Years of Service: 3

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.

Receiving my good conduct medal yesterday. 3 years baby!

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?

My first Navy trip!

Last weekend was my first official overnight trip with the band.  I went with the woodwind quintet (which I’m in) and the brass quintet, plus our boss (the band officer in charge of Fleet Forces Band).  We traveled several hours south to South Carolina, to a little town called Pawley’s Island, which is just south of Myrtle Beach right on the coast.  This was a first for me, I’ve never been to South Carolina!  We were even able to take a walk on the beach!

It was cloudy, but still a nice walk along the Atlantic ocean!

The concert consisted of the WWQ playing a program, then a joint piece with the BQ, then the BQ played a program.  The venue was pretty nice, it was at a church.  It had a beautiful pipe organ that reminded me very much of the organ at CSU.  And like most churches, this one was very live!  You see, our rooms at the band hall are all very dead sounding or they sound like a bathtub, so it was a little jarring at first.  We tried to prepare by rehearsing in one of the practice rooms, which have the virtual room technology.  But that was nothing compared to this church!

For our (WWQ) program, we played a Stephen Foster Medley that was arranged by Michael Kibbe, A Bach prelude and fugue (can’t remember which one off the top of my head), Five Easy Dances by Denes Agay, and our one serious piece, Anton Reicha’s Quintet No. 2 (Op. 88).  The Reicha has been haunting me for the last month or so!  It seems to always get in my head, haha.  Plus I had to practice it like crazy, for some reason the clarinet part is really insane compared to the other parts.  The joint piece was the Concertino for Wind and Brass Quintets by Robert Washburn, and our boss conducted.  That was a great piece to play, I’m glad I got to be a part of it.

We ended up getting a new “oboe” player about two weeks before the trip because our regular one was so unreliable (see my ranting post).  I used quotations because our new “oboe” player was actually a clarinetist playing a C clarinet.  It is really amazing how much a difference there was by switching out one person.  We sounded really awesome, especially on the Reicha.  It also helped that we had a lot of time to rehearse.

The audience was something else.  They ate it up!  I don’t think I’ve ever played for a more enthusiastic crowd.  It ended up being a pretty long concert, but they loved every minute of it.  And they were so appreciative afterwards!  It’s nice to feel appreciated sometimes, especially as a military musician (we never get applause at ceremonies!).  I’m really glad to have been a part of the concert.

So next on the agenda for me is to record excerpts for the ICA Orchestral Audition competition.  I’m really struggling with the Mahler 7 excerpt, most notably the stupid chromatic run at the end.  I just can’t get my fingers to move that fast!  ARG.  Also, the Brahms 4 excerpt is throwing me…where the crap do I breathe?  On the recordings it doesn’t seem like the clarinetist breathes at all.  Also ARG.  Everything else seems to be falling into place though.

And Friday I’m hoping to make it up to VCU in Richmond for a masterclass by Julie DeRoche!  Very excited for that!