The Atlantic Brass quintet recently spent several days working with the brass players of the 399th U.S. Army Band. We coached their two brass quintets, held a roundtable discussion, had some open rehearsals, observed their ceremonial band, and gave a recital. Over the years, we have worked with numerous military musicians at our seminars, but it was especially meaningful to me, since I was a military musician myself. I was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force Band of the Golden Gate from 1986 to 1989. During that time, I grew to appreciate the unique challenges of being a bandsman. Not only do you have the typical musical challenges of any large musical ensemble, you also have to navigate the regulations and command structure of the military.
I was fortunate to be in a fairly large and talented band, and enjoyed playing in the brass quintet, and toured the Western US on a regular basis. The best part for me was taking lessons with Floyd Cooley and getting to live in Northern California.
When I was in college. I had dreams of being an orchestral musician and never imagined that I would enlist in the military. Looking back, I am really glad I made that choice, it was definitely a good experience.
These days, military bands are often being asked to do more with less, so bandsmen must be versatile, professional, and prepared for anything. Not a bad skill set to develop for any musician.