- A Message from the Commanding Officer
- Navy Band musicians reach out to students on the U.S. Virgin Islands
- "O Brave New World"
- Spotlight on...Senior Chief Musician William Gray
A Message from the Commanding Officer
So far, 2012 has been a great year for your Navy Band. The International Saxophone Symposium was an overwhelming success, featuring nearly 400 performers in over 100 events across two days. Our fantastic symposium team, superbly led by Senior Chief Musician Mike Bayes, is already hard at work planning next year’s event.
This month, the Concert Band and Sea Chanters will be embarking on their national concert tours. Both ensembles will be out for a little less than a month, covering a total of 12 states. It’s hard to believe, but the Concert Band hasn’t performed in Michigan in over 20 years. Our tours are a great opportunity to reach out to communities that don’t get a lot of exposure to the Navy, in addition to sharing some great music.
March 4 is a special date for us as we celebrate the 87th birthday of the United States Navy Band. On this date in 1925, the 68th Congress passed Public Law 611, Title 34, Section 596, which ordained, “That hereafter the band now stationed at the Navy Yard...and known as the Navy Yard Band, shall be designated as the United States Navy Band...” President Calvin Coolidge signed the bill on the day he was inaugurated. I’m happy to report that at 87 years young the band is going strong, and is better than ever.
Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner, and we’re already looking forward to playing outdoors on warm summer evenings at the Capitol steps on Mondays, and at the Navy Memorial on Tuesdays. Our productions team has been hard at work planning our Concerts on the Avenue. These popular concerts, performed on selected Tuesday evenings at the Navy Memorial, treat our audiences to high-energy performances of everything from movie sound tracks to traditional sea shanties to Broadway selections and more. This year’s production also commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
I’d like to take a moment and thank the Ceremonial Band for their hard work. Over the last two months, they’ve participated in well over 100 ceremonies, many of which were outdoors in very cold temperatures. Through snow, sleet, wind and rain, the Ceremonial Band impeccably represents our Sailors, past and present.
Navy Band musicians reach out to students on the U.S. Virgin Islands
by Master Chief Musician Aaron Porter
As part of the Navy Band’s diversity outreach program, 10 members of the U.S. Navy Band traveled to the island of St. Thomas, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, in October. The purpose of this trip was threefold. The first was to visit several schools to perform clinics and masterclasses with secondary school musicians. The second was to honor the life and legacy of one of the territory’s most famous citizens, and the Navy’s first African-American bandmaster, Chief Musician Alton Augustus Adams, Sr. The third was to gather first-hand accounts about Adams from family members and friends for the Navy Band archives.
The band assisted school musicians with their studies through hands-on instruction and guidance, and accompanied this expert advice with the ideals of hard work, discipline and persistence that were hallmarks of Adams’ influence on the musical and cultural life of the Virgin Islands. In all, the musicians visited four high schools and one middle school. These visits started with Capt. Brian O. Walden, the band’s commanding officer, conducting a rehearsal with the school’s wind ensemble, teaching basics such as breath support, teamwork, phrasing and other fundamentals. The students were then assigned by instrument to rehearsal and practice rooms for more intense instruction by Master Chief Musicians Betty Myers and Kevin Dines on flute and trumpet, respectively, Senior Chief Musicians Jim Logan and Mike Bayes on clarinet and saxophone, respectively, Chief Musicians Leon Alexander, Daryl Duff and Tia Wortham on percussion and vocals, respectively, and Musician 1st Class Justin Cody on keyboard. These sessions focused on fundamentals, with the pupils deriving great benefits from the individual attention given by Navy Band members. In this atmosphere, the young musicians really thrived, with discernible improvements in their performance. At each visit, band members were impressed by the students’ love of music, enthusiasm and desire to learn.
As part of this trip, the musicians also performed the recital “Pioneers of Navy Music: A History of African-Americans in the Navy Music Program,” which in part tells the story of Adams’ appointment as a bandmaster during World War I. (Fanfare subscribers will remember that this recital was performed at the Smithsonian Institute’s Baird Auditorium in November 2010 and was the subject of an article in the March/April 2011 issue. This issue is archived on our site here.)
Adams’ impact on the cultural life of the Virgin Islands was enormous. Born in 1889, he grew up in what was then known as the Danish West Indies. By the time the United States purchased the islands from Denmark in 1917, he had already established a very well-known and respected wind ensemble, the Adams Juvenile Band. The United States Navy, which governed the islands at the time, was so impressed with the musicianship and discipline of this band that it was inducted into the Navy within a month of the purchase, and renamed the United States Navy Band of the Virgin Islands. Thus, Chief Adams became the first African-American bandmaster in the Navy.
A highlight of this trip for band members, and especially Bayes, the band’s archivist, was a visit with members of the Adams family and friends at the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts. This visit was in essence a round-table discussion about Adams, with first-hand accounts and reminiscences about his impact on the cultural life in the Islands. Adams was known throughout the islands as a disciplinarian, intolerant of any laxness from members of his band. While this toughness was acknowledged by his family and friends, their stories were told with fondness and no lack of humor. This discussion provided the band’s archives with several insights and details about Adams and his life and legacy, and helped fill in many details about this period in the Navy music program’s early history.
The Navy Band members who participated in this event were truly grateful for the opportunity to visit the Virgin Islands and help the students with their musical instruction, and for the warm and enthusiastic welcome they received. The band also wishes to express its profound thanks to the International Capital and Management Company, which sponsored the event. ff
"O Brave New World"
by Musician 1st Class Adam Grimm
In late 2009, the Navy Band explored a new frontier: social media. It began with Facebook, but quickly branched out to Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Today, we publish a Navy Band blog in addition to appearing on Tumblr, Google+ and ReverbNation. If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. We want to be able to reach you in order to share our love of music, Navy and country, no matter what medium you use.
Our social media team, which includes Petty Officers 1st Class Eric Brown, Jeremy Buckler, Justin Cody and Tony Halloin, are responsible for making sure that information gets posted online to our fans every day, including holidays. They are also responsible for interacting with those who leave comments or ask questions. Buckler says “Being able to communicate directly with our audiences through social media is both very personal but comes with great responsibility. Representing the entire social voice of the Navy Band can be pretty daunting.”
As we embark on our third year of “Navy Band 2.0,” we’re striving to share even more behind-the-scenes stories and news, and provide more opportunities to hear our music online. One of our more successful ventures has been our YouTube channel, where videos of the Navy Band have been viewed over 115,000 times. Thanks to the fantastic video editing of the Navy Band’s productions chief, Senior Chief Musician Keith Hinton, and the skillful videography of Chief Musician Steve Hassay and his visual information team, we’re working to get even more videos up this year.Join us in the social media world, and you’ll be the first to hear when we find new ways for our American public to enjoy “The World’s Finest.” The future is filled with things like QR codes, live streaming and mobile apps, and a few other concepts that haven’t even been created, yet. If that’s not enough motivation, then you should know that there’s a certain band in a certain Army that has more fans on Facebook than your Navy Band, and if the last ten years has taught us anything, Navy doesn’t lose to Army.
Spotlight on...Senior Chief Musician William Gray
by Senior Chief Musician Juan Vazquez
This month, Spotlight features Senior Chief Musician Bill Gray, the band's operations chief. His office is responsible for scheduling every performance by all of the band's ensembles. As you'll see, this is a huge job, but one to which he's very well suited.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and began singing in the church choir as soon as I was old enough. While in high school and after a little trial and error with a cornet, I’d say the tuba chose me. There are no musicians in my immediate family so you can just imagine the looks on their faces when I brought a sousaphone home! My still unfulfilled dream was to dot the letter “i” in Script O-H-I-O at an Ohio State football game!
I didn’t actually play a real tuba until my senior year when my teacher loaned me an extra one he had while helping me prepare for a college audition. I completed a Bachelor of Music Education at the University of Toledo studying with Jamie Hafner, my mentor, who instilled a passion for music in me and guided me to attend the Brevard Music Center for several summers. I then completed a master’s degree program at Indiana University where I studied with the legendary Harvey Phillips.
My professional career began as tubist with the Orquesta Filarmonica in Santiago, Chile. I was extremely happy to be able to play in a full-time orchestra that performed concerts, ballet and opera. I was also able to develop a love of foreign languages which has continued to today and been useful in operations and in our home school environment.
What is your present position?
After eight years in Chile I joined the Concert/Ceremonial Band tuba section in 1992. In 2003 I had the opportunity to join the operations team. I was excited about the challenge because the operations office seemed like the center of activity and a place to make a difference. I haven’t been disappointed! Now, in my full-time staff role as operations chief, I am responsible for scheduling and coordinating logistical details for all Navy Band ensembles, such as ensuring venue and power requirements are adequate. We also set up funding and arrange transportation for every ensemble. We can usually be found with our heads buried in the working calendar that takes into account the many competing demands of every Navy Band ensemble. When evaluating a performance request we need to determine if it is of mutual benefit to both the public and the Navy. We never know who might be on the other end of that ringing phone but whether it’s an elementary school PTA parent or the secretary of the Navy’s office, we like to establish a great working relationship with our sponsors.
My predecessors, retired Senior Chief Musician Lynn Fryer and more recently, retired Master Chief Musician Mark Cochran, were experts at building great relationships and also putting Navy Band ensembles in the best possible performing environments. I’m fortunate to work with Chief Musician Greta Loggins and a dedicated team of assistants who make the office run smoothly. Believe me, there’s never a boring day!
Share with us three highlights of your Navy career.
Well, my number one highlight is easily the Navy Band’s trip to the 1999 Festival des Musiques Militaires de Québec, Canada, for it is there where I met my wonderful wife, who was a bassoonist with Les Voltigeurs de Québec. Our trip to Russia in 1996 to help celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy also stands out.
But the most poignant and difficult performance personally was the memorial service for families of victims of the 9/11 attacks at the Pentagon in October 2001. Perhaps there is nothing more difficult to do as musician than perform when you feel such a deep personal loss as we all felt on that day.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I’m usually listening to various interpretations of the Bach Cello Suites or some timpani concerto (yes, there are some) since we have two budding young musicians here at home. But, for a change of pace in the car I’ll grab some Alan Parsons Project or Tears for Fears.
What are you currently working on?
We have many performances in the planning stages! In particular, we’re looking forward to our participation at the Virginia Military Tattoo in Norfolk, Va., this April.
Personally, I’m happy to perform with a local brass quintet and enjoy working with a studio of students. As a homeschooling family we are always planning our next exciting activity and always looking for a way to get to Québec to visit family and friends!
How has the Navy Band evolved during your time here?
It amazes me how multi-talented our members are! From web design to stage productions, so many people give above and beyond their musical talent. I think that today’s Navy Band can literally perform any style of music. I see the band, from top to bottom, much more in step with the Navy’s priorities and vision. The way we prepare new chiefs for leadership positions has also been very positive and has set the band up for future success.
Share with us a typical day in Operations.
There is no “typical” day in “Ops” but we start off each day attending to all transportation needs for the band, and checking support for Arlington National Cemetery. We balance the day with checking details of imminent performances for events like arrival ceremonies at the Pentagon to public concerts and Music in the Schools educational concerts. We also review ethics and legal processes for our events to ensure that performances adhere to all current regulations and laws. But mostly, we monitor and respond to the myriad requests for performances. One thing is for sure in operations, the future is always just around the corner!
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
I’m most often found either in a swimming pool or at the pool’s edge acting as a “stroke and turn” official at swim meets. I also enjoy trying to master the imperfect art of “home improvements.”