Meet the Musicians
United States Navy Band Drum Major
Master Chief Musician Michael P. Bayes
Master Chief Musician Mike Bayes is the drum major for the United States Navy Band. A native of Bowie, Maryland, Bayes began his musical career as a saxophone instrumentalist. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University and later completed a Bachelor of Music in music education at West Virginia University. His teachers include Nancy Gamso, David Hastings, Curtis Johnson, Jay Marcum and Timothy Roberts. While at WVU, he received the Theodore Presser Award and was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the Gold Key Honor Society and Mu Phi Epsilon. He also won the West Virginia Young Artist Award in 1995 as a member of Prism Saxophone Quartet.
In 1996, Bayes auditioned and won a position in the U.S. Navy Band. He performed with the Concert and Ceremonial Bands on local concerts and national tours, as well as many ceremonial engagements from full honors funerals to international tattoos. In addition to his performing duties, he has served as the Navy Band head archivist, concert/ceremonial saxophone section leader, and coordinator of the Navy Band's International Saxophone Symposium. He has served as adjunct professor of saxophone at Towson University.
While still performing as an instrumentalist, Bayes assumed the assistant drum major position in 2001 where he led the band during high-level military and government ceremonies including parades, wreath laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, and full honors arrival ceremonies at the Pentagon and White House. Bayes assumed the responsibilities as the Navy's premier drum major in 2014.
Bayes has received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Global War on Terror Service Medal. His hobbies include working in the garden, studying history, cooking, juggling and spending time with family. He recently completed a Master of Education in teaching and learning history at Liberty University.
Drum Majors have played a pivotal role for centuries as leaders of military bands. The term itself refers to the top enlisted Army rank of Sergeant Major. Many centuries ago, the position was referred to as “Sergeant Major of the Drums,” and was a job of significant leadership, responsible for the defense of the drummers and bandsmen (as they relay vital communication to the troops for changes in maneuvers), the military discipline of all band members, maintaining standards of dress and deportment, administrative tasks, and overseeing the band’s overall standards of military drill and marching movements.
Today, the drum major’s role in a military band may seem like so much window dressing, but the job really has not changed a great deal; it is still a position of significant leadership and responsibility. Navy Band’s permanent drum major, Senior Chief Musician Michael P. Bayes, is the resident expert on every aspect of any ceremony the band performs, such as funerals at Arlington Cemetery, wreath laying ceremonies, and arrivals at the Pentagon or the White House.
The top two mission priorities for the band are to provide support for Arlington National Cemetery funerals and for ceremonial/protocol engagements in the national capital region, making Bayes the “go to” person for the command’s most important jobs. Part of his job is to assist the presiding officer to understand his or her role, a vitally important ingredient to a smooth and professionally run ceremony. Every band member who performs with the ceremonial band (and that’s virtually everyone, at one time or another) looks to the drum major for direction and guidance. Any question about the music, the proper uniform, maneuvers – literally anything to do with that performance – is directed to him or her.
The drum major has to know every aspect of every ceremony, everybody’s role in it, and be ready to answer every question at any time. Education and training are natural extensions of the job, and junior officers are often trained before they report to Navy Band. Training someone to preside over a big ceremony can take weeks, and they have to ensure zero defects in performance. The main job is to make sure the band and officer are comfortable with the ceremony. Without that, the performance suffers.
Navy Band drum majors are keenly aware of the centuries of tradition the sash and mace represent. They truly are the leaders and mentors to which the entire band looks for guidance and direction on the command’s top mission priorities. They lead the way.