Make War . . . Not Music??

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Beckmesser
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Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by Beckmesser » Sun May 22, 2016 4:21 pm

Saw this item in Politico today about efforts to reduce the budget for the military bands in the Department of Defense. We learn that the DoD has a budget of $437 million to support something like 137 bands comprising several thousand musicians. Some congress-critters think that is too much money.

Your thoughts?
Last edited by Beckmesser on Sun May 22, 2016 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jbuck919
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by jbuck919 » Sun May 22, 2016 6:05 pm

As the designated expert here, I can assure you that this is a very old story. I can't remember whether it was here or on Facebook that I posted that General Curtis LeMay always insisted that the band be retired from the airfield where he landed because he thought them useless.

There has certainly been attrition. To take a minor example, the West Point Band used to have units that no longer exist, such as a fife and drum corps and even bagpipes. The last time I checked in on YouTube, they had reduced the flute section so that now only two piccolos play the descant in The Stars and Stripes Forever, actually a significant negative development. It may come as a shock, but the major military bands used to have even string sections.

Of course in a sense the bands are a luxury, arguably a waste of taxpayer money. The reason they survive at all is not because they are the major source of employment of talented musicians in the US (as indeed they are), or because we need marching soldiers in formation anymore, but for their recruitment value. That has been what has kept them alive, and likely will continue to be.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Beckmesser
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by Beckmesser » Sun May 22, 2016 8:47 pm

jbuck919 wrote:There has certainly been attrition. To take a minor example, the West Point Band used to have units that no longer exist, such as a fife and drum corps and even bagpipes.
Sorry to hear that.

I love bagpipes. I guess it's my Scottish heritage.

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by jbuck919 » Sun May 22, 2016 9:14 pm

Beckmesser wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:There has certainly been attrition. To take a minor example, the West Point Band used to have units that no longer exist, such as a fife and drum corps and even bagpipes.
Sorry to hear that.

I love bagpipes. I guess it's my Scottish heritage.
Yes, that's clear by your nickname. I assume you are a direct descendant of McSachs. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by John F » Sun May 22, 2016 10:57 pm

When I was in the Army, I heard that its bands had a secondary function - in wartime they serve as guards for division and higher headquarters. Don't know if this is now true; it may have been the case long ago, when royal and aristocratic households' musical establishments included servants with other duties who could also play instruments. Or it may not have been true at all.
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by jbuck919 » Mon May 23, 2016 3:20 am

John F wrote:When I was in the Army, I heard that its bands had a secondary function - in wartime they serve as guards for division and higher headquarters. Don't know if this is now true; it may have been the case long ago, when royal and aristocratic households' musical establishments included servants with other duties who could also play instruments. Or it may not have been true at all.
It is true now. All military musicians, including my father in his day, have alternate combat duties. When I was in Germany, the band at Bamberg was entirely deployed to Iraq, and not to be bandspersons. (My father, in case anyone is interested, was trained to be a field hospital orderly.)

The only exception to this is the Marine Band, the President's Own, which is also not subject to the kinds of reductions I've spoken about. They are actually civilians under contract with minimal training in military courtesy.

Band members are as constantly busy as anyone in the military except maybe General Eisenhower. Nevertheless, they give the appearance of having an excess of leisure and are often called upon to do extraneous duties short of those involved in war situations.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

maestrob
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by maestrob » Mon May 23, 2016 10:36 am

I know it's off-topic, but during he 1940's & '50s, weren't the military bands used to entertain the troops via radio broadcasts with jazz stars leading them, both live and on radio? I have some of these recordings, and they're quite good.

jbuck919
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Re: Make War . . . Not Music??

Post by jbuck919 » Mon May 23, 2016 1:08 pm

maestrob wrote:I know it's off-topic, but during he 1940's & '50s, weren't the military bands used to entertain the troops via radio broadcasts with jazz stars leading them, both live and on radio? I have some of these recordings, and they're quite good.

This is probably true, though it goes back before my time. Even now, the recruitment value is mainly in the pop music/jazz band units rather than the concert bands. I heard the incredibly good one from Fort Meade, called The Volunteers, nearly every year I taught in Maryland. (The excellent chorus teacher was one of their arrangers. She was allowed this job as long as she fulfilled her main duties at home and appeared in uniform for roll call at what used to be called the All Men.)

It is slightly disconcerting, BTW, to see musicians who are probably better than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones appear under conditions of military appearance discipline. The following refers to Washington DC, but the band, not to be confused with the ceremonial band at Fort Myer in Arlington which provides music for funerals, is based at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County. Maryland.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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