Saturday, July 30, 2011

You can run, but you can't hide

There you were in the mid-1990s, traveling with the U.S. Navy Showband, busy performing as a musical ambassador of your country, paying little attention to things that were happening back home in the states, such as this new computer thingie called "the Interweb," or "the World-Wide Something-or-other."

How could you know what would happen to those videos in the next century?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sailors first

We were sailors first, musicians second.

We forgot this at our peril and were reminded quickly and forcefully.

I can thing of nothing more rewarding than the opportunity to spend a few days each year with those men and women who, for a few years or decades, offered their talents for the betterment of their country, then moved on to enjoy the blessings and challenges of the liberty they helped sustain. It is also a matter of great pride to be in fraternity with those who still serve as sailors and musicians.

I enjoy the reunions of the NMA because of the tested, seasoned musicianship.

But that's secondary.


Friday, July 8, 2011

House Cuts Funding for Bands--the Battle Moves to the Senate

As feared and expected, the House of Representatives today passed its military appropriations bill with the severe cut to military band funding that had been bouncing in and out of the legislation

From Reuters:
One of the most successful budget-cutting efforts was led by Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat who doggedly pressed her drive to slash more than $120 million for military bands.
McCollum shepherded the cut through the Appropriations Committee, only to see it defeated on a voice vote in the full House.
She introduced a last-minute amendment to reinstate the cuts and won by forcing a roll-call vote on Thursday evening, leaving the military with $200 million to spend on more than 200 bands with 4,600 musicians and staff.
If there's any good news, it's the constitutional basis of our bi-cameral legislative branch of government. The House does not have the last word. As the story quoted above reminds us,

Congress is still weeks away from approving a final military spending bill ready for Obama to sign into law. The House bill will have to be melded with whatever measure is approved by the Senate, which is still working on its plan.

What does this mean for those of us who believe military bands should be fully funded as integral components of our Armed Forces? It means you tell your senators--both of them--to fully fund military bands.

It takes only a few minutes: how-to info, tips and a sample letter are in blood-red up above.

Go for it. This war is not lost.

D-Day for contacting your Rep.

Friday 8JUL11 EDT

The House of Representatives is now in session. Their goal for today is to pass their final defense appropriations act.

Write now. Later will be too late.

You can do it in two minutes. Copy this letter to your clipboard, then click here to find your congressman and paste the text into the web form.

I urge you to restore full funding for military bands in the National Defense Appropriations Act for 2012.

Our military bands are not frills. They are an integral part of our armed forces. Military bands boost morale, lend dignity to ceremonial occasions and drum up crucial public support for our Armed Services.

We ask so much of our American fighting men and women, and get so much in return. They deserve the finest. Please support our troops by funding their bands fully.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Double surprise: the House cut is back

The the budget cut for military bands, removed yesterday by voice vote yesterday, have been re-instated by vote. More and better info here at:

Surprise: House restores military band funding

By voice vote, the U.S. House of Representaves passed an amendment by Rep. John Carter (R-Tex) to restore full funding for military bands in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.  "The facts about our bands are that they are an integral part of the patriotism that keeps our soldiers' hearts beating fast," Carter said.

 More and better information is available at
A salute to good fortune and a reminder the battle is not over. The battle shifts to the U.S. Senate. Have you written to your senator?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It doesn't take a genius

I'm re-reading The Caine Mutiny for the 200th time. Though Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1951 novel depicts the Navy during World War II, the Navy of my father and grandfather, it's the same Navy I served in in the '70s and '80s and, no doubt, the same Navy as yours, no matter when you served.

It contains the quote that was still passed around freely in my first band in 1975:
"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots."
I thought about that a lot when I was a seaman, when I was a petty officer and, particularly, when I was a chief. It's a funny, concise summary of a life we've all lived.

And it's a broad exaggeration; I met few idiots during my service, and fewer geniuses. But I did encounter a system that worked, sometimes sluggishly, sometimes incomprehensibly.

And sometimes unfairly. From the smallest of injustices ("I cleaned the urinals last week, it's the second squad's turn now.") to those of lasting consequence ("How did that lazy dirtbag get orders out of school straight to the Academy Band, when I've been auditioning for years?"), there was a lot to bitch about, and plenty of sailors to handle the task.

But the system worked. Not because a few geniuses wrote the manual for a fleet of idiots, but because a few centuries of self-correction can work the kinks out of any system.

Every year, I am amazed by the smoothness with which our Navy Musicians Association reunions run. Members report aboard. Word gets passed. Schedules are posted and followed. Newcomers are shown the ropes. Schedules get changed and the word gets passed again. We gripe: not enough free time, too much free time. We laugh at stories about shipmates we haven't seen in years, and mourn those we'll never see again. The ship sails on time, accomplishes its mission and, in a few days, the cruise is over.

It works. No geniuses, no idiots, just a self-correcting system operated by people who care. Some work year-round, some make their contributions during the few days we're together.

Does it change? Yes. For instance, our rock band is now an integral unit of the reunion, the logical consequence of the fact that we are now attracting members who are as at home with the music of Tower of Power as that of Count Basie.

But the important things stay the same. We get together to share our stories and talents with old and new friends, have the times of our lives and then go on a 51-week liberty pass.

Fifteen years without a mutiny. I'd say we're doing well.

I'm alive.

I now emerge from a near-lethal dose of the creeping crud, having been laid low by a combination of reunion exhaustion and a day of close-quarters captivity in airplanes full of travelers exhaling the respiratory souvenirs from their own travels.

I apologize for my recuperative silence. The period immediately following the annual Navy Musicians Association reunion is always a time of reflection, not only on the events of the week, but on the memories the event always dredges up; the combination of sea stories and camaraderie is an effective memory prod.

Let's look at this as a mere delay, a modification of orders, so to speak.

Resume blogging. That is an order.