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Fanfare Newsletter

May/June 2012, Volume 33 Number 3
  • A Message from the Commanding Officer
  • Navy Band's Summer Season is Right Around the Corner
  • Calling All Young Soloists...Navy Band's High School Concerto Competition
  • Spotlight on...
    Chief Musician John Schroeder
  • In Memoriam

A Message from the Commanding Officer

Captain Brian O. Walden

The Concert Band and Sea Chanters recently returned from very successful tours of the Midwest.  Together, the two groups performed 41 concerts in 12 states for over 50,000 people.  We have received an amazing amount of positive feedback from our audiences. Not only have we received emails and phone calls, but many people have chosen to contact us through social media, like Facebook and Twitter.  We’re always looking for ways to reach people and share our love of music, as well as the pride and the professionalism of the Navy we are so honored to serve and represent.

Memorial Day is at the end of this month, and I wanted to highlight two events.  First, the Ceremonial Band will be participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Navy Memorial at 1 p.m. and second, the Sea Chanters will be performing at the National Memorial Day Concert, hosted by Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna.  That concert will be broadcast live on PBS starting at 8 p.m.  Memorial Day is a chance for all Americans to honor the men and women of our armed forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom.

The summer concert season is ramping up now, and will soon be in full swing.  We’ll be performing 23 public concerts in May, and 24 in June.  Many of our concerts are outdoors, and are a perfect way to spend an hour or two on a nice summer day.  Also, our concerts are a great (and cheap!) outing for the entire family.

Finally, we’ve been talking a lot at our concerts about the War of 1812.  This year marks the 200th anniversary of that war, a war in which a small U.S. Navy fought the largest naval force in the world, the British Navy, and emerged victorious.  All year long we will be celebrating the war’s bicentennial, and the origins of our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key in Baltimore Harbor during the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Thank you all for your continued support of the Navy Band, and America’s Navy.  It’s our great privilege to represent the world’s greatest Navy to the world’s greatest people.

Navy Band's Summer Season is Right Around the Corner

by Master Chief Musician Aaron Porter


2011 Concert on the Avenue
Petty Officers 1st Class Shana Sullivan, left, and Cory Parker, right, perform at the U. S. Navy Memorial during a Navy Band Concert on the Avenue

Incredible as it seems, the winter season has passed, the Concert Band and Sea Chanter tours are over, and the Navy Band is putting preparations for the summer concert series into high gear. We’ve enjoyed one of the mildest winters in recent memory and an exceptionally early spring, which makes many of us wonder what the summer weather will be like. One thing that you can count on is that your Navy Band will be performing great concerts at our usual outdoor venues, the Navy Memorial and the west steps of the U.S. Capitol building.

Our concerts on Monday and Tuesday nights concerts at the Capitol steps and Navy Memorial are perennial favorites, attended by repeat customers, many of whom are familiar faces to the band, as well as passers-by and tourists who just happen to be enjoying a summer evening stroll on the Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue. Starting at 8 p.m., these performances are designed to have something for everyone, with selections from orchestral and band literature, exciting vocal and instrumental soloists, and patriotic favorites.

Concerts on the Avenue, another crowd favorite, are performed at 8  p.m. on selected Tuesdays at the Navy Memorial ( This year, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and these concerts will focus on some of the war’s notable events. The War of 1812 was a pivotal conflict in the history of the United States, as it heralded the rise of the U.S. Navy as a fighting force with global reach and the audacity to successfully take on the British Royal Navy. It also inspired Francis Scott Key to write his poem, originally titled “Defence of Fort McHenry,” written in Baltimore after watching the failed British bombardment of Fort McHenry. The poem would become, many years later, the words to our national anthem. (Trivia question: the Navy Band has a unique connection to the anthem...what is it? More on this later.) Other commemorations these concerts will celebrate are the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle between the Monitor and the CSS Virginia, the capture of New Orleans by then-Capt. David Farragut, the 70th anniversary of the WWII Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the SEALs in 1962.  As in years past, the Navy Ceremonial Guard will open the concerts with a presentation of the state and territorial flags and a performance by their drill team.

2011 Concert on the Avenue
Petty Officers 1st Class Rachel Sarracco, left, and Bill Edwards, right, perform at the U. S. Navy Memorial during a Navy Band Concert on the Avenue
Now to that trivia question....Our national anthem has become such a regular part of so many events, including virtually every concert by military bands, that it’s easy to forget it hasn’t always been that way.  The poem Francis Scott Key composed at dawn on Sept.  14, 1814 was inspired by the sight of the American flag still waving above the battlements of Fort McHenry after a horrific all-night bombardment by British Royal Navy warships anchored in Baltimore harbor.  He wrote it to fit John Stafford Smith’s tune, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular song of the day. As the years passed, the song became more popular, was renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and military bands were required to play it at performances and ceremonies.  Finally, in 1930, Congress began hearings and debates to determine if it should be officially designated as our national anthem. In 1931, musicians from the Navy Band and two professional civilian sopranos (there were no women in the band at that time) were called before the House Judiciary Committee to prove that the anthem could be sung. While it is not the easiest song to perform well, it was proven to the committee that properly trained professionals could indeed handle its wide range. On March 7, 1931, as the result of this successful demonstration, President Herbert Hoover signed into law United States Code, Title 36 designating “The Star-Spangled Banner” our official national anthem.   

With events around the country beginning in April 2012 and continuing through 2015, the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Go to The Naval History and Heritage Command’s special website, to find more information about the history of the War of 1812 and the national anthem.

The Navy Band is looking forward to our summer concerts and to seeing all of you there.  Please check our website for more information.

Calling All Young Soloists...Navy Band's High School Concerto Competition

by Master Chief Musician Aaron Porter

2011 Concerto Competition

The Navy Band is pleased to announce the 12th annual High School Concerto Competition, one of our favorite ways to reach out to budding young musicians. The concert featuring this year’s competition winner and semifinalists will be at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, May 28 at 7:30 p.m. This year, due to a generous $1,000 gift from Naval Historical Foundation board member and former Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf II and awards from the National Capital Council Navy League of the United States, the first prize winner will receive a total of $1,250. Second and third prizes will be $150 and $100, respectively. Middendorf served as secretary of the Navy from 1974-1977, and in 1981 was appointed permanent representative of the U.S. to the Organization of American States, with the rank of ambassador. A composer in his own right, he has long been an admirer of the Navy Band, and has written a number of marches for the Concert Band.

Each year, interested students submit audio recordings for consideration in the preliminary round. These recordings serve as the best representation of the students’ playing. After the Navy Band receives and evaluates the recordings, a select number of finalists are invited to the historic Washington Navy Yard to audition in person. From this select group, the committee chooses a winner to perform with the Concert Band. The winner rehearses with the band at the dress rehearsal and subsequently performs his or her solo in concert. The semifinalists are also invited to perform a selection with the band. The Concerto Competition concert is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year for the Navy Band and our patrons. We consider it a pleasure to work with and inspire these young musicians. For full details about this year’s competition process click here.

Please join us to welcome a new generation of talent to the stage. Who might be able to say, “I heard him play before he was famous!”

Spotlight on...Chief Musician John Schroeder

by Senior Chief Musician Juan Vazquez

MUC John Shroeder

The rendering of taps to honor our fallen is a time-honored tradition that falls into the hands of the Navy Band’s trumpet instrumentalists. Chief Musician John Schroeder is honored to be a part of this experience.

You worked in Santiago, Chile, for a while. How was that experience?

I lived and worked in Santiago as an orchestral musician for eight and a half years, three and a half with the Orquesta Filarmonica del Teatro Municpal, and five with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Chile. During those years as a principal trumpet player, I performed a lot of standard repertoire with very fine musicians and conductors. Chile is a very beautiful country. I miss the friends I made there as well as the music I was playing. I met my wife, Gabriela, in Chile. Our original plan was to remain in Chile indefinitely, but we ultimately decided our two daughters would have greater access to educational and professional opportunities here in the United States.

As a trumpeter, you regularly perform taps at Arlington National Cemetery. How did you prepare yourself for this honor?

When I reported to the Navy Band following boot camp, a senior member of the trumpet section was assigned to accompany me to Arlington National Cemetery and demonstrate how taps is rendered by buglers here at the Navy Band. The day we went, there were three funerals. He performed at the first funeral while I observed, then observed while I played the next two. From that point on, I was on my own. My first year in the band, I did over 100 renderings of taps at Arlington, Quantico, Cheltenham, Gate of Heaven and several local private cemeteries including Mt. Olivet and Cedar Hill.

Navy Band buglers perform taps at simple and full honors funerals, wreath ceremonies and also on other solemn occasions when fallen service members are remembered. A beautiful rendition of taps provides comfort to grieving families in a way unmatched by words. Regardless of the nature of the event, I dedicate the complete sum of my technical and musical skill to taps every time I’m called upon to play it.

Sometimes, the circumstances can be challenging. During winter, when temperatures drop below freezing, brass players’facial muscles become much less responsive. Simple tone production requires extraordinary effort and the possibility of missing a note is greatly increased. Over the years, I have tried a number of things to improve my chances of playing well in the cold, but in the end it comes down to simply getting used to it and aiming for the best results rather than settling for a mechanical performance.

Performing taps is like handling roses. No matter how careful you are, eventually you’re going to get pricked by a thorn. I learned very early on to play taps with my eyes closed so that my focus is entirely on the music. In order to sound the best I can, whatever the circumstances, I perform taps over and over again in my mind as I wait for my cue. I concentrate on how I want to sound while taking deep breaths with slow releases. When it’s time for me to play, I simply close my eyes and echo what I heard in my imagination.

Describe a typical work day.

I drive in at an unthinkable hour when few vehicles are on the road and there are plenty of places to park. Once I’m safely inside the band building, I begin my day by getting work done on the computer. I am responsible for other duties along with my musical duties. I’m the brass supply section manager, a member of the command’s mandatory drug testing program, and the chief in charge of the Navy Band Brass Quartet. Each requires regular attention and, often, immediate action. My goal is to get things done sooner rather than later. Without fail, at some point every morning, I pull out my trumpet and practice.

Tell us about the Navy Band Brass Quartet.

Of all the things I do as a musician in the United States Navy, it is my greatest privilege to serve as the leader of the Brass Quartet. I am a founding member and I’ve written over 60 arrangements for us to play at public concerts, ceremonies and educational presentations at schools. It has always been my goal that the quartet be prepared to perform any time, any place and for any occasion. Shortly after we were designated an official Navy Band chamber ensemble in 1999, it became evident that the quartet could be assigned to many of the jobs normally covered by the Ceremonial Band. With this in mind, we built our repertoire from the ground up.
For public concerts, we endeavor to perform compositions originally intended for brass quartet. We also rely on our own unique arrangements of light classical and American patriotic and folkloric favorites. For our Music in the Schools program, our choices of music are theme-based and we interact with the students considerably more than we do at a public concert. Chief Musician Stanley Curtis has produced three well-received programs for performance in schools: Music around the World, Music for Hispanic Heritage Month and Music for Black History Month. For the latter, Stan carefully selected several works by African-American composers and wrote beautiful settings of them for brass quartet and tenor voice. These were recently performed at the Navy Memorial with Musician 1st Class Cory Parker as our guest soloist. Besides the profound cultural significance of showcasing these works, it was an unprecedented, ground breaking event for a small brass ensemble to perform together with a vocalist. We look forward to repeating this program, adding to it and generating others like it in the future.

Name three pieces currently in your iPod.

I listen to a very wide variety of music. The contents of my iPod are divided into 15 genres. I’ve gone through many intense phases of listening and I regularly return to the subjects of former interest. I am very fond of bossa nova. I also like late 19th century French liturgical music as well as American rock ‘n’ roll from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The bulk of my audio library consists of over 300 Chicago Symphony CDs representing performances from 1950 through 2000.

In Memoriam, Charles D. Wilson, 1942 - 2011

Charles D. WilsonThe Navy Band mourns the passing of former member and pianist retired Musician 1st Class Charles Dewey Wilson. Wilson retired in 1980 after serving with several fleet bands and finishing his career at the Navy Band as the pianist with the Commodores jazz ensemble. Wilson began playing the piano at age four, and also played clarinet and cello in secondary school. In 1960, after graduating from Franklyn High School in Portland, Ore., Wilson enlisted in the Navy and attended recruit training in San Diego. After graduating from the Navy School of Music, he performed with a number of Navy bands, including the U.S. 6th and 2nd Fleet Bands. He reported to the Navy Band in 1972 and performed with the Commodores on several tours throughout the United States, a four-month UNITAS tour of South America and at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1976. He also recorded several albums with the Commodores, Concert Band and Country Current. Wilson passed away on Dec. 14, 2011 in Holland, Mich.