- A Message from the Commander
- Navy Musician Teaches Rowing to Wounded Warriors
- Navy Band Member’s New Edition of Concert Favorite Premiered by Philadelphia Orchestra
- Navy Band Celebrates Alumni Weekend
- Spotlight on Musicians 1st Class Benjamin L. Bransford III and Casey J. Elliott
- In Memoriam
A Message from the Commander
As I assume command of the United States Navy Band, I want to thank you, our loyal fanfare readers, for your continued support and patronage. Leading “the World’s Finest” is the dream of many a bandmaster. It is certainly the apex of my Navy Music career, and I am both humbled and honored for the opportunity. I also wish to thank and commend Lt. Cmdr. Richard Bailey, executive officer of the Navy Band, for his stellar leadership during this transitional time. Like an experienced helmsman, he steered the ship on a steady course and ensured that the Navy Band not only met, but also exceeded our mission goals. We are all indebted to him for his service.
Reporting aboard as we head into summer certainly has its challenges. As I am becoming keenly aware, the summer season is one of the band’s highest operational tempo periods of the year. With regular concerts throughout the metropolitan area, as well as a plethora of ceremonies here at the Navy Yard and at Arlington National Cemetery, a day rarely passes when some contingent of the Navy Band is not out in the public eye. So I invite everyone to come out and enjoy a performance, particularly one of our special Tuesday evening “Concerts on the Avenue” at the U.S. Navy Memorial or our Fourth of July presentation on the grounds of the Washington Monument.
To our many Navy Band alumni readers, I also wish to extend a personal invitation to our alumni weekend festivities on August 1-2. Your dedication to duty laid the groundwork for the organization we are today. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.
Again, I am excited to begin this new chapter in Navy Band history, and I sincerely hope to meet many of you at one of our concerts.
Brian O. Walden, Lieutenant Commander, USN
Navy Musician Teaches Rowing Rhythms to Wounded Warriors
by MC2(EXW/AW) Jesse Awalt, NDW Public Affairs
This article originally appeared in the May 27, 2010 issue of “The Waterline”
(Edited for length.)
It’s 11:30 a.m. in the nation’s capital. Workers all over town are making their way to lunch. Horns are blaring. Sirens are screaming. Pedestrians are jaywalking and congested traffic is guaranteed. Making a journey from the city’s southeast side to its bustling northwest and continuing into Maryland at mid-day would seem ridiculous. But this is how Musician 1st Class Patrick Johnson spends almost every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. The hourlong drive to the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda is worth it to him for one reason: the wounded warriors at NNMC’s Mercy Hall are expecting him and it’s not for music.
Four years ago Chief Musician Michel Curtis and Johnson, both members of the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, began rowing at Capitol Rowing Club, a masters rowing club on the Anacostia River right next to the Washington Navy Yard where the band is located. Curtis thought other musicians would fit right in at a regatta. “I thought rowing [would be] such a natural fit with everyone’s musical ability,” said Curtis. “We are positioned on the Anacostia and there is a boathouse right next door; why don’t we go over there and see what happens?”
Curtis and Johnson soon had 14 of their bandmates going to the boathouse weekly. They put together a rowing team that won best novice rowing crew in D.C. The musicians had found a fun way to build camaraderie while getting a good workout.
Capitol Rowing Club includes an adaptive component for people who are physically disabled. Members of the club approached Curtis and Johnson in 2006 with an idea to include wounded veterans. They believed that the musicians’ military experience would make veterans feel more comfortable about participating. “We were all enthusiastic to get involved with the vets and support their rehabilitation efforts,” said Curtis. “Our ability to relate to them on a certain level that only people in the military can understand really helped.”
Curtis and Johnson became certified U.S. rowing coaches and worked with representatives from the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympics Military Program (PMP) at NNMC. PMP provides post-rehabilitation support to servicemen and women who have sustained physical injuries or had physical problems. Gunnery Sgt. Jose Gonzalez of Wounded Warrior Battalion – East is tasked with overseeing the welfare of the Marines there. Most of the Marines in his battalion have been deployed overseas, injured and sent back. “Some of them are really in need of extensive medical treatment, … and it can last anywhere from three to six to nine months depending on what the injuries are,” said Gonzalez. He sees great benefit from the Marines finding ways to exercise and having something to look forward to each day. He helped get Marines interested by including rowing machines, called ergs, at the Marines’ daily afternoon formation. Bringing the ergs and the coaches straight to the Marines made rowing a convenient option for exercise.
“Every Tuesday, if there is any delay in the [coaches] coming, they are asking me [for them]. They say ‘we are waiting downstairs Gunny; we are ready to go.’” said Gonzalez. One such Marine is Lance Cpl. Joshua Heck. Heck, a 22-year-old Pittsburgh native, suffered a stroke in 2008 that left him with some memory loss. “I had to learn to talk and read and write and all that fun stuff all over again. Little spots come back,” said Heck. He has been at Mercy Hall for seven months and recalled the first time he saw Johnson. “They were trying to get everybody involved in some sort of activity [to] get us out of the barracks room and I was like ‘that looks like something I could pace myself at.’” By the following week, Heck and fellow Mercy Hall resident Marine Sgt. Adam Sanchez were competing in indoor rowing competitions. If the Marines are interested enough after the Tuesday practices, Johnson drives to Bethesda on Thursdays and brings them back to the Capitol Rowing Club. “I think the things that they do, it [means] a lot,” said Sanchez. “They want to help and improve us while we get better and show us that there is still that camaraderie.”
For Marines, that is extremely important. Sanchez said that when he arrived at Mercy Hall, he felt down on himself. He says the program helped those feelings go away and even helped him physically. “I didn’t want anything to do with rowing … . But once I tried it a few times, I grew more fascinated with it and I figured out it helped a lot in my recovery,” said the sergeant. “I went from actually getting on a walker from being bed ridden to just walking regularly. And it was all because of the physical [opportunities] that they opened up for us.” Johnson, who retires from the Navy soon, says that is why he will continue going to Bethesda even after his retirement. “A lot of the kids [Marines] are just like ‘My God, what’s happened? My life’s over,’” said Johnson. “It is about showing them ‘no it’s not over, you just have to keep going.’”
Navy Band Member’s New Edition of Concert Favorite Premiered by Philadelphia Orchestra
by MUCS Aaron Porter
Musician 1st Class David Miller, a trombonist with the Concert/Ceremonial Band, recently had the honor of attending the Philadelphia Orchestra’s premier performance of his new critical edition of Mikhail Glinka’s overture to “Russlan and Ludmilla.” The story of how this new edition came about is like an episode of “History Detectives.” Miller initially was drawn to the piece, which is a perennial audience favorite, because he wanted to arrange it for a large brass ensemble. When he started delving into the project, however, he realized that what he thought would be a relatively simple job of arranging became a hunt through facsimiles of old hand-written scores to try to come up with a definitive version.
One complication was that Glinka’s original score was lost in a fire in 1859. Additionally, he discovered that many of the sources, some edited by well-known composers such as Hector Berlioz and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, were full of discrepancies, inconsistencies, and outright mistakes. Many of these errors had been handed down through the centuries to modern editions, which are still being performed with all the old mistakes. “Once I started, I realized that there were so many different editions, and there were discrepancies even in dynamic placement. I realized also that I was creating an edition just to have my own working score,”
Miller said in an interview with fanfare. It occurred to him that his time would be much better spent editing the full orchestral score, rather than one for a brass ensemble. “I thought, I’ll start with something that is still in demand, [and] maybe someday I’ll go back and do a brass ensemble version based on my new critical edition.” He then compiled all the publications of the score he could find, and, comparing them against each other, began to sort out the errors. In April, 2009, when he was in the midst of the project, he found out that the Philadelphia Orchestra was scheduled to perform the overture in 2010 as part of an all-Russian program at the Strathmore Concert Hall in Bethesda, Md. Through his colleagues at the National Symphony Orchestra, he was able to contact the Philadelphia Orchestra’s library and its legendary conductor, Charles Dutoit. He offered them the option of performing the world premier of his critical edition, which they accepted. After a long process of editing, proofreading and creating individual parts for the orchestra, the performance took place on May 26, 2010. Miller and his wife were present at the premier, giving them a rare opportunity to hear his edition of a concert favorite performed by a world-class ensemble. Of the experience, Miller said, “Having earned my master’s degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, I was transported back to that time during the concert. The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of my favorite orchestras, and I was privileged to have them premier my edition!”
Navy Band Celebrates Alumni Weekend
by MUCS Aaron Porter
On Monday, August 2nd at 8 p.m., you are invited to help the Navy Band welcome back old friends in a concert at the Navy Memorial, celebrating the culmination of our biennial alumni weekend. A favorite event of Navy Band members, alumni weekend is an opportunity to reconnect with shipmates, share “sea stories” from years past and perform together once more. Newer members enjoy hearing tales of “the good old days” from alumni and connecting with the living history and heritage of the band. Please join your United States Navy Band for what promises to be a night of music and fond memories.
Spotlight on Musicians 1st Class Benjamin L. Bransford III and Casey J. Elliott
by MUCS Juan Vazquez
Petty Officers 1st Class Benjamin L. Bransford III and Casey J. Elliott, are the associate music directors for the Navy Band Sea Chanters. Together with the ensemble’s talented singers, they create programs enjoyed by audiences across the country.
Tell us a little about yourselves.
I’m from Hurst, Texas, and credit my dad for introducing me to music as a child. I joined the choir and band in junior high and continued through high school. At Texas Tech University I completed a master’s degree in choral conducting and a bachelor’s degree in music performance and music education. Casey and I began our college careers the same year and shared many of the same professors, including our voice teacher, Karl Dent, and our choral music director, John Dickson. The Sea Chanters’ previous director, Senior Chief Musician Keith Hinton, approached me after a Texas Tech performance and told me of a tenor position available in the Sea Chanters. I auditioned and was hired.
I am also from Texas and started singing in a great choral program at Borger High School with Johnny Miller. I started a music education degree at Texas Tech University in the fall of ‘98 and, as Ben mentioned, we both studied voice under Karl Dent. I also studied with Kathy McNeil. After we graduated in 2003, we earned a master’s degree in choral conducting under John Dickson. I joined the Sea Chanters a year after Ben.
What are your roles as music directors and why two?
We design rehearsal schedules, play a strong role in
programming music for the group, and work with other units
to coordinate music for command-wide productions. We’ve also
recently worked together to produce a CD for the Sea Chanters.
Our previous director became ill right before a tour and was unable
to tour with us, so Ben and I just divided up the music! We
have kept a similar format since then. With two conductors, we
can choose to conduct pieces that play to our personal strengths. For example, I really love to rehearse the tunes we perform with the band, and Ben heads up programming for our Sea Chanters concerts.
As music directors we research, plan and prepare the repertoire for our various concert engagements. I lead a production team of creative and supportive individuals from the Sea Chanters. Together we find repertoire and plan programming which I then use to schedule daily rehearsals throughout the year.
Tell us about the Sea Chanters and their role in the band.
The group is responsible for a wide array of performance obligations from solo to full group performances in many different musical styles. As soloists, we perform the national anthem at many protocol engagements. The Sea Chanters chorus was created to preserve the sea chantey, a shipboard working song, and it is still an important part of our repertoire. We also perform choral art songs, spirituals, selections from operas, musicals, jazz, rock, and patriotic repertoire, and endeavor to provide programs that have wide appeal.
We strive to bring a high level of musical excellence to each engagement whether it’s singing the national anthem, having our talented rhythm trio provide dinner music for senior military officials, or singing at the White House for the president, first lady and their guests.
What is currently in your iPod?
I love Queen, David Bowie, Hall and Oates, as well as current dance music such as Top 40, rap and R&B. Bransford: I listen to any kind of music I can get my hands on, but I am partial to film scores.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
My wife and I were recently blessed with a bouncing baby boy. Pretty much all I do involves him and my wife. I love it! Being a dad is my passion. Whatever he is into, so am I.
I love to read and also enjoy cooking dinner for my friends. Getting out and seeing local live music almost every weekend is a must!
Arthur R. Cresce (1917-2010)
The Navy Band mourns the passing of former clarinetist Arthur Cresce, on April 24, 2010. He was 92. He enlisted in the Navy in 1936 as a musician. He graduated from the Navy School of Music and served at Pearl Harbor and in the Pacific Theater during World War II. After the war, he returned to the School of Music as an instructor before becoming a member of the U.S. Navy Band. He rose to the rank of Chief Musician before retiring in 1966. He is survived by his wife Anita, three sons, two brothers, and five grandchildren. At his interment in Arlington National Cemetery, Navy Band rendered honors.