Fleet Band Activities
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become a musician in the Navy?
All applicants must audition live at a Navy band. They must demonstrate the ability to read music at an advanced level, perform at a mature musical level, and be well versed in different styles (jazz, classical, rock, latin, etc.). Taped auditions are not accepted. Auditions are held as they are scheduled (i.e., when you are prepared, have contacted a Navy recruiter).
The audition report is sent to Fleet Band Activities in Millington, Tennessee, where your audition is evaluated. If you are found to be musically qualified and manning levels permit, you are guaranteed assignment to the Naval School of Music (musician "A" school) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Upon completion of "A" school, you will be designated a Navy musician and assigned to one of nine fleet bands.
Your first step is to contact your local Navy recruiter for an initial screening interview. To find the nearest Navy recruiter, call 1-800-USA-NAVY or search by zip code at https://www.navy.com. Your recruiter can answer any general questions about the Navy, and help schedule an audition at the closest audition site.
I'm in the Navy- can I change my rating to MU? How does that work?
Change in rating applicant auditions are on a case-by-case basis. You must first see your command career counselor to determine if you meet eligibility criteria as outlined in MILPERSMAN 1440-010, Change in Rating. In general, you must be within 12 months of PRD, have at least 24 months in your present rating, and meet CREO group criteria before being eligible.
If you meet the above requirements, you may contact the MU audition supervisor for pre-audition screening. EVERY MU applicant is required to pass a live audition and must be able to read and play music at a professional level.
Where will I be stationed? Do I audition for a specific band or location?
Other than the two preferentially staffed bands (the U.S. Navy Band in Washington and the U.S. Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Maryland), we do not audition for specific openings at each band. You audition for entrance into the program, and your ultimate duty station will be determined while you are attending the Naval School of Music in Virginia Beach, Virginia. While there, you will fill out a duty preference sheet that lists your band preferences. That information is forwarded to the musician detailer (the detailer writes orders to each band and ensures they are properly manned), and based on your preferences and the needs of the Navy, you will be assigned to a fleet band for your first tour. See the Navy bands page for a list of our duty stations.
Where/when can I audition?
There are no regular audition dates; auditions are conducted at any time as we are contacted by applicants. Auditions are held live at any of our Navy bands. Unlike the two preferentially staffed bands, Navy fleet bands do not hold auditions for specific locations or vacancies; you are auditioning for entrance into the fleet as a Navy musician. Once you have prepared for the audition, have your Navy recruiter contact the closest Navy band to schedule an audition.
Do I have to join the Navy to audition?
You are not required to join the Navy or the delayed entry program (DEP) before your audition. Upon completion of a successful live audition, you will be guaranteed a job in the Navy as a Navy musician and guaranteed assignment to the Naval School of Music (musician "A" school) BEFORE you enlist.
I already have a degree in music, do I still need to go to the School of Music? What is involved there?
Although the majority of applicants have a degree, all Navy musicians are sent to the School of Music (musician "A" school) unless you have been guaranteed assignment to the U.S. Navy Band or to the U.S. Naval Academy Band. Please keep in mind this school is for members who have already passed a live audition and who have enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a musician. The duration of instruction is 21 weeks and includes private instruction on the student's instrument, classroom instruction in basic music theory, ear training, and performance in ensembles (concert band, ceremonial band, big band jazz, jazz combo, and rock/pop ensemble). There are opportunities to accelerate your graduation if you meet the criteria.
Our music school is college accredited. Upon successful completion you will be awarded 23 lower-level credits and two upper-level credits. It is designed to polish the skills of a musician who is already experienced at a certain level of accomplishment. The student attends school from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, Monday through Friday, generally with weekends off. The school is located in the large metropolitan coastal area of Norfolk, Virginia.
For more information, please visit the School of Music website.
Are there physical requirements or age requirements?
You are expected to maintain a high standard of personal appearance and physical fitness at all times. You will be required to pass a biannual fitness assessment, and are subject to random drug urinalysis testing at any time during your enlistment. You must also be under 40 years of age in order to enlist. Those who have prior military service may be able to enlist after the age of 39.
Will I have any non-musical duties?
Your full-time job will be to play your instrument, but as you advance in rank you may be assigned with a collateral duty to help manage daily operations of the band. Some collateral duties include music librarian, band supply, operations, or public relations, to name a few.
Can I get enlistment bonuses or educational benefits?
Benefits can include the Post-9/11 GI Bill, tuition assistance, college loan repayment, etc. Specific benefits change frequently. Visit www.navy.com or visit your local Navy recruiter for the most current information and offers.
How often will I travel?
How often and for how long you travel will vary greatly depending on the band to which you are assigned and the unit within the band with which you perform (jazz ensemble, popular music group, jazz combo, brass or woodwind quintet, etc.). You may travel several times a month or only a few times a year, for just a few days or up to several weeks at a time. Navy bands located overseas (U.S. 7th Fleet Band in Japan and U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band in Italy) travel frequently on a wide variety of missions, while Navy bands in the continental U.S. travel less often and primarily in support of Navy recruiting.
How much money will I make?
Your entry-level pay will vary depending on several factors. The first factor is your educational background. High school graduates accepted as a fleet musician are authorized enlistment at paygrade E-2. Applicants with two or more years of college are authorized enlistment at paygrade E-3. In addition to your base pay, you also may be authorized tax-free entitlements for food, called Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), and housing, called Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Certain high-cost of living areas are given a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), and overseas duty is given an Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA). To figure your approximate salary, go to the following web site:
Add the following:
Base Pay (E-2, E-3, E-4, etc.) - Taxable income
BAH - non-taxable, and varies depending on duty location. Depending on pay grade, location, and dependent status you may receive government quarters at no cost in place of this allowance.
BAS - non-taxable, and is a set rate for everyone. Depending on pay grade, location and dependent status, you may receive government dining at no cost in place of this allowance.
How long is my enlistment?
A normal first enlistment is four years. However, if you accept a bonus or other incentive, it may require an additional year on your contract. Please see your local Navy recruiter for more details.
Can I get a CD of one of your bands?
The U.S. Navy Band, located in Washington, is the only band that distributes recordings. Educational institutions and libraries can request a free set of CDs by writing to:
U.S. Navy Band
Public Affairs Office
617 Warrington Ave. SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5054
Use your institution's letterhead when making the request.
Will I only play in marching band? What types of groups do Navy bands have?
Parades are but a small part of what Navy musicians do. Every band operates several different performing groups including big bands, contemporary music groups (rock, country, pop, etc.), brass and woodwind ensembles, ceremonial bands, jazz combos, and wind ensembles.