Years of service: 2

So two years ago Thursday I embarked on an adventure that I never dreamed I would take on…joining the military!  I can’t believe that its been two years already.  It seems just yesterday that I auditioned and signed my life away!  (and remember when I had to wait 8 months to leave for boot camp?  That seemed like such a long time…) Anyway, its been great so far, I can’t believe sometimes that this is what I do for a living.  The military stuff can be hard to swallow sometimes, but its worth it to play clarinet as a full time gig.

I think back to just a year ago after just a year in the Navy.  I was still pretty new at all of this, and I was still in the “honeymoon phase” of my new career.  Unfortunately, my view on the job has definitely changed over the last year.  When people would ask me before if I like the Navy, I would tell them that I loved it.  Because I did, at the time.  Now when they ask me, I say, “eh, its alright…its a full time gig which I can’t complain about”.  Its not the music part of my job that I don’t like, its the Navy part of my job.  Sometimes I get frustrated about how things have to function because its a military job (i.e. ranks & the chain of command).  Also, the whole promotion system.  The only way that you can advance is to get a good eval and do really well on the written exam.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that playing ability has much to do with this.  It seems the only way to get a good eval is to perform non-musical duties as well and as much as possible.  THAT is frustrating because those duties and studying for the exam takes time away from working on our playing.  Also, our opportunities to advance are pretty slim nowadays.  For example, the latest test results just came out this week, and only 9 people got promoted from E4 to E5 (that’s what I’m trying to do) out of over 100 people who passed the MU exam.  I was 40 points away from advancing.  FORTY.  So ridiculous.  So that means even if I had gotten a perfect score on the exam, I still would not have advanced.  Hard to be motivated to study when the results turn out like that!  And the crappy thing is that if I can’t get E5 within the next 6 years, I get kicked out.  Same with E5 to E6…if I can’t get E6 within 14 years, I’m out.  There are a lot of talented musicians that are assets to the program that lose their jobs just because they can’t take tests well.  I’m not saying that MU’s should be an exception to the “high-year tenure” rule…OK maybe I am saying that.  It may work for big Navy, but not so much for the MU community.

Sorry for the soapbox…but this stuff is pretty much a daily frustration for me.  I’ve had thoughts of possibly getting out at the end of my contract in three years and going back to school for my DMA.  I really love teaching, and the Navy doesn’t really satisfy that desire.  But…getting out is a scary thought.  Although this job has its frustrations, it is great pay and great benefits for not that much work.  Back in Rochester I worked twice as hard for pretty much half the pay.  And then I had to do clarinet stuff on the side of that.  Now, a “long” work day for me is leaving the building after 3pm (so, 6 hours of work?)  I’ll take that.

Speaking of that, I’ve been having a lot of “long” work days.  I now have two collateral duties…Admin assistant/mail orderly czar and assistant command fitness leader.  I like both very much, but they take up a lot of time.  We just had our PFA (Physical fitness assessment), and as ACFL I had to help lead our people through it (includes weigh ins and a PT test).  Hopefully now that that’s over, I’ll have a little more time.  There’s always plenty to do in the admin department…I like that job because I can flex my secretary muscles!  And I can boss the mail orderlies around (haha JK!).  Both collaterals show my leadership abilities…which looks great on an eval!  I’m also the unofficial clarinet section leader, so that looks good too..

Aside from the Navy, I just got hired on as a woodwind tech for a local high school marching band!  I’m extremely excited about it, I really love teaching (just not band directing, LOL).  A couple weekends ago, the kids had a pre-camp and the director invited me to come meet the kids and check out the school.  I ended up working with the kids for about an hour!  It was great, the kids are extremely motivated and very fun.  I’m looking forward to the fall.  Between that and all my Navy gigs I’m going to be a very busy bee!  But I seem to thrive when I’m busy, which is great.

One reply on “Years of service: 2”

I got to E4 pretty quickly because I was in a necessary rating. When it came time, I made E5 pretty easily, mostly for the same reason. I took the E6 exam just before I separated, but didn’t have much hope of advancing. There were too many candidates, too few openings, and the requirements were more stringent. In other words,I feel your pain.

That said, you have lots of time left, and as people separate ahead of you, your odds will improve.

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