Saturday, December 9, 2017

Reflections After the Army-Navy Game

Army, 14, Navy 13. Damn.

I'm not a football fan, but I enjoy the annual Army-Navy Game. It reminds me of my years as an instructor at the Armed Forces School of Music.

For three years, I served as a member of a tri-service team of friendly rivals. My peers on the instructional staff were sailors, like me, but also soldiers and Marines with different customs, different military chains of command, even different languages. We wore different uniforms. We came to Virginia Beach from different bands and would return to different bands. But we worked together with the best sense of teamsmanship.

Each of us all taught students of all three services with equal dedication to the needs of each. We shared the same goal of sending trained musicians to the field or fleet, regardless of service.

We did undoable things. Imagine the fright of a young Marine tuba player who learns he will have to take lessons on the electric bass, an instrument he has never touched, and, within six months, develop the skills needed to play in a combo, rock ensemble and stage band. And imagine the fright of the instructor who is expected to make this happen. Anyone with any common sense knows such a task is impossible. But the staff made such impossibilities happen, daily.

U.S. Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band, c. 1979.

I went to work every day surrounded by topnotch professional military musicians. I still benefit from the examples of these musicians and patriots, many of whom became leaders of their services' musical organizations and prominent artists in the civilian world.

How I got a staff gig is still a mystery to me. It was a difficult job, but I was surrounded by professionals of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. I may not have been the best, but I swam in the wake of the best.

Okay, enough. Army: congratulations on your second-in-a-row football victory. It was fun, but we're now headed toward the 2018 season:

Go Navy, Beat Army!