade in Blue” on the radio. The Marine Band came to our town’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1960, and the old folks are still talking about that. I’m 61 years old now, and I wore the uniform of The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own) for more than half my life with that same pride and, I hope, distinction.
Military bands have meaning. They have impact. They touch lives and bring out the best in people across the country and around the world. The casket team the Navy sent to my dad’s funeral in June of 2003 was great, but the bugler won the day. He gave my dad the sendoff befitting a man of his stature. Cutting military bands means potentially cutting this last connection a family may have with the military branch their loved one chose to serve with. Certainly, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen can be buried without ceremony, but that is not the best this nation can do nor is it what should be done.
Military Bands honor America and all Americans in ways that cannot be duplicated or denied. Crowds turn out in the tens of thousands for summer concerts, parades and ceremonies across the country because they know they will see and hear the very best the nation has to offer.
Military music is an ambassadorship at work with the people of the United States, and nothing does more to enhance the connection between Americans and the Armed Services that keep our nation secure.
Duty, Honor, Country!
Well said, SGM. Thank you for your long and distinguished service to our Army and our Nation.
I remember watching military bands when I was in school and became a Navy Musician in 1990. I retired last year and have memories like some of those posted above. I played for the Sailors killed on the USS Cole and stood security watches in the wake of 9/11. One fond memory was when the Fleet Forces Band played for the USS Wisconsin Sailors reunion,,, Among the alumni present were members of the ships jazz band and they wanted to talk; one found me and told me he played my chair way back when and wanted to let me know I was doing a hell of a job! He sat in the middle of the crowd and simply enjoyed the night. As we were winding down and each musician was introduced, he came racing back to the stage. It turns out that we were from the same town and had lots more to talk about! Here is a WWII and Korean War vet finding more than common ground with a simple Navy Musician out on another gig. We shared stories as much as we could while I tried to look like I was helping pack up until he said, “MU1, they aren’t going to leave without you!”
Thanks for the blog posts, Major. I hope that many are listening!
Thank you for that story and your service.
Excellent post Dom! The U.N. concert was a profound event. Strategic Diplomacy at its best.
Yesterday, I had the privilege to see the work of DOD’s bands. There was a Marine Band pianist in the White House playing for Gold Star Families and I watched the Tomb events for the first time as an audience member…. The Army Band, Marine Band, powerful (and spotless) renditions of “Taps,” the National Anthem and so much more going on…
No doubt that we are integral to the critical mission of honoring our fallen…
“Poor is the Nation that has no heroes,but
beggared is the Nation that has and forgets them.”
Myles and Allyn were fantastic (as usual) the other day. There is no substitute for the professionalism displayed every day by military bands (and honor guards) at ceremonies not unlike the ones you attended. It represents the professionalism of our military and the men and women doing the tough work for our Nation.
When I was in high school, amidst budget cuts was the All County Jazz Ensemble. The Jazz Ambassadors took us on as a service project and made it possible for us to have All County Jazz that year. It was an experience I will never forget, and one of the many things that has made me want to continue with my music as an adult.
In Brunei reading this waiting for a combined military band concert to start. My band, the US 7th Fleet Band, is playing with military bands from 12 other countries, including Pakastan, improving international relationships.
That’s fantastic; send pictures and I’ll add one to my site. I had a tough time getting a good Navy bands picture, and the mission you’re doing would be perfect.
Our son is the newest member of Pershing’s Own Downrange Band. Over the years we have been truly blessed and very proud of his musical gifts and accomplishments but none has compared with this great honor. To all those who serve, Thank you!
That’s great! Downrange is an incredibly talented group; I had the distinct pleasure of working with them for four years, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Still playing in a “military” band — at nearly 70 — and the band has a fife and drum corps, too. This is better than a guitar any day!
Bravo! Well written! As I member of the 257th Army Band, the Band of the Nation’s Capitol, I am honored to be able to share my musical gifts with both the American community and my fellow comrades. Our job, I feel, is so essential to carrying on the traditions of our great country. I can;t imagine paying respect to our fallen warriors without live music.
Really fantastic article! well written and I think this will bring in more support for the military bands of the US. Awesome pictures too!
SPC Shannon Rafferty
As the spouse of an USAF regional Band commander (former enlisted trumpet player) I have seen first hand what these bands bring to the general public. We love going to hear the band play during the summer months out here in New England. One of the brightest parts of the concerts is always the service medley. It is so inspiring to see family members stand during their respective service songs. There is often a wheel chair bound veteran somewhere in the crowd who manages to stand during his service song, bring tears to my eyes each time. This past Monday (Memorial Day) I witnessed folks get up & move in closer to hear Stars & Stripes at the end of a concert in a very hot & humid setting in the Minuteman National Park here in Lexington, MA. These folks could have just as easily started packing up to head home to their nice cool a/c, but they were so moved as to stick around & pay their respects to our service men & women. I could go on & on, but the last story is from a close friend who had a family member deployed with the Army. She had a conversation with her & the deployed servicemember went on & on about the joy & morale boost the bands brought to her during the deployment.
Great post article! Please take some time to review some of the photos on the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s Facebook page. We spend a lot of time on the continent of Africa…I will let the photos do the talking, but I am sure you will see how these fine Military Musicians are improving international community relations through the language of Music!
All the best and Very Respectfully,
Master Chief Musician Jim Ramsey
Thank you for this post. Reading these stories brings back so many similar memories. The 8 plus years I spent as a OJT vocalist in the Army Band have been the best of my career. I deployed with the 25th ID Band in 04-05 and have spent so much TDY overseas its crazy. But let me tell you there is no other feeling like performing for American Soldiers. The joy on their faces was worth all the lack of comforts I was use to. When I got to my new MOS, the then BN Commander was joking with me when he found out I had just come to him from “the Band”. He looked at me and said, “You deployed with the band huh? What did y’all do over there, play the enemy to sleep so we could kill them”? I didn’t get offended. I knew he was joking plus like so many others, he just didn’t get it. I look at him and proudly said, “Well no Sir. We brought a little piece of home to the War Fighters out on the distant FOB’s and PRT’s so that they had some clarity of mind and motivation to go out and do their jobs. We provided an avenue of stress relief that an ipod just can’t bring. See Sir, there is nothing else like live music. We also shared a little piece of American music with the local people. Whom by the way for many years, it had been forbidden. They were not even allowed to dance in public. We shared our talents with them and they shared theirs with us. Anyway Sir, do you think any of those Pop artist coming to green zone are going to know how to react to incoming fire if anything pops off? HECK NO SIR!! That’s a Soldiers job. That’s my job.” He just laughed and said, “HUOAH! That’s what I’m talking about. That’s a Soldiers job! Your alright with me Flakes”.
It broke my heart to leave the Band Field but it was time to move on. I have made some long lasting friendships in my 8 plus years in the Band field and I will always take my hat off to them. NOONE ELSE can do the job of an ARMY BANDSMAN. NOONE!!
Thanks for sharing that story and or your continued service. The good news is that the people who do experience the best of what military bands have to offer do not question their validity or their worth to the war fight.
Every year I could not wait for the Singing Sargents to come to our small town. I have had a few friends be in military bands and the joy they bring to people is a great gift…I am glad to see my taxes go to something that brings that much happiness to so many people!!
Thanks for a great post!!
As a bandsmen who has deployed to SouthWest Asia in the recent past, I will say it was the experience of a lifetime and I can’t WAIT to go back!!
Playing not only for the troops, but for the locals, is an unbelievable experience.
And somewhere in Afghanistan, there are several photos of me and some Afghani soldiers. Me with my instrument, them with their AK-47’s. When we played for them, they ALL wanted a picture with us. We were like rock stars!!
Many years back, after attending a SNCO academy ceremony, I stopped by a 7-11 to get some coffee. I saw a young Captain in line and started a conversation. I asked what he did and he told me he drove KC-135 Tankers. When he asked me what I did, I replied I was in The US Air Force Band. He looked at me hard and then said that it was because of a USAF Band concert he attended that got him interested in flying and serving our country. He was touched by the message the band gave that evening. I still remember that moment and how proud I was to be a musician.
I spent 23 years sounding Taps at Arlington National Cemetery. Each and every one of those families deserved a live rendition of the bugle call, not a recording which is played too often around the country today. If we can’t provide that final honor as a nation, then we need to be ashamed.
Thanks for writing this article.
Right you are Jari. When the “digital bugle” is used at Arlington, I’ll be OK with its use elsewhere and we both know that will never happen. Keep up the fight.
As always, a professionally tailored response to the task at hand. I expect that many Americans will examine what our military musicians do in light of recent developments and that their purpose will remain strong regardless of how they are affected. That is what we as Americans do.
Like many, I joined for a short time to see the world and better myself musically, educationally and socially. What started out as a three year enlistment ended up being over twenty-four and encompassed events from Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan to standing on the Berlin Wall while the Iron curtain fell. The constant throughout those years was the Soldiers with whom I served and their desire to promote the best interests of the American people with the talents they possessed.
Some were fantastic performers, some consummate instrumentalists. Many struggled with the unique niche in which military musicians operate, often somewhere between foot soldier and pop star, bringer of dignity and performer of the chicken dance (yes, a Brass quintet actually played it for General George Casey on a boat in the middle of the Rhine River). They filled a void that no one else could and I hope their history comes out. The American people do need solid prioritization and serious financial accountability from their government. They also need to know the opportunity costs of political decisions. They need to hear the loss.
Military Band history is full of heroes, honors and pride. When Germany fell in 1945 and the Soviets took Berlin, an Army Band fresh from England was the first unit activated in the divided city of Berlin and the last to inactivate in 1994. When NATO units moved into communist territory in the late eighties and early nineties, it was music they brought. When a modern Chinese military unit came to America – it was to share musical goodwill with Colonel Tom Rotundi and the Army Band. When The Afghan National Anthem was sung at a graduation ceremony for the new Afghan Army Corps of Cadets, it was a a young American military musician who sang it in their native tongue to a suddenly hushed audience. Her dedication and weeks of practice went unnoticed by all but the few thousand present, but her impact on those officers, their families and her comrades is forever.
These events are not even a drop in the bucket of what our military bands bring. I have faith that if you tell your story, you will be measured accordingly. The remarks by officers such as Dom Robinson and Jim Keene lead me to believe our military musicians will get that fair shake (and that I wish I hadn’t retired so soon).
There is no movie without a soundtrack.
Perfect reply. Absolutely perfect. Thank you!!!
Spot on and thank you, Jeff. Soundtrack is a good word to describe a lot of what military bands do: they provide the emotional context for our Soldiers, our citizens, our allies, and for significant events…and that’s basically what this particular post is trying to say through pictures. Is there an arrival ceremony for a head of state without music? Is it proper to have a funeral for a fallen warrior without the final respects of Taps? When an event like the attacks of 9-11 happen, who else but a military band can provide the unique context of comfort, homage, reflection, resolve, and patriotism for those affected? And when you just want to feel good about your country and the wonderful freedoms we share, who else but a military band can provide the soundtrack to your heart’s wishes?
Well said Jeff.
We were always the human face of our military and our nation.
No more potent force than music to open doors, dialog and hearts.
On 28 Jan 1986 I was a student in college. On that fateful day, I, along with most of the nation, was glued to my television and watched in horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff. At the memorial service that followed a few days later at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, President Reagan was accompanied by a military band – The 539th Air Force Band from San Antonio, Texas. I cannot imagine music for that solemn occasion being blared from a loud speaker. The men and women of that unit were given about an hours notice before they were headed to Houston. There is not a college band or even a public relations office (with CDs and loud speakers) that could have prepared for the magnitude of that event in such a short time. I became a member of the 539th later that year after graduating from college and served proudly with them for 2 years.
Our military bands are filled with professional, highly educated musicians who are prepared for anything – even, unfortunately, national tragedies.
Well well well! Isn’t it nice to know that those so uninformed give us a chance to inform then on subjects they have no clue about. I was an Army Bandsman (bandsperson?!), many years ago and all I can say is that if I had it to do all over again I would have stayed in the service longer. There is nothing so beautiful as to see the wonder on the face of a child as they see and hear “us” play our music; the nostalgiac feelings that come back to different generations as they recognize music of a bygone era–it’s all good.
And these idiots want to essentially cut out these programs? Bad idea on their part. Keep the music going–in all areas!!!!
After the closure of the USMC D&B School in 1978, I had the honor to become the first Bugle player to graduate from the SOM in May of 79. To have met , trained under, and walked in the footsteps of so many outstanding and legendary musicians was, and continues to be an inspiration that I try to share where ever I hang my hat. Our importance as military musicians was truely cemented in my mind early in my career when, during a military retirement parade rehearsal, 3 Full Bird Colonels, a Lt Col, and a Major were forced to consult the knowledge of the E7 Drum Major on the Official order and timing of events for this occassion! Through Parades and other public performances the Band/ Drum Corps and a Color Guard are often the sole representatives of the military the public ever sees, and has special ceremonial and morale purposes that cannot be quantated by those who are not exposed to them. I, personally, was honored during my enlistment to have been assigned as a bugler for untold number of military funerals, and continue to volunteer to do so in civilian life as one simple but significant thing I can do to give back, and to honor those who have served and their families. These are all gifts, to me personally, and to all who are exposed to the pagentry and the ceremonial, that cannot be replaced nor duplicated by any other means. Thank you to all who carry on!
Reading the article linked to from “questions” was bad enough. Reading the comments was disgusting.
I am pleased and proud of our 9th Army Band, both for the quality of their performance and for their participation in our community and around our state. They are more than welcome to what it costs to keep them on the job.
Thank you for speaking out in support of our military musicians. We would be a poorer country without them.
Yep same thing in the schools – get rid of theatre, bands, choral, studio art….there used to be an TV add…without the “arts” man would still be u a tree….
I’m very sad to see that they’re closing t Ft Monroe. My first date with my beautiful bride was a little over 33 years ago – a concert by the TRADOC band – we drove over from Little Creek where Debbie was going through the basic course and I was going through the advanced course at the school of music.
Hi Major, thanks for this wonderful page! Here was my response to Betty McCollum, which I posted this on her Facebook page, sent her in email, and added as a comment on a few sites like yours. Magically, the Facebook comment was deleted soon after (I was also blocked from posting there again). So, I’ll just be posting it around the net wherever this story is covered. It’s a little lengthy, so hope you don’t mind.
“Interestingly enough, your website states that “As a Member of Congress I have had the opportunity to become even more involved in the arts community.” Don’t you mean “more involved in trying to destroy jobs for Americans who not only work in the arts community, but do so while serving our country?” Are you aware that military bands are the nation’s largest employer of highly-educated, professional musicians? You apparently claim to know so much about military bands that you have no problem creating legislation that would reduce the funding our nation’s military bands require to complete their important mission. Have you ever been to a military band concert? (My guess is no.)
You also have a link to the National Endowment for the Arts on your website – a terrific organization – yet you attack military bands. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia stated to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in 2005 that the NEA “now reaches both large and small communities as well as rural areas, inner cities, and military bases — successfully combining artistic excellence with public outreach.” Well kudos to the NEA, but military bands have been doing this same exact job for centuries, at a tremendous bargain. At the same time, bandsmen also serve our country as military members subject to deployment, and nearly all are trained to serve in a variety of contingency operations. No offense intended here towards the NEA, but promoting one while threatening another is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
More from your website:
“The Congressional Arts Caucus is a bipartisan organization for Members of Congress who support the arts…As a member of the Congressional Arts Caucus, I have the opportunity to work with my colleagues in Congress on an issue that is important to us.
The goal of the Arts Caucus is to work together to further access to the arts through federal initiatives. There are currently 146 members of the Arts Caucus. We work with arts groups, artists, business leaders and other arts supporters to promote legislation important to the arts community.”
Do you mean your proposed legislation to cut 1/3 of the funding to the largest employer of professional musicians in the United States?
If you are such a vocal arts supporter – lending your support to seven separate arts organizations on your website – then your attacking of our military bands makes it clear that you are only attacking the military itself. Do you think that lowly of our military? Do you think that military musicians are incompetent members of society who don’t deserve the same respect and attention that you give to those seven arts organizations on your webpage? It certainly seems that way.”
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I can think of many ways DOD money can be spent rather than paying musicians. Better equipment for our servicemen in the field comes to mind. Bands are great, but they should be civilian employees and funded from outside the particular branch’s budget. This is the type of bloat that needs to be trimmed.
If you saw the millions of other ways the DoD was spending their money, you wouldn’t worry about the 0.5% of the budget that is allocated to musicians. That’s like saying “oh no, I can’t have that potato chip with my 5 lb burger and triple fudge chocolate lava cake.”
I did a rough estimate of the annual cost of all the military bands combined when this issue first flared up. For our 155 military bands, it came out to roughly 0.01% of the DoD budget. This is about 1/2 the cost of a single F-22 fighter jet. Folks…bands are budget dust. They are not even worth thinking about in any discussion of saving money.
I love looking through an article that can make people think.
Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!
I once had the great privilege of performing under the baton of (now retired) Col. Arnald Gabriel. Before his initial downbeat he said, “It is America’s military that keeps America safe and strong, but it is her arts and music that truly make her ‘America the Beautiful.'” Then he led us in “America the Beautiful.”
Great blog, sir! I’m sure you’ve seen this post from 1LT Huff on AMI. It has had a great impact on me, and I think it is appropriate to add here –
I’ve been in Kuwait for a little more than a week, and I’ve already heard several anecdotes about how great Army Bands are. A few days ago, I met a warrant officer who told me this story:
He was in Iraq in 2009 on his fourth deployment. He was depressed and exhausted. His marriage was suffering. His morale was low. He was contemplating suicide. He went into the DFAC and heard the 56th Army Band’s rock MPT “Sunburn.” Sunburn lifted his spirits and he approached and befriended a few of the high-speed Soldiers in the group. They chatted about music, bands, etc. The next day, he came back to the DFAC, and when the Soldiers saw him, they started playing his favorite song (I believe he said it was a Radiohead song). He then said to me, “The 56th Army Band literally saved my life.”
1LT Silas Huff
I was a grunt medic. At every change of command or special event the Army Band was always there, in their shining uniforms and playing perfectly. I never begrudged them their “cozy” job, because I knew that when I spent hours training on my soldier & medic skills they spent hours practicing to perfection, preparing their uniforms and still, qualifying with their assigned weapons, taking a record PT test, and training for the soldier skills testing that we all go through in addition to their duties with a band. 2ID Doc
As the former Division CSM for the 1st Infantry Division “Big Red One” I have to tell you that as traveled around the battlefield in Iraq I always took some form of our Division band out with me to the outlying Forward Operating Bases. How it impacted the Morale of those Soldiers that were serving forward was amazing. It was like bringing a piece of home to them every time our bands performed live for them. It those Soldiers to another place for a short moment in a remote part of the world.
The military needs two types of people, people who kill people and people who make that possible. Bands do none of the above.
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Bands peovide morale, and provide additional protection to rear echelon elements so promary combat elements can maintain missioln strength
Obviously, the musical support for our troops is primary. But, as a civilian, I’m struck that military bands are one of the few things that consistently inspire the public to patriotism. By your playing of patriotic music, you military musicians not only bring honor to those that serve, but you direct us, the public, to also honor our troops.
Thanks to ALL who serve in our armed forces. Terrific article and great comments by everyone. Don’t stop the music.
Here’s my story. We did a concert in one of the elementary schools in Lawton, OK last spring. After the performance was over, a teacher and her 7 year old student asked us if he could feel the drums. The boy has hearing impairment but requested particularly for “We Will Rock You” by Queen. We had a drum shield set up so the kid placed his face and both of his hands against the shield. As my drummer started playing, the boy’s face lit up, singing with a smile from ear to ear. I believe each and everyone of us on that stage had tears in our eyes while watching this kid’s best day of his life. I will never forget that day of my life. I will never forget how important my job is.
As a Veteran, and a musician I am going to take a little umbrage with insinuation that Combat Arms are not capable of interacting with civillian populations in a meaningful way.
I was Combat Arms, and learned as a young private just how important that was…
That said, music is and always has been important to the military. I think many who believe there should be cuts are looking at a number of issues. First and foremost you cannot deny that the Military has been under constant pressure to reduce its budget, and the majority of these cuts are coming from the Combat Arms. Loss of numerous maneuver groups in the Army that cannot be easily replaced in short order. Air Force and other Branches I cannot speak to. The battle over retirement and active duty benefits has also seen negative impacts on morale and retention.
In light of this, as much as I love music, and know how very important it is… the idea that we have individuals being promoted virtually straight out of basic in some branches to NCO’S, the large budgets for many of these groups… it gets a little difficult to justify a lot of it, when we are losing experienced Combat Vets, losing force projection, and proposing cuts to retirees.
It would be nice if the Federal Government would look elsewhere to save money, other than on the backs of those who give so much of themselves in service to this Nation.
Thank you for your service and for taking the time to comment. I certainly agree that combat arms Soldiers can and do make many meaningful connections with civilian populace. It happens every day in theater without a doubt; however, by their nature they can’t go everywhere. That’s where we come in, serving as a breach and hopefully a bridge.