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Fanfare Newsletter

November/December 2011, Volume 32 Number 6
  • A Message from the Commanding Officer
  • Hispanic Heritage Month
    The Story of Bandmaster Jose Contreras
  • "Home for the Holidays"
    Navy Band's Annual Holiday Concert
  • 35th International Saxophone Symposium
  • Spotlight on...MU1 Amanda Polychronis

A Message from the Commanding Officer

Captain Brian O. Walden

As we enter our holiday season, there have been several major transitions that I’d like to mention. On behalf of the men and women of the Navy Band, I wish fair winds and following seas to Adm. Mike Mullen, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Gary Roughead, our outgoing chief of naval operations. It was a pleasure and an honor to work for these outstanding leaders, and I look forward to working with our new CNO, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, and the new chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey. I also want to welcome aboard the band’s new executive officer, Lt. Walt Cline, who comes to us from Navy Band Great Lakes.
This time of year, I am reminded of our Sailors and Marines that are not able to be at home with their families. We want to thank all of these brave men and women for what they do to unselfishly guard and protect our freedom. We also want to thank the families they leave behind for their sacrifices as they live through periods of separation from their loved ones. Let us all remember to keep these heroes and their families in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

This year’s holiday concert, entitled “Home for the Holidays,” will be held on Dec. 17 and 18 at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. This show will feature the talents of the Concert Band, Sea Chanters and Commodores, and will be a collection of holiday music favorites introduced by “Navy hallmark moment” vignettes. I invite you to begin your holiday season with us, so visit our website to get your e-tickets and make plans to attend.

As this edition of fanfare goes to print, the band has just finished celebrating the Navy’s 236th birthday and the centennial of naval aviation with a concert at Constitution Hall that featured the Concert Band, Sea Chanters, Cruisers and Country Current.  We were pleased to have B. Taylor, a number one Billboard R&B artist and former Sailor, as a guest artist on this concert.  In addition, this fall marks the release of a new Concert Band CD, “Derivations,” and our educational DVD set, “Lincolnshire Posy.”

As we close out another event-filled year here at the Navy Band, we want to thank all of you, our concert patrons and Navy Band family for your continued loyal support throughout this year.  Next year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, so stay tuned for many upcoming events to commemorate this landmark period in our country’s history. In closing, I ask that you please mark your calendar and plan to attend the 35th International Saxophone Symposium in January.

The Story of Bandmaster Jose Contreras

by Senior Chief Musician Michael P. Bayes


The Navy joined the nation in observing Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Lt. j.g. Kelly conducting the band.

Although discrimination in the U.S. Navy against Hispanics is not well-documented, it is known that many Hispanic Sailors were given menial labor jobs and were sometimes harassed by crew members. One young man who was drawn to the Navy, and persevered in spite of this harassment, was Bandmaster Jose Contreras.

As a young boy in Valparaiso, Chile, Contreras experienced first-hand the power and allure of the Navy’s Great White Fleet. It was in the harbor of Valparaiso in 1909 that this fleet paraded in review, and performed maneuvers for the entertainment of the crowds onshore and the president of Chile. One Sailor described the impact of these maneuvers in Valparaiso as follows: “The sixteen battleships roared out a salvo such as no one in Chile had ever heard before. The effect of the thunder was electric.” Witnessing these Navy ships steaming in and out of port and hearing the salvo of the cannons had a tremendous and dramatic impact on Contreras. Within a year, he enlisted as a Navy musician aboard USS Maryland (ACR 8) and left Chile forever.

Ten years later, in 1919, Contreras was assigned to the new official band of the Navy, known as the “World’s Finest,” located in Washington, D.C. This was a high honor for any musician. Shortly after this assignment, Contreras was promoted to the rank of bandmaster, the highest attainable by a musician at that time.

President Calvin Coolidge officially recognized the United States Navy Band by signing Public Law 661 in 1925. During the 1920s, The Navy Band gained national recognition and became a presidential favorite. As an original member of this elite ensemble, Contreras performed on many high-profile ceremonies. One such ceremony found Contreras beside President Coolidge as our nation welcomed home Charles Lindbergh from his historic flight across the Atlantic in 1927. In 1929, Contreras was on hand as the nation welcomed home Adm. Richard Byrd from his historic trip and flight over Little America, South Pole. Additionally, Contreras was heard on NBC radio as part of Arthur Godfrey’s “Hours of Memory.”

Contreras retired from the Navy in 1938. However, he continued to work for the Navy at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., until 1955. A retirement letter from Secretary of the Navy C.S. Thomas, dated Oct. 10, 1955, reads “During your many years of service, you have had an active role, both in a military and civilian capacity, in the growth of our Navy to its present formidableness. The loyal, conscientious attitude which you have displayed in carrying out your assigned duties has made you a valuable asset to the Navy.”

Contreras was a young musician who had seen the power of the Great White Fleet as an opportunity to excel. He followed his dream to serve, took the chance for a better tomorrow, and rose to the top of his profession. Contreras symbolizes the spirit of hard-working immigrants, who helped forge the path of our democracy.

Senior Chief Musician Mike Bayes plays saxophone in the Ceremonial Band, as well as serving as the Navy Band’s head archivist.

"Home for the Holidays" concert at DAR

by Musician 1st Class Ken Fennell


2011 Holiday Concert

Many of us look forward to going home for the holidays. It’s a special time when we get together with family and friends to share a meal, open gifts and express our love for one another. As our naval forces serve our nation around the globe, our brave Sailors continue to keep home in their hearts. This year, we salute their service and sacrifice with a special concert entitled “Home for the Holidays.”

Captain Brian O. Walden will lead the United States Navy Concert Band, Sea Chanters, Commodores and Cruisers at DAR Constitution Hall on December 17th   at 7:30 p.m. and December 18th at 3 p.m. in what will surely be a very memorable holiday experience.

This year we will use a free online ticket service to distribute tickets for both concerts. The process is very easy: go to our e-ticket site located at and enter up to four tickets in the quantity box, then click the “Reserve Now” button. On the next page, type in your first and last name and a valid email address, then click the “Register Now” button. The ticketing system will send you an email with a confirmation number on it. Print this email and bring it with you to the concert. This printed email confirmation is your ticket. We will not mail tickets to you and there is no “Will Call.” As always, our holiday concert is free and open to the public. All seating is general admission, there are no reserved seats. The doors will open an hour and a half before concert time.

From the men and women of the United States Navy Band, we’d like to wish all of you, especially service members serving around the globe, a very Happy Holiday!







35th International Saxophone Symposium

The International Saxophone Symposoum, the largest event of its kind in North America, routinely draws the top performers and students from around the world.

This two-day eent features large ensemble saxophone concerto concerts, small recitals and everything in-between, including quartet recitals, masterclasses, clinics, exhibits and much more.

Please join us for the 35th International Saxphone Symposium on Jan. 20-21, 2012, at the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax, Va.

Spotlight on...Musician 1st Class Amanda Polychronis

by Senior Chief Musician Juan Vazquez

MU1 Amanda Polychronis

Musician 1st Class Amanda Polychronis, wears many hats. Her diverse talents and desire to contribute put her “behind the scenes” as well as performing with the Navy’s premier chorus, the Sea Chanters.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but raised in Phoenix, Ariz., where I spent much of my childhood studying ballet, tap and jazz dance.  For over a decade I studied and practiced 15 hours a week. I’ve always loved singing, but never had the chance to try it seriously because of my involvement with dance. 

When I was nearly 21 years old, I decided to enroll in voice class and choir at my local community college.  I will never forget my first day in chorus because I had no clue where to sit or what line of music to read!  Luckily there was a singer in class who worked with me that semester. This was my start in music, which eventually led to earning my living as a professional musician. 

After college I taught a 300-member choral program, music theory and drama at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, as well as running a private voice studio and teaching 30 students each week.  During that time I was also regularly travelling around the country to sing at several professional opera houses.  In 2006 I learned that the Navy Band had an opening in the Sea Chanters chorus.  I’ve always been deeply patriotic and thought it would be a thrill to serve my country as a musician!  I auditioned and now I’m blessed to be starting my 6th year with the band.

What other responsibilities have you taken on?

In addition to my singing responsibilities, I also serve as stage manager and assistant to our productions chief, Senior Chief Musician Keith Hinton. I love this part of my job because it essentially blends together all of my training and experience as a musician, dancer, teacher and performer. 

Seeing a production through from beginning to end brings me great joy and a real sense of accomplishment. The process begins with the productions team, made up of members from each of the performing ensembles, sitting around the conference table and brainstorming ideas.  Once we nail down a show concept and tunes, Chief Musician Scott Silbert, our head arranger, scores the music.

At this point my productions duties shift from the meeting room to the stage.  I’m responsible for coordinating stage set-up and all onstage movements of musicians and special guests such as the Navy Ceremonial Guard.  I choreograph and teach dance numbers, coach acting scenes, make microphone assignments, coordinate staging needs, and generally “tighten up” transitions so that our shows flow smoothly.  It takes a lot of teamwork for our productions to look and sound highly professional, and I’m blessed to work with such talented musicians.

I’m also the stage manager for all Sea Chanters concerts throughout the year and it has been my honor to work with leaders from different ensembles who have asked me to watch their shows and offer production advice.  Most recently, the Navy Band archives team asked me to stage manage the “Navy Pioneers: A History of African Americans in the Navy Music Program” concert. Opportunities to serve never seem to run out!  I’m so grateful and honored that they trust me to help them accomplish their goals.

What is currently in your iPod?

I do my best thinking in my car, so while driving I’ve been listening to Ray LaMontagne, operatic soprano Ruth Ann Swenson, the music for our upcoming Navy birthday concert and my weekly voice lessons. I’m working on my singing, thinking about productions, and simply enjoying music all on my way to and from work.

What are your current goals?

In addition to wanting to try my hand at lighting design and writing narration in my current job, I’m considering pursuing an arts degree that would involve directing/producing, and possibly a Doctor of Musical Arts in vocal pedagogy.  I would treasure the opportunity to both teach voice and direct music and drama productions at the community college level, as this is where I first learned to be a musician and performer.  It would be a privilege to give back to my beginnings.

Are there any memorable highlights during your time here?

Memorable events for me include singing for the Pentagon Memorial 10-year commemoration of 9/11, the 2010 Navy Band holiday concert, where I really got to see my stage directing come to fruition, and every time we perform the “Armed Forces on Parade” medley and our honored veterans stand up.  This truly moves me every time. 

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

I love to try new restaurants, spend time with my friends and my dog, Jackpot Sally.