Honestly, I can’t believe its been three years since I shipped myself off to navy boot camp. It feels as if the three years I’ve actually spent in the Navy has gone faster than the eight months that I had to wait to go to boot camp. Crazy how that is.
I’ve never truly regretted my decision to enter the fleet music program for a second. I’ve always been thankful that I have a full-time playing job that pays well and has great benefits, which is a lot more than most musicians can claim that they have. Some days are harder than others though…for example, yesterday I found out that I was less than four points away from getting promoted to E5. ARRRGGH. Talk about frustrating.
The past 3 years I have also really struggled with the overwhelming desire to be in a premiere band. The past few months I’ve come to realize that although being in a premiere band seems “cooler” because you get paid more (E6 right off the bat), being able to stay in one place for an entire career, and getting to play for major dignitaries (ie the President), being in the fleet has its perks. Since I’ve been at FFB, I’ve played for the Polish president, Secretary of the Navy, several members of Congress, and of course the Commander of Fleet Forces, I’ve also played on national radio, played on more ships and carriers than I can count, and even witnessed the christening of the newest carrier. I’ve also had the opportunity to play one of the Mendelssohn Concertpieces with the wind ensemble, and will have the opportunity to play another solo with the band this summer. And there’s probably a lot more stuff that I am forgetting! Also, I’m probably going to be moving to Hawaii soon, to play with the Pacific Fleet Band (no official written orders yet though, just verbal orders). I also have met so many awesome people, and will meet even more, because of the rotation that happens in the program. I now know at least one person in all 11 fleet bands! I really think that’s neat.
Unfortunately, I often feel wrongly judged in the clarinet community because I’m in the military, but not in a premiere band. It seems that people think that I’m not “as good” because I’m in the fleet. How wrong they are! There are incredibly good musicians in all the fleet bands. I’m hoping that the more good musicians come into the program and the more of the “bad” musicians get out, the more that stigma will disappear. In fact, it is just as hard now to get into the navy fleet bands as it is to get into a premiere band!
I think that I’ve finally gotten to the place where I am truly happy where I am. Yes, if there is an opening in DC, I will more likely than not take the audition. But, unlike before, where I felt so desperate to win and get that permanent assignment, I feel fine with where I am now. Hey, I’m going to be getting paid to live and work in paradise soon! Can’t get much better than that, can it?