04 April 2017

US Navy Band - Augustana College, April 2, 2017 -- Wow!

This Sunday, I saw the U.S. Navy Band at Augustana College in Rock Island. 

While the personnel have changed since I used to see them in the '70s and '80s, my reaction was the same as it was those many decades ago: This is a topnotch band, maybe the topnotch band, full in sound, sharp in appearance, crowd-pleasing in every way, so good, in fact, that the only thing that could make the band better would be having me in it.

Yeah, that mixture of pride and envy has never gone away. I'm a fleet MU, proud of my contributions and my association with the fine fleet bandsmen and women with whom I served. Like them, I loved the DC band because they were special, the best, and I hated the DC band because they were special, the best. And I never understood why they wouldn't take me, because I was special, the best.

Well, I have gotten over that part of it. In fact, I can't recall what talent I had that I assumed would have raised the Navy Band to greater heights of perfection.

Doesn't matter. I'm now quite content to sit in the audience at a Navy Band concert and applaud every proud musician on the stage. I can appreciate a Navy Band performance because I have an MU's understanding of the talent and dedication it takes to create such an ensemble. And I can appreciate the band like any aged sailor who enjoys each musical number more than the one before it because each tune brings us closer to Anchors Aweigh.

Disclaimer: In 1977, after completing a hitch in San Francisco, I got sent to the DC band. It was a short tour of duty; MU2 Mullen checked in at 0800 on a Monday morning and was gone before lunch. This is a long sea story that can only be appreciated in detail and is occasionally related at NMA reunions. It's a transcontinental tale of escalating errors that involves planes, trains, a baffled warrant officer and a chief whose heart was in the right place but whose brains were on terminal leave. When it comes to Navy inefficiency, this story has it all. My father, a WWII fighter pilot, even plays a cameo role in the story. 

Come to the next NMA reunion for a full rendition. I name names and catalog sins.

06 December 2016

The Navy's Newest Bandmaster

I don't suppose the Navy music program will ever honor me with a special "it's never too late" award for all my great sacrifices. On the the other hand, I was never in harm's way during my Navy service.

But Ira "Ike" Schab was. He was an MU1 with Band 13 in Pearl Harbor when our Navy underwent the surprise attack of 7DEC41. He spent that "Day of Infamy" passing ammunition aboard USS Dobbin.

Ike served his Navy and country until 1947 but never achieved his dream of becoming a bandmaster--until now. Our brother-in-arms has been promoted to Honorary Bandmaster and spent his first day on duty with the Pacific Fleet Band.

Lots more details at navy.mil, but right now, here's our newest bandmaster in action:

06 August 2016

Let it Be the Russian Navy Snow Band Forever.

I repost this every few years because, like fine wine and Frank Sinatra, it improves with age.

It's the Russian Navy Show Band's stirring performance of "Let it Be." What's great about this?


  • They're serious. You can tell because, obviously, no one's having any fun. 
  • The lead singer is highly trained. The giveaway? He sings sharp. Anyone can sing flat, for any number of reasons: the key is out of your range, you're tired, you can't hear the monitor, you're tired or you just suck. But singing sharp takes talent. Singing above pitch is the domain of experts, and this guy is an expert. He's not always sharp; that'd mark him as an amateur. No, he's sharp just often enough to let you know he's a real pro. And he smiles when he does it.
  • It's just as good when you turn off the audio. Try it. Particularly during close-up shots of the lead singer, you'd swear you're watching New Gingrich in a community theater production of "The Good Ship Lollipop."
  • It's a reality check for those old-timers who reminisce about their days as active-duty Navy musicians and say, "I'd join up again in a heartbeat if they'd let me." Well, this is what your dream come true would look like. Check out the backup singers, most of whom are two-decades too old to be wearing sailor suits.   

This is as good as it gets. Encore!

18 June 2016

2016 Taps

Taps. Taps.

Lights out. All hands return to their racks and maintain silence about the decks.


Saturday-night Dinner & Dance

It moves so fast. A few moments ago, it seems, shipmates were greeting each other, tuning together and preparing for a few days of music and camaraderie.

Too soon it comes to a close. The Saturday-night social hour begins in a few minutes. Then we'll eat, we'll dance, listen to speeches, play in the big band, tell more stories.

Then we'll pack up the gear, load the truck and meet in the lounge for goodbyes.

Out-of-town reunions always bring surprises, and our visit to Kansas City surprised us with new members from the Midwest, old members who drove from the West Coast and unexpected musical talents.

And, oh, the stories. I even heard a few about me. Shock. Awe.

I'll be back tomorrow with the news of tonight....