Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lexicon Update 23(b)(17) of 18NOV12

I guess I sorta forgot about it, which is odd; the Navy Musicians Lexicon is what started this blog in the first place.

Well, I just stumbled across it, weeded through it and updated it. The revised and expanded Navy Musicians Lexicon is now online.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Veterans Day Salute to our Military Bands

Originally published in the Rock Island Argus & Moline Dispatch, Nov. 8, 2012

I love military band concerts. Listening to our nation's finest musicians perform with precision and flair evokes deep feelings of forgivable--I hope--pride. I once was a Navy bandleader. Long ago I turned in my baton, and now I'm the old guy who sets up his folding chair in the park and stands at a rusty "Attention" when the band plays "Anchors Aweigh."

As much as I enjoy watching a military band parade down Main Street or play patriotic tunes in a high school auditorium, I know that such public performances are only a small part of their job. Providing ceremonial and musical support for our Armed Forces is the real reason for military bands. At this, their true mission, they prove their worth daily.

If you have a relative or close friend who has enlisted in the Navy, you may have attended a boot camp graduation at Illinois's Great Lakes Recruit Training Command. This stirring ceremony marks the recruit's transition from a kid who has trouble making his own bed to a Guardian of Freedom. The occasion is accompanied by spirited martial music, not from a digital recording, but from Navy Band Great Lakes, an active duty group of military professionals. Why? Because those new sailors deserve nothing less than the best.

It’s less likely that you’ve attended a Navy change of command ceremony. The transfer of command of a ship or squadron from one experienced officer to another is the most serious of occasions. Here, the presence of a military band lends solemnity to the moment. Like those brand new sailors at Great Lakes, our Armed Service's leaders and seasoned forces deserve the best.

And, unless you're a veteran yourself, it's highly unlikely that you have been forward deployed or detailed to a combat zone. A world away from the parades and speeches, thousands of our service men and women today are attending to duty wearing full battle dress. Going in harm's way is their way of life. After a quarter of a century, I still look back at my time in the Korean Demilitarized Zone as the greatest service I ever offered my countrymen. Our Marines on duty in that no-man's land deserved entertainment, brief diversion from the stress of serving on a narrow strip of land between enemies with artillery pointed toward the American forces in the middle. Believe me, the sound of a thousand Marines shouting "Oorah!" as they spring to their feet during a rendition of "God Bless the U.S.A." does not quickly fade away.

Some say that funding for military bands should be cut because they're wasteful frills that aren't strictly necessary. Few who believe that have ever served in uniform.

Marine Corps Dress Blue uniforms are not "strictly necessary"--Marines fight in combat utility uniforms. But shouldn't we honor our finest warriors by giving them the finest ceremonial wear for formal occasions?

Air Force chaplains are not "strictly necessary"--anyone can pray, and Bibles are cheap. But shouldn't those who fly the heavens in our defense receive spiritual care?

Cut from our Armed Forces everything that isn't "strictly necessary," and you'll have an Army that's been stripped of its dignity and a Navy that nobody wants to join.

On Veterans Day, we salute those who have served us so well. I offer an additional "Bravo Zulu"--the Navy signal code for "Well done"--to our active duty military musicians. For them, Veterans Day is not a holiday. It's a working day of ceremonies, concerts and parades, another day to do what they do best:

Support our troops.

Copyright 2012 Frank Mullen III

Friday, October 12, 2012

CNO's Navy Birthday Message

ADM Jonathan Greenert is Chief of Naval Operations and a friend to Navy music. In 2009, while preparing to take the position of Vice-CNO, he was our guest at the Navy Musicians Association reunion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Navy Band Southeast Wants You!


 Perform with an active duty Navy Band!

LT Mark Corbliss, Director of Navy Band Southeast
Alumni of all Navy bands
To participate in the
Navy Band Southeast Alumni Concert
At the 
Jacksonville Beach Air Show,
 Oct. 20, 2012.

Monday, September 3, 2012

In Concert: US Navy Show Band, 1978

Thanks to Corey Swinderman for this footage of the unit that put the "show" in "Show Band."

This 1978 concert by the U.S. Navy Show Band, led by John Pastin, was videotaped in Dover, Ohio. The recording technology is rough by today's standards, but still captures the band's musicianship and energy.

I was on the staff at the School of Music during the years John ran the group, and saw the band frequently. Their visits to the Amphibious Base Theater proved just how effectively artistry and entertainment can share the same stage.

Their post-concert visits to the Brass Bell Lounge also demonstrated that these guys knew how to, uh, have a good time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rare film of Surrender Ceremony on USS Missouri includes Band.

Here is some recently-restored footage of the ceremony on the USS Missouri at which representatives of the Empire of Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on 2SEP45. The Navy band can be seen playing in the background near the top of the screen. Footage begins after credits at 1:50. The band appears first at 4:45 and intermittently thereafter.

Navy Bands: Honor, Service and Sacrifice

Sixty-seven years ago today, September 2, 1945, representatives of the Empire of Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri, bringing the hostilities of World War II to an end.

The presence of a Navy band aboard the Missouri on that historic day is a reminder that military bands are not frills to be tossed on the scrap heap when times are tough. Times were never tougher than they were during World War II, yet the Navy had the sense not to cut back on bands. To the contrary, the Navy trained and formed bands at an unprecedented rate, sending them throughout the fleet to boost morale, provide much-needed diversion and lend dignity to occasions of great import.

Military bands support those who sacrifice, but are not, themselves, strangers to sacrifice. The war that ended to the accompaniment of ruffles and flourishes on the USS Missouri began four years earlier to the accompaniment of bombs and machine guns on the USS Arizona, a barrage that sent the members of Band 22 to their duty stations and, ultimately, to their deaths.

All military musicians, past and present, can take great pride in having been full participants in the military tradition of honor, service and sacrifice

Sunday, July 22, 2012

House refuses to cut military band budget

I'm not talking about my house; the McCollum proposal to slash band funding has always been a non-starter here in the blue house on Maple Street.

It's the House of Representatives that has defeated the proposition to cut the annual budget for military bands from $388 million to $200 million, and that's real news.

A spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa said, "Military bands are an essential element of our armed forces esprit de corps and are widely recognized and appreciated public symbols of our military tradition of ceremony, pageantry and discipline."

That's well put, in my opinion. Many Americans consider bands a frill, a sweet litle bit of frosting on the Armed Forces' cake. But bands exist not as a frivolous addition to our fighting forces. The purpose of military bands is, to use a term you see on bumper stickers from California to Maine, to Support Our Troops.

North San Diego's North County Times has the story.

Friday, July 6, 2012

NMA Jam Session: The Girl From Ipanema

From Spritz, the lounge of the Orlando Doubletree Universal, it's "The Girl From Ipanema."

Thanks to Gary Mosse for putting this online, along with more videos of the 2012 NMA reunion.

Oh, and while you're enjoying this, check out the bass player.

Time? Like a rock.

Chord changes? Like a rock.

Creativity, flow and taste? Like a rock.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

NMA Reunio 2012, Scene 22: "All on the same page."

Time: Wednesday afteroon at the first rehearsal of the Concert Band.
Setting: Ballroom.
Cast: Wilbur Smith and the NMA Concert Band.

Smitty: Okay, get up "The Last Full Measure of Devotion." This is a vocal feature, and I guarantee that Stephanie Richards will bring down the house with this.

                Smitty gives the downbeat.
                A few seconds of incomprehensible discord ensue.
                Smitty cuts off the band.

Smitty: Is everyone playing the same thing? This is "The Last Full Measure of Devotion."

                General murmurs of assent are heard from the band.

Smitty: Once more--"Last Full Measure of Devotion." Ready, and--

                Smitty gives the downbeat.
                A messy jumble of sound is heard.
                Smitty cuts off the band.

Trombone player: Smitty, what are we playing?

Smitty: (Patiently) "The Last Full Measure of Devotion."

Trombone player: "The Last Full Measure."

Smitty: Right.

Trombone player: "Of Devotion."

Smitty: Right. "The Last Full Measure of Devotion."

                Smitty gives the downbeat.
                The sound is ruinous, particularly the sound from the low brass.     
                Smitty stops the band.

Smitty: Trombones, are you with us? We're playing "The Last Measure of Devotion."

                The trombonists nod.

Smitty: Beginning at the first measure.

Trombone player: Did you say the first measure?

Smitty: That's right.

Trombone player: The first measure of "The Last Full Measure of Devotion"?

Smitty: Exactly.

                The trombone section gathers in a huddle.
                They argue amongst themsleves for a half-minute.
                Finally, they sit back down.

Trombone player: Okay, Smitty, we're ready now.

-- The End ---

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NMA Reunion 2012, Scene 14: "Officers Don't Know Everything."

Time: Afternoon.Setting: The lounge.
Dan Flanagan.
Frank Mullen.
Terry Chesson.

- - - - -

Dan Flanagan: So we're playing a Dixieland gig at this admiral's house--

Frank Mullen: What an idiot!

Terry: He sure was.

Dan: So, we set up in his garage--

Frank: --and there's this box of rags full of his old skivvies, stenciled with his name and rank. We took them back to the band room and put them in the head to use as toilet paper.

Terry Chesson: What? I never knew about this!

Frank looks at Dan. Dan looks back at Frank. Frank looks at Terry.

Frank: Well, of course you didn't know; you were the bandmaster.

Terry: Oh...yeah. Right.

-- The End. --

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Earl Benge Volunteer of the Year: Wilbur Smith

At the Saturday night banquet of the 2012 reunion of the Navy Musicians Association, the Earl Benge Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Wilbur Smith.

As regular attendees know, the NMA Concert Band's is crucial to the success of a reunion. With only handful of rehearsals, Wilbur manages, every year, to turn a collection of professional musicians, part-timers, teachers and amateur enthusiasts into a group whose Friday night concert excites an audience that expects the best: the Navy Musicians Association family.

Any graduate of the Assistant Bandleaders Course knows that preparation is the key to productive rehearsal. Months before we sit in a hotel ballroom listening to the tuning Bb at that first Wednesday rehearsal, Wilbur has been at work.

His through preparation would be eason enough to hand Smitty an award, but Wilbur juggles a number of other year-round NMA duties. His work with the O.L. McMillan Scholarship helps selected young musicians with their tuition. His supervision of our Travel Fund provides financial help to selected members who, without that help, might not be able to join us.

Prior winners of the Earl Benge Award have found the trophy to be a striking addition to den or study. Wilbur may discover that its weight and size also make it an efficient paperweight when concert band scores, scholarship applications and NMA correspondence become overwhelming.

Not begins the reminiscing.

The carriage has turned back into a pumpkin and I'm back in the Midwest, doing what Midwesterners do.

But I'm not done. It will take a few more days for me to finish reminiscing, reporting and reliving the 2012 NMA reunion. So keep stopping by for a while. The party may be over, but there are still stories to be told.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Orlando farewell...

The ballroom...
The registration room...

The End.
It's mighty quiet here at the Doubletree. A few MUs are staying one more night, taking time to visit family and see the sights. But it's over. Those with long drives were on the road before dawn. The sun rose over a hotel full of MUs and their families packing their cars and hopping on airport shuttles.

We're all tired, the natural consequence of a few days of non-stop activity. I'm tired, too, after a week of planning afternoon naps that never occurred because an unexpected old friend appeared in the lobby, an early jam session had erupted in the lounge, or a group had gathered in the courtyard just begging to hear the story about the time in Newport when I...

You get it.

I'll likely be incommunicado for the next day or two, as I, too, must head back home. I'll be back in touch soon with more photos, video footage and stories.

But right now, it's nap time. A nap, a snack, and then back to beddie-bye for the night.


A long haul.

During my time in San Fransciso, a rental trailer like this hauled Showband West's gear on tours that encompassed the western states. This one has had only one destination: Orlando. As I write this, Bob Leketa and Kim Holl are driving back to Virginia Beach, pulling behind them a full cargo of music stands, computers, pianos, amplifiers, cords, mics, signs, banners, shirts, photo albums, ballcaps and, for all I know, an MU or two who fell asleep during the loading last night.

The sharpest man in the room.

An NMA banquet is a family affair. This year, member John Vasquez brought his grandson, a member of the Junior ROTC, and, like his grandfather, a percussionist. The young man hopes to also follow John into the ranks of Navy Musicians.

He's certainly learned the First Rule of the military musician: How you look is as important as how you sound.

Identify your relief.

A mark of an effective leader is the willingness to find, nurture and train those who will carry on the duties of his position.

Wilbur Smith, condcutor of the NMA Concert Band, knows this. Before this year's NMA banquet, he began the process of seeking the MU that will one day relieve him of his baton.

This may take a few years.

We dress up well.

The Saturday night dinner and dance is the highlight of a Navy Musicians Association reunion. It's fun, of course, but our dress adds a little formality to the occasion. We don't sport white tails and tux, but we definitely put away the cutoffs and tee-shirts that have served us so well through the week.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Al Coda, Accelerando

This week that began largo has flown by presto. I am heading downstairs to the banquet, which is, unbelievably, the conclusion of the NMA reunion.

It has flown by too fast. I've caught up on the doings of regular attendees, told stories with old friends for the first time in 25 years, met legends of the Navy Music Program, all to the accompaniment of moving, challenging and just plain fun music.

But there hasn't been enough time. There never is. Because many will be leaving early tomorrow--our equipment crew will aim the truck back to Virginia Beach before daybreak--this will be a night for goodbyes. I'll probably stay until the end and will not likely post again tonight.

But I'll be here for an extra day, so I'll blog tomorrow with the wrap-up.

I've been happy to share the reunion with those at home and can honestly say:

Wish you were here.

Da more devices, da merrier

As I predicted when I checked in last Sunday, this r.eunion will be known as The Year of the Devices. They're everywhere, these little plastic Things

But they're not all gimmicky toys. Although a true artist does not rely on gimmicks, sometimes a little electronics can ensure you're in the right place at the right time. Vocalist Stephanie Richards's knew exactly when to step on stage duringt last night's concert thanks to a Device that listed the program.

And a singer doesn't have to worry about getting the starting pitch for the National Anthem when a Device is handy.


NMA Business Meeting:

The NMA's annual Business Meeting went smoothly. Too smoothly; somethings wrong when scores of MUs can sit together and actually agree.

Here are a few highpoints; remember that this is an unoffical report;extreeemely unoffical, consisting only of highlights (fortunately, there were no lowlights).

President Terry Chesson opened the meeting by saying that the month leading up to a reunion is always exciting and tense; exciting because shipmates are about to gather, and tense because there are details, changes and glitches to iron out.

"And now," he said, "it's almost over, and I don't know what to do." Well, I know what he can do: relax. It's been a wonderful, successful get-together.

Executive Vice-president Bob Leketa explained that much of this success was due to the hotel's excellent staff. He says that, in all his years as reunion coordinataor, this has been the best staff he's worked with

Next year we'll meet in Virginia Beach, but Bob has already started preparing for the 2014 reunion. Many members would like to meet in the Northeast. Others favor the South or Midwest. Do you have an idea for a location? Let Bob know.

Kim Holl reminded us that next year in Virginia Beach we'll hold elections. Kim chairs the Nominating Committee, and looks forward to receiving nominations to the Board of Directors.

Speaking of committees, Dennis Allard volunteered to form a Membership Committee to help attract new members. He's looking to form a group consisting of members from all eras of Navy music, from the distant days of battleship bands, from the decades of the unit bands, the not-so-bygone days and those who still put on a uniform every day. Here's an opportunity for you to help the NMA in its ongoing need to gain members.

"Recruitng new members is everyone's responsibility," he said. Of course, each one of us is the NMA's most effective recruiting poster. Dennis's willingness to organize a commitee to focus on this shows that he takes his own words seriously.

There being no more business before the metting, and no fistfights having interrupted the proceedings, the meeting was adjourned and members were sent on liberty until this evening's closing dinner and dance.

Next: the annual Membership Meeting.

The first thing on today's agenda at the NMA reunion is the Membership Meeting, an all-hands evolution. At 1000, we'll meet to discuss the reunion, the present status of our organization and future plans. Attending this meeting is always a good way for reunion attendees to learn about our Board of Direcotrs is up to during the other 51 weeks of the year.

I'll hope to give you a report around noon. One thing that won't be a surprise is the location of next year's reunion; as always in odd-numbered years, 2013 will find us in our homeport, Virginia Beach.

But any other news, scuttlebutt or semi-true rumors will appear here shortly,

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Night Post-concert

The concert is over, and it's time to relax. Things, as always, were a bit tense; last-minute scheduling changes kept everyone on their toes. The players put their hearts into it, but three rehearsals is three rehearals.

And they were enough. Fron Wilbur Smith's opening downbeat, you knew this concert would be one to remember. The band was strong, balanced, and kept the audience enthralled throughout. I'll hope to soon provide video of Stephanie Richards's rendition of "The Last Measure of Devotion." There were tears in the audience, some of them mine. But they were the good kind of tears, the kind that fall when you're experiencing something powerful.

But we're taking it easy now. Soon, things will move to the lounge, where we won't be taking it so easy.

The concert band always peaks on Fridays.

It's concert time

Now comes a highlight of the NMA reunion, the Friday night concert.

Many of us are musically active through the year; others less so. But we all find the musical experience of a reunion to be rewarding and put a lot of effort into making it so.

And tonight is the payoff. In a half hour the concert will begin. I am now off to enjoy and participate in this centerpiece of the reunion.

It will be followed, no doubt, by jamming in the lounge. I'll be there, too, and I'll get back to you, well, who knows when? Late tonight? Tomorrow?


Liberty Call.

Time flies when you're having fun; in Orlando, it soars.

Unbelievably, we are reaching the close of Day Three of the Navy Musicians Reunion. There's much more, including tonight's concerts and social hour, but we are on the homeward leg of this cruise.

 And, finally, we have some free time. This afternoon we've been on liberty after days of solid rehearsals and jam sessions. Unscheduled time can be dangerous for MUs, but we are gentler and perhaps somewhat wiser than we once were. Some of us went to see the sights this afternoon. Others took the opportunity to relax with friends and tall tales. 

Bust a gut.

Jim Richards gives his all to a sea story. Gestures. Dialect. Vivid description. In fact, last night in the lounge, he had me laughing so hard I had to go outside to collect myself. I have not often left a bar voluntarily.

Here, Dave Czohara with glee as Terry Chesson reacts to Jim's recollection of the joys of 30-second shipboard showers.

A matter of perspective.

The work and play of NMA reunions start early and go late. At a 0900 rehearsal after a late-night jam sassion, there can be a slight difference between what the conductor sees...

...and what the percussion section sees.

Oboe: the ill wind that Barbara Levy blows good.

A great advantage to moving our reunions around the country is that it attracts new members from whatever region we may be visiting.

This year, Barbara Levy joined us with her husband, Sheldon--also an MU--and, even better, with her oboe. We don't often get double reed players, so it's been a joy to have her here.

Our first G.F.

In the '70s and '80s, "G.F." was the abbreviated term we used to describe those too-frequent times when it hit the fan, when everything went wrong. ("The bus broke down, we got there late, the gazebo was too small and there were 6 people in the audience; what a massive Goat F***.")

The first G.F. of the NMA reunion showed itself this morning as we were warming up for our final concert band rehearsal. Through a scheduling error, rehearsal was located in the ballroom adjacent next to a conference of the FIAIA.

The manager brought the problem to conductor Wilbur Smith. Smitty didn't waste any time looking for fault; there was no time to waste on assigning blame, so he found the solution. We moved one more room down the hall and started only a few minutes late.

I should add that FIAIA stands for "Florida Internal Affairs Investigators Association." These were cops. Lots of them. They had guns. Lots of them.

Smitty made a great decision.

Calling all pianists

If you have ever held the NEC 3814, piano, your presence at the NMA reunion is requested. I played more yesterday than I've played in the last two years. An afternoon session in the lounge, an evening dance band rehearsal and an evening session in the lounge. The band was hot, the players in tip-top shape, and I'm exhausted.

We're short on pianists this year, so come on down. Think you're not good enough? If you know the changes to "Satin Doll," or, for that matter, if you just know the title to "Satin Doll," you hereby pass the audtion.There's plenty of playing to go around.

"Summertime" in Orlando

This morning's rehearsal is the last before tonightt's performance. It's taking a lot of work to prepare; if you think that our experience as military professionals makes concert preparation a breeze, believe me, it ain't necessarily so.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's a big bandstand.

On the left, Dennis Bear; on the right, Marty Nau.
Dennis's home is Wisconsin, where he plays in a band sponsored by New Horizons, an organization that gives adults the opportunity to play in musical ensembles.

Marty's home is wherever gigs, tours, recording sessions and music clinics take him.

As Navy musicians, we brought our musical experience to the bandstand and came away with more than we brought. It still works that way in the NMA.

The new Bill Allen.

It appears that Bill Allen finally got tired of hearing his buddies delivering the old Navy line, "Get a haircut."

Drum roll, please.

It's great to have John Vasquez back after a few years. It's also wonderful that a pair of timpani showed up, too. I'm looking forward to hearing "America, the Beautiful" without the percussion section playing the opening timpani roll on castanets.

It had to happen.

If you heard NMA member Stephanie Richards sing at last year's reunion, you know that this former Navy vocalist can sell a lyric. She's got a lot to work with this year; during Friday night's concert she'll perform "The Last Full Measure of Devotion," a moving tribute to those Americans who have sacrificed without limit.

Admittedly, rehearsals of the piece were troublesome until conductor Wilbur Smith identified the problem: every time he called up "The Last Full Measure of Devotion" and gave the downbeat, the trombone section began playing--yeah--on the last full measure. 

The storm is over.

This is more like what we visitors expect out of Florida in the summer. From talking with members who live in the area, it's also more like what people who live here expect out of Florida in the summer.

A new day begins.

As always, check the gig board. Schedules can--and will--change.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Big Band Tonight!

Same guys, same horns, same room, but something was differen at this evening's big band rehearsal. The band that rehearsed tonight was smoother than the band that stumbled out of bed this morning. That first meeting was a jittery affair; tonight, the band swung.

 Maybe it was because the players were warmed up after a busy day of playing. Maybe it was because the horns themselves were warmed up, fueled by a dayful of eighth notes.

And, of course, maybe it was because big band music was made for nighttime.

Waltz for trumpets.

1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3, 5-2-3...

1300: Concert Band

That's what the rehearsal schedule says. It doesn't say that everyone will be here yet; it simply says that our time together is precious, and we can't waste it waiting for an alto clarinetist and second bassoon player to walk in the door.

So we rehearse as scheduled. It may be shaky at first, but by the end of the afternoon, everyone agrees: a few more rehearsals, a few more players, and this is gonna work.

Trombones a-plenty.

Clarinets--we could use a few more.

And three out of four horns is damn good.

Another pianist!

I was overjoyed this morning to walk into the NMA dance band rehearsal and see Bob Leek at the piano. Bob Leketa was equally thrilled, as we were the only pianists to have pre-registered for the reunion. Believe me, Leketa and I are happy to share the duties; for a pianist at an NMA reunion, there's plenty of work to go around.

Hoist the anchor.

The 2012 reunion of the Navy Musicians Association is underway. We're not all aboard yet---members traditionally roll in day after day.

But we put a big band together, blew the rust out of our horns and got started on schedule.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Prepare for the gig.

UFO in Orlando

A number of NMA members have reported spotting something unusual in the Orlando sky this afternoon. Various descriptions have included the adjectives "astounding" "gorgeous" and "encouraging." Common among all the sworn and signed affidavits is the word "blue."

Let's jam!

Impromptu jam sessions in the lounge are a hallmark of Navy Musicians Association reunions. In fact, although the reunion doesn't offically start until tomorrow, enough of us are here to get started tonight.

Our sessions are lively affairs that we look forward to all year long. We love them so much that, sometimes, we all want to play on every tune.

As a pianist, however, I assure you that a seven-horn section is four horns too large. A parade of horn players who each want to solo on a chorus or two means it can take the "A" train a half an hour just to get out of the station. We rhythm section players are equal partners, not hired providers of endless Music Minus One accompaniments.

That's what we think, and apparantly, someone else thinks so, too. I just stopped by the lounge and saw a sign next to the bandstand.

It's a light, polite reminder--a lot lighter and politer than the one I would have written.