In 1996, I went to graduate school at the New England Conservatory of Music to study conducting. I already had a degree in music education and looked forward to following “the plan.” The plan was to get my degree, teach high school band for about five years, return to school to get my doctorate, and then work my way through the college professorial ranks.
You may be able to guess that I deviated from the plan. My conducting teacher told me about military bands and thought I might be a good fit. After my initial question – “There are military bands?” – I did some research. It turned out that all of the services had bands. Even the Coast Guard had a band (one, and they’re really good). I started calling around and visiting recruiters and before I knew it, I was overnighting a resume and video of myself conducting to an Army band officer; a week later, I was auditioning in Washington, DC. The first day of the audition consisted of performing on my major instrument (flute) and taking a music theory test. The second day, the other candidates and I each conducted two of the premiere music groups in the Army – The U.S. Army Concert Band and The U.S. Army Chorus. Following that was your (not so) standard job interview, which consisted of me answering questions from six of the senior officers in the band field. It was a blast. I flew back to Boston that night and the next day was offered the job. I knew that if I was going to do something like this, I needed to do it while I was young – I was almost 26 at the time. Teaching would always be there but the Army had an age limit. Continue reading