Friday, May 30, 2014

Shipmate Frank presents: "Karma"

Newton's Third Law of Thermodynamics: "For every action their is an equal and opposite reaction."

Galations 6:7: "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

Frank Mullen: "Ed Rodgers has a Date with Destiny."

All will become clear at the 2014 Reunion of the Navy Musicians Association.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Don't Give Up on the Shipmate

 On Saturday night of last year's reunion, after the equipment was packed up and the last toasts had been offered, I heard a number of members say the same thing: "Something was different this year."

I agreed then, and still do. The bands were hot, the jam sessions smoked and a crew of new members brought new energy and fresh sea stories. If they gave awards for reunions, the 2013 reunion would have won an NMA Commendation Medal.

I say, let's add a silver star to that ribbon. Let's make the 2014 reunion even better.

A top-notch reunion starts with you. Your attendance is, in itself, a great contribution. We need to fill out the horn sections. We need audiences for our concerts. We need dancers on the floor. We need shipmates to listen to our stories.

This is where you can help. There's an old friend you've been trying to talk into coming. He always says, "Maybe next year," or "I'm just not ready yet." You feel like giving up on this guy.

Don't. Give him a call, shoot him an email, give him the sales pitch one more time. If he relents and joins us in June, he'll be forever grateful. If he doesn't, make like a Chicago Cubs fan and tell yourself, "Maybe next year."

I am an NMA-loving, reunion-attending member because someone did this for me. An old shipmate called me once or twice a year to shoot the breeze. He'd always invite me to join this bunch of MUs who held a get-together every year. Sure, I'd say. Maybe next year. I'm just not ready yet.

It took a few years. I regret that; the NMA has become an important part of my life, and I'm glad Terry Chesson didn't give up on me.

My case is not unique. Many of us have become loyal attendees--"the NMA Regular Navy"--because a friend didn't quit trying.

I guess what I'm saying is, friends don't give up on friends. Give your old shipmate one more call. He deserves it.

All the info on joining the NMA, registering for the reunion and booking a hotel room is online at our website.

That reminds me, there's a trombone player from Navy Band Newport I haven't talked to in a while. I'll bet I've got Dave's phone number around somewhere....

Saturday, May 17, 2014

To Our Active-duty Comrades

"On Armed Forces Day, we honor the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who render the highest service any American can offer.... I urge citizens to learn more about military service by attending and participating in the local observances of the day. I also encourage Americans to volunteer at organizations that provide support to our troops and their families." 
-- 2014 Armed Forces Day Presidential Proclamation (full text here.)

Among all patriotic holidays, Armed Forced Day stands out as an observance of all those currently on active duty. In other words, it is not a day look back, but to look around.

And what you'd see--if you could, indeed, look around at all the parades, ceremonies and displays that honor our active-duty compatriots--is military musicians.

Who helps citizens "learn about military service by attending and participating in ...local observances"? Military musicians. Every military band is a representative of its branch of service; sometimes, particularly to audiences in isolated areas who are fortunate enough to have a visit from a traveling unit, a military band is it's branch of service.

Who are the volunteers "at organizations that provide support to our troops and their families"? Military musicians. Every military musician on active duty today is a volunteer who has offered his or her talents to serve a cause greater than self. In this respect, they are patriots.

Armed Forces Week has not been a vacation for these patriots; it has been a time of work, important work. And we who once did his work understand and offer thanks to our brothers and sisters who serve today in military bands. We know what it's like when the guest of honor doesn't get the day off.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A few years back...

Every Navy Musicians Association reunion brings new members, new music and new challenges. But the camaraderie, the sea stories and the joy of sharing ourselves through music--these things never change.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Navy Musician's Lexicon

Revised and expanded:

Navy Musician's Dictionary

administrative petty officer: A french horn player.

Autovon: Toll-free Navy telephone system used by seamen for supervised official calls, by administrative POs for unsupervised official calls, and CPOs for all-night gabfests with old buddies in Yokosuka.

axe: A musical instrument issued by the Supply Petty Officer for the performance of duties, or, in the case of clarinets, a sharp-bladed tool for chopping wood.

bag band: A ceremonial unit, named after the pouches of march-sized music the musicians sling over their shoulders. "Oh hell, another bag band gig."

basso continuo: The effect that is achieved when the sousaphone player in the last rank misses the turn.

big band: A bag band without clarinets.

bitter end:
  1. The part of a rope that is tied to a secure object.
  2. The effect achieved when the trombone section misses the drum major's cutoff.
blues progression: The mental transition the MU undergoes when reading a piece of paper from BUPERS that

  • begins with the word "Hawaii,"
  • contains the word "ORDMOD," and
  • concludes with the word "Norfolk."

change of command: Proof that musicians, like cows, can sleep while standing up.

civilian: A term of endearment referring to half the personnel in the U.S. Navy Band.

chord changes: The effect created when four Navy trombone players attempt to sustain tones whose duration is greater than a whole note.

CLINK-CLANK: Band of the Commander-in-chief of the Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANT).

comp time: The 73 measures that pass while the trombone player tries to figure out when his solo begins.

cymbal crash modulation: A sudden transition between keys that are not closely-related.

Disney World: Place of employment for MUs who quit the Navy because they're tired of wearing uniforms and marching in parades.

ditty bag: The XO's wife who thinks she can sing.

dog watch: The guy in the van's passenger seat in charge of pointing out women while driving through an Army base.

dream sheet: A transfer request form upon which you are required to write the name of every stateside, overseas and seagoing band, in return for which you receive a letter congratulating you on having your request approved.

duty gig: An occasional nuisance that interferes with getting your real work done.

ensign: The guy in front of the band who was standing behind you last week.

equal temperament: A method of forecasting how the day will go that divides the chief's mood disorder into twelve equal stages ranging from mildly belligerent to acutely hostile.

first call: What you're thinking about when the bartender announces last call.

foul anchors: to botch the music during a ceremony. "What a rotten gig--we slaughtered 'Washington Post' and fouled 'Anchors.'"

harp: Rating badge insignia for MU.

harmony: the musical effect created by two Navy trombonists performing a unison passage.

head chart: A diagram, used during field day, that shows the precise arrangement of toiletries in the officers' restroom.

high and tight: The condition of the trumpet section during the last set.

key signature: The handwritten name on your chit next to the block checked "approved."

march tempo: A pace whose speed is dependent upon how late the bass drummer was out last night.

military time: Those few, hurried minutes sandwiched in between pay gigs.

Morning Colors: An event consisting of a short march to the flagpole, a few Sousa marches, a bugle call, the National Anthem, another bugle call, "Anchors Aweigh" and a walk back to band quarters, all of which lasts about a half an hour and is listed in the bandmaster's report as two parades, two concerts, two duty-bugler gigs and a ceremony.

Navy Exchange: The process by which a long-haired, tattooed guitar player in camouflage gear becomes a bald, tattooed guitar player in camouflage gear who can read music.

Navy special: Any of a number of dance band arrangements written for training purposes in the years after World War II. Variously described as "marvelously complex and challenging" or "hideously over-written."

Navy triplets: A three-note sequence of notes of sort-of-equal duration, usually consisting of:
  1. a dotted eighth note, followed by
  2. a sixteenth-note which is tied to
  3. a final eighth note.
Navy van: A remarkable feat of automotive engineering that carries four times its stated maximum load, never needs its oil changed and can be shifted directly from forward into reverse while the vehicle is in motion.

Pat O:
  1. Patriotic Opener, music performed before a special event.
  2. Opening words of an Irish song that begins, "Pat, O Pat, is there whiskey in yer hat?"
  3. The guy who welcomes you to your first AA meeting after you sing #2 at #1.
pay gig: A musical engagement for which off-duty MUs are miraculously on time, smiling and dressed correctly.

per diem: (L. "by dieting" or "meals are optional.") A travel allowance that is calculated by estimating daily expenses required for food and lodging and dividing by two.

perfect interval: The rarely-occurring period of joy that occurs when payday arrives before the bar tab is due.

perfect pitch: The arc described by a Bb clarinet tossed from the poop deck so that it clears the rudder.

plank owner: A saxophone player who has been issued a seven-year-old box of Rico Fives.

practical factors: Sucking up to the Chief, bribing the LPO and other skills required for promotion to the next pay grade.

ship arrival: An emotional ceremony during which sailors run down the gangplank into the arms of their waiting wives and girlfriends while the band plays "Back in the Saddle Again."

ship departure: An emotional ceremony that is traditionally followed by a surge in the number of unattached women in the Enlisted Club.

shitty ditty: An obscure song that is childishly arranged by an MU1, illegibly copied by an MU3, and highly favored by the admiral's wife.

sick call: The unfortunate music that ensues when a bugler begins on the wrong harmonic.

sound man: An MU who is being discharged in a few weeks, sits in the back of the auditorium and couldn't care less whether the vocals are audible.

staff combo: Four MUs who spend occasional evenings at the "O club" drinking doubles from the open bar, ogling the junior officers' wives, picking up juicy tidbits from the admiral's chief of staff and show up for work the next day complaining about all this extra duty.

stinger: A loud repetition of the last note of a march, generally performed only by the second trombone player.

survey: The procedure that transforms bass drums and tubas into coffee tables and flower planters in the Supply Petty Officer's living room.

4 Ruffles & Flourishes and the Flag Officers March: The default answer to all questions on MU promotion exams.

Nomenclature for Bands Afloat

battle station: A rectangular fabric casing filled with a resilient material such as cotton or foam, often employed with a similar, but smaller, "pillow" for the support of the head.

crossing the line: Asking the flag lieutenant's wife if she'd like to grease your slide after the gig.

flight quarters: An exercise, usually held at night, during which sirens are sounded and heavy chains are dragged across the deck directly above the band's berthing compartment.

general quarters: Nap time.

hatch: An opening in a passageway that is three inches narrower than a Fender Rhodes electric piano.

liberty call: An announcement signaling the period during which the ship goes to In-Port Routine, the crew goes on R&R and the band goes to work.

mess deck: The 16 square feet surrounding a trombonist with a broken spit valve.

port: The contents of the bottle in the trumpet player's spare case.

quarterdeck: The number of playing cards sequestered up the sleeve of the smiling bosun's mate who has just sauntered into the band's berthing compartment.

rack: see Battle Station.

unreps: Underway replenishment, a harrowing naval evolution involving two closely-spaced ships on parallel courses that requires precise radio contact, instant communication between helmsman and watchstanders, and a band outside the bridge playing Fillmore marches.

1MC: The public address system through which the executive officer remarks on the contribution the band is making to Unreps.

School of Music Terminology

ADM Joel T. Boone Branch Health Clinic: A recreational lounge for basic course students, enjoyed primarily during colors band week.

chord factory: The School of Music.

ear training: The development of advanced listening skills that allow students to stop riffing on diminished scales and open up the Fillmore march book when the Practice Supervisor's footsteps become audible.

flat five: An all-Army sax section.

  1. The beginning of a piece of music.
  2. A place where excrement is deposited.
  3. In the case of Advanced Course arranging projects, both of the above.

hidden fifths: Training aids that circulate in the back of the Theory classroom.

Pool of Mucus: The School of Music.

practice room: a space provided for students to store their horn cases while they are outside smoking.

staff member: An MU whose behavior in a fleet band has earned him an extended period of punishment.

student bands: Training ensembles for basic course students of various abilities:
  • "A" band, consisting of students who perform at the highest level. 
  • "B" band, consisting of students who are competing for selection to "A" band.
  • "C" band, consisting of Marines.
unit: An hour of individual practice (derived from School of Music record-keeping terminology). "Trombones, you need to put in some units on that slow whole-note section."

MU Phrase Book

"Did you cash your last paycheck?" Translation: "Your constant griping about the Navy grows tiresome."

"Get a haircut." Translation: "I disagree with you, but can't think of an adequate response."
  • Question: "Can't the combo have some time off, chief? We're working twice as hard as the rest of the band."
  • Answer: "Get a haircut."
"Parade the Beef." Translation: "Form up on the grinder in athletic gear."

"Who booked this gig? Translation: "The accommodations for the band are not up to general standards."
  • MUs at Navy Band Newport had an unusual distinction in the mid-80s, when MU1 Billy Ream was the Operations PO in charge of scheduling performances. After a concert in a particularly inhospitable venue, musicians could stomp off the bandstand and truthfully moan, "Another Ream job."