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  • #16
    BK, your instructor (just going off of where you used to live) was probably in the US Army Blues, which is the premier jazz band of Pershing's Own, The US Army Band on Fort Myer, Virginia. The US Army Jazz Ambassadors, or "The JA's" to those of us who live in the region, are on Fort Meade, Maryland. He may have been at the JA's though, and transferred to Pershing's at some point - people do that because the US Army Field Band, due to how much it tours, is really hard on families and marriages.

    Being a former special Army bandsman myself (former bugler in the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps) there are a few things I can tell you about what it means to be a special bandsman.

    For starters, special bands are permanent duty. Typically once a person finds themselves in a premier military band, that's where they stay unless they move to another special band. There are people who do 30+ year careers all in the same place. Sometimes a person will move up from a basic base "working" military band to a premier band (I was at the First US Army Band at Fort Meade before I went to the FDC) but it's VERY rare for a person to get to a premier band only to move back down later.

    Rank - the base rank in the Army for premier bands is E6/Staff Sergeant. The only band where the members are exempt from boot camp or basic training is The President's Own, the US Marine Band. Everyone else goes through basic training first. I was never an E5 sergeant. I came in as a PFC, got promoted to E4 Specialist upon graduating the Armed Forces School of Music in Littlecreek/Norfolk, Virginia, and skipped E5 and was promoted directly to E6 at the FDC.

    So, moving forward, landing a slot in a premier military band these days is akin to landing a slot in a major symphony orchestra. This is due in part to the fact that being able to make a living as a full-time musician is difficult these days due to the US economy, so there are more musicians than jobs to go around. The problem is compounded by the fact that in the last 20 years, musician training at the collegiate level has increased dramatically, so there are tons of great players out there.

    To put this into perspective, the drummer who gets a military band gig like the JA's (US Army Blues, The Airmen of Note, The US Navy Commodores, etc) is going to have to be able to do everything - every jazz style from a full big band to playing a combo gig, swing, funk, rock, pop, Latin, etc, etc, and be freaking awesome at all of it. It's going to go well beyond chops, although you'll have to have chops to burn, If you have ANY chops deficiency, don't bother - you won't make the cut) but you'll also have to be able to read almost any chart on the fly and nail it, and you'll have to be musically intuitive with a great sense of time and pocket. Think Ed Shaughnessy or Steve Gadd - that's the level these guys play at, and that's not an exaggeration.

    I mentioned above that I was in a premier band, the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps. That was then - back then the FDC was more about marching than playing. These days I wouldn't have a prayer of making the cut. The standard has risen far beyond my capabilities as a trumpet player, and I'm a pretty solid player. Anymore they don't even look at you unless you majored in music performance in college, and a lot of times the people vying for a slot have master's degrees.

    It's a great gig if you can get it, but landing any kind of military band slot has gotten competitive, never mind trying to land in a premier military band.
    Patrick G.

    "95% of the average 'weekend warrior's' problems could be solved by an additional 30 minutes of insightful practice." -- Anonymous

    "Let's be honest... drummers don't have piles of money laying around, just piles of drums." -- Gord the Drummer

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    • #17
      Hey Patrick... did I ever show you this clip of me and some people who I think are part of the old Drum and Fife corps? This was from 2006.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqmbWuL-W2E

      And yes.. my instructor was in the army. Uniform and everything. He had a rank and his job was playing in Persing's Own band. I think he also did the other groups at point. I'd reach out to him, but I have lost contact with him over the years.
      sigpic
      DESPERATELY SEEKING A MHX BASS DRUM WITH A BB-3 TOM MOUNT IN WINE RED

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      • #18
        I did OJT with the 1st Corps Army band at Fort Lewis for 6 months. It was awesome and I learned a ton!
        Mapex Saturn V in deep water ash burl: https://www.pearldrummersforum.com/a...p?albumid=1218

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Big King View Post
          Hey Patrick... did I ever show you this clip of me and some people who I think are part of the old Drum and Fife corps? This was from 2006.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqmbWuL-W2E

          And yes.. my instructor was in the army. Uniform and everything. He had a rank and his job was playing in Persing's Own band. I think he also did the other groups at point. I'd reach out to him, but I have lost contact with him over the years.
          Yep - the one fifer, Don Francisco, is a good friend of mine and just retired from the FDC a year or so ago. He now works at Mount Vernon, pretty much doing the same thing he was doing in the video.

          I figured your instructor was probably at Pershing's Own rather than the Field Band - it just makes more sense with you living there in NOVA.

          There have been many times since 1999 when I left the active duty component of the Army band program where I have wondered if I made the right call. It was a great time and getting into it straight out of high school, I didn't realize just how good I had it at the time. With that said, it could be a little bit hard on families. As a military bandsman, it's more common than not to have to work on holidays, and when I was in the FDC, we often didn't have any advance idea of what our schedule would be day to day. Our command structure had to react to whatever came down from on high at Regiment daily, so while me might have an idea of what was going on the next day, it was rare to have anything more than a one-day lead on what our schedule was going to be.

          It was much better than that at the First US Army Band at Meade, although at the time it didn't really matter too much for me. I was single and I lived at the barracks over the band hall, but more to the point, my job was pretty much my life. I didn't have friends outside of the band, and even though we had a schedule we could rely on, for me it didn't matter - I took everything pretty much day by day.
          Patrick G.

          "95% of the average 'weekend warrior's' problems could be solved by an additional 30 minutes of insightful practice." -- Anonymous

          "Let's be honest... drummers don't have piles of money laying around, just piles of drums." -- Gord the Drummer

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          • #20
            Originally posted by trickg View Post
            Yep - the one fifer, Don Francisco, is a good friend of mine and just retired from the FDC a year or so ago. He now works at Mount Vernon, pretty much doing the same thing he was doing in the video.

            I figured your instructor was probably at Pershing's Own rather than the Field Band - it just makes more sense with you living there in NOVA.

            There have been many times since 1999 when I left the active duty component of the Army band program where I have wondered if I made the right call. It was a great time and getting into it straight out of high school, I didn't realize just how good I had it at the time. With that said, it could be a little bit hard on families. As a military bandsman, it's more common than not to have to work on holidays, and when I was in the FDC, we often didn't have any advance idea of what our schedule would be day to day. Our command structure had to react to whatever came down from on high at Regiment daily, so while me might have an idea of what was going on the next day, it was rare to have anything more than a one-day lead on what our schedule was going to be.

            It was much better than that at the First US Army Band at Meade, although at the time it didn't really matter too much for me. I was single and I lived at the barracks over the band hall, but more to the point, my job was pretty much my life. I didn't have friends outside of the band, and even though we had a schedule we could rely on, for me it didn't matter - I took everything pretty much day by day.
            Sounds like the Military. Seriously, sounds like it was a serious adventure to say the least. Thank you for your service!
            sigpic
            DESPERATELY SEEKING A MHX BASS DRUM WITH A BB-3 TOM MOUNT IN WINE RED

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            • #21
              Originally posted by trickg View Post
              I came in as a PFC, got promoted to E4 Specialist upon graduating the Armed Forces School of Music in Littlecreek/Norfolk, Virginia, and skipped E5 and was promoted directly to E6 at the FDC.
              I grew up less than a half mile from Little Creek Gate 3. Played baseball and went bowling on the base all the time, lol.
              -~=Joey=~-
              ---------------
              '99 MRX Naturals, Sabian cymbals, Starclassic Birch Snare

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              • #22
                Originally posted by CoyoteG View Post
                Dale, If I understand your question correctly, if they call you in for a live interview, you still haven't signed any paperwork. Lets say you get down to FT Meade, hang out with the band for the day, and decide it really isn't for you? At that point you can just walk away. If you ARE accepted by the band, AND you decide to enlist, you'll have an acceptance letter to present to the MEPS station for your contract (if the contract doesn't say what it is SUPPOSE to say, then don't sign it) AND a POC for the band recruiter if you have ANY questions during the process.

                Part of all of this is having the personal confidence to be able to go into a "cold" auditorium and PLAY (at the level that people expect). It is NOT a cockiness of a typical "Rock" musician, but a quiet confidence of a Professional. In the bios, you'll see that the singer has NO "formal education" as a singer, and in fact was originally a Fuel Handler. She is just THAT good of a singer and has the confidence to "hang" with the big boys and girls. Even the Drummer that is leaving has no "Formal" education (like most of the others), but has a LOT of experience playing with professional musicians.

                If I were in YOUR position, I would take the next 6+ weeks and sharpen up my Latin playing and put in the video. MAKE them tell you NO. Who KNOWS? They could call you down for the interview, you and all the band members CLICK, and you get the gig. Too many people 2nd guess themselves and in 20 or 30 years, they end up with a lot of "what ifs" and "Could have beens". Getting along with the other band members is probably just as important as being a competent musician.

                EVERY musician has SOMETHING that they are "weak" in, that they know they need to work on. Even Steve Smith is always working on Something, improving.
                Just wanted to update your info a little. No e of the 42S bands attend AIT. They attend BASIC training and then sign in at their units. At West Point we have a 6 week course that new Soldiers take in house before being promoted to Staff Sergeant and I'm fairly certain the other special bands have a similar program.
                RBH Monarch Drums in Merlot Sparkle
                RBH Westwood Drums in Green Sparkle

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