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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Are there any Forum members who went through the Armed Forces Music School in Virginia? Any memories... what branch of service... what years?

I was in the Army there from about August 1972 through March 1973. My clarinet/sax teacher was a Navy Chief Petty Officer, named Landry. Chief Landry, right? Never knew anybody's real first name. The only personal thing I ever knew about him after 30 hours of lessons, was that his cousin Tom Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys. He was a good teacher and a good player too. Pretty sure he had spent time in The Navy Band in Washington DC. You have to be a really strong player to get that duty assignment.

I'm trying to remember what a typical class day was like in hour segments. Something like two different concert bands and two different stage bands... one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Marching band, Music Theory/Musicianship. And one private lesson a week or two if you doubled like me. Any holes in your schedule you were required to log into at least one hour of Practice Room. Or maybe it was two hours. I know that I logged in at least 3 hours on school days and 5 on weekends. Most guys... I don't really remember any women at all... went back to school after Chow in the evening to log hours.

I remember when I first started school, I had been tripping on the Dorian mode and it's minor 7 Sus pentatonic scale. I was shedding it in every key, breaking it up into simple sequences of 3rds and triads. I played my lesson down a few times and could play it OK. The first few weeks I got away with things, and he could tell I was a good player, so he had me working on more advanced material right away.

I came in for a lesson, couldn't really pull it off, so Chief got mad at me. He could tell I didn't practice it. He scolded me, "Your not putting in the time. If you don't put in the minimum 14 hours, I will have to fail your lesson for the week! What have you been doing!!!" He grabbed his little card file with each students daily practice room logs. Mine was 31 hours. He looked at me and ask; "What are you doing?" I started playing some pentatonic licks. I though it was funny.

Chief was not amused. He gave me a stern talking to. Get with the program and play the game... this ain't no joke. It was good advice for what was to come... :mrgreen:
 

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Since I was in the "Forced Air", we didn't have to do that. Good to see another fellow/former military musician here though!

John
 

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I went through it from April 1996 to September 1996, also in the Army.

When I went through, they didn't have any stage bands for the Army element, just concert band and marching band. I don't quite remember the daily schedule, but I remember doing a lot of PT and practicing. I also remember that the sit-down classes included both Music Theory and Sight-Singing & Ear training.
 

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Also, while I don't remember my private instructor's name, I do remember that he forced me to change my embouchure (to one more appropriate for classical playing) and play on a C* mouthpiece (I had been playing on a Meyer 7). Moreover, after an episode sort of like the one tenorcat described, he forbade me from practicing any jazz or non "legit" music.

I tossed that mouthpiece as soon as I left the school, but it took me several months to reset my embouchure.

This is ironic since the vast majority of the (non-march) playing that I wound up doing at my permanent duty station (82nd Airborne Div.) consisted of jazz & popular music (e.g., in small combos, the big band, and the "show" band).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Since I was in the "Forced Air", we didn't have to do that. John
How did you get in the band? Auditon? What horn did you play?


When I went through, they didn't have any stage bands for the Army element... I don't quite remember the daily schedule, but I remember doing a lot of PT and practicing.
No stage band?!?!! What a bummer! That was the only fun there was to be had! I don't really remember doing much PT at all. Mostly, I remember playing the National Anthem a trillion times.
 

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How did you get in the band? Auditon? What horn did you play?
Yup......audition. Set up an audition and met one of the bands on the road. Did the audition, signed paperwork that they were committed to me and then went to a recruiter. I'll never forget the look the recruiter gave me when I walked in and told him one of the AF bands was committed to me and now I need to do the "official" stuff. I'm a saxophone player (obviously) and started in the band on alto and moved to tenor about a year in. At that time, I was the youngest guy in the band (19). Most of them were already college grads with music degrees. I was at the now closed Chanute AFB in IL. for 4 yrs. Great band and great memories.
 

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I will be going to Armed Forces Music School in Virginia soon! I am super excited!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I am super excited!
Wow! It bet. Something I hadn't really considered. The school still exists. But why wouldn't it? I could see it not having changed a bit in traditional Military fashion. I guess you will see.

Do you, or did you, have a choice for pick of duty station?

I auditioned for the 6th Army Band at Presidio San Francisco. The Warrant Officer in charge of the Band at the time auditioned me. He had completed the Band Director's program at the School... but we are all pretty sure he didn't really play any instrument... and for sure he couldn't count or wave the Baton in time. It was seriously embarrassing to play the National Anthem in front of huge audiences on official occasions. He was only person in the world who could consistently fake out a 50 piece marching band on the pick-up and down beat. A Helicopter Pilot before.

If I knew there was a standard Army Bandsman audition book, I could have learned the clarinet parts in a few days, and played it down cold to a metronome. The first few pages I could sight read, but as it got into harder keys, I struggled to play with the metronome. The sight reading portion I did a lot better. Then he shook his head and said, I didn't do well enough to make the band, but if I graduated AFMS, I could be in the band.

He ask me what I had prepared for the audition. The final part was something of your own choice, which surprised me too. My Recruiter was not good. I played a Eugene Bozza Caprice on Tenor and some other Bach, that I memorized for my Sophomore Finals. Looked right at the guy and burned the stuff down. He stopped me before the end of each piece, shaking his head. Little did I know he couldn't play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

The guys in the band were all very good to great payers, all the months later, when I finally showed back up. The Stage band was really good, some very strong soloists. No shortage of strong Trumpet and Bone players to draw from the Marching Band! We had a pretty huge book and were the only group that really practiced the material, had sectionals and rehearsed the band every day for an hour or two. The 6th Army Stage Band played some cool gigs, sports arenas, Jazz Festivals, schools and really bizarre official dances at the Officer's Club.

Mostly because the First Sgt. ran it. He was an old Lifer who played Tuba and String Bass. He just directed, we had a great electric bass player who's MOS was Bass Bone. Sarge would gig almost every night of the week, dragging his drunk butt and double bass, back into the barracks at 2:30 in the morning. But he was up at 7am to do roll call. Hung over with starched fatigues, spit shined boots and dark glasses on. It's pretty much against the law to moonlight or have a job apart from the Military, but a bunch of us were gigging all the time. The Guitar player played French horn and worked as a Union Waiter at the historic Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. He was making $200 a night in tips, lived in the attic of the Band building by himself. Gibson Es335, Fender Twin, stereo system and huge record collection. The billion dollar view from his window was of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands in the background. He transcribed solos and practiced all the time, skating away through the whole trip.

The Concert and Marching Band material was never very challenging, so an hour a day was all we every rehearsed. We only rehearsed Official Ceremonies or Parade gigs the day before, or in the morning before we loaded up. There were days and even weeks in row where there were no Official gigs. The CO, XO, First Sgt. and Squad leaders were all Lifers, who were not particularly good musicians. They knew what a easy duty this was... in the most desirable City to be stationed. They did just enough to look like were doing something, but many days after roll call, we took a coffee break, then either rehearsed the concert band for and hour... took the rest of the day off... or we just left after Roll Call.

Yeah so, anyway. I just remembered that one of my roommates at the school was from Agusta. The first weekend he hitched a ride home to pick up his '67 Buick named Buella. We used to cram seven guys in old Buella Buick and go to Virginia Beach. They had $1.50 Midnight Movies at the Beach Theater. One night they showed the film Catch 22. I read the book in High School, but the movie was pretty cosmic at that point in my life. Dude you gotta read it if you haven't.

Just as I was totally Gettin' Over... or "Skating". Skating is the term I learned at AFMS, meaning basically not carrying your share of the load. It was also a dance of sorts that students did as they went down the looong waxed, polished and spit shined linoleum hallways between classes... swish, swish, swish... we is skatin' now! hahahaha

I got Levied to Yurrip and ended up playing in a "Show Band". The 76th Army Band out of Worms Germany. All we did was work all the time. We traveled all the time. It was basically a 30 piece marching/symphonic band, 20 piece stage band and "Dance Combo" with 4 or 5 horn players. That was a smoking group. A E6 from NOLA who went to North Texas State and sounded like Cat Anderson led the group. Bass and Piano players were both snare drummers in the Marching Band.. E5 lifers who had been in Division Bands in combat in Viet Nam. Both guys were from Detroit, wrote and arranged like mad. They ripped parts off tapes and we worked up, Earth Wind and Fire, Ohio Players, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, James Brown, etc. so we could play dances at the Officer's Clubs.

We traveled a lot. We had our own Tour bus and matching trailer for all the gear. Our driver would cruise that big sucker over a hundred miles an hour on the Autobahn, blasting Clifford Brown and Max Roach or Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on the sound system. Our band was attached to a General who was the Liaison to Nato. We were like one of his public relations tools, to preside over official ceremonies. We played high profile ceremonies with the Dutch Army Band, British Band and German Bands... or all together sometimes. The Dutch cats carried automatic Grease Guns, wore crazy Camo Fatigues and had long hair and beards! One time we drove up to Mien-Rhien airbase, then flew a C131 to Italy. Got off on some air strip, played the Star Spangled Banner, Black Jack March then Passed in Review, while following a column of tanks and support trucks. Got back on the plane and drove home. Took two days off and went back out on the bus again.

The next night we were playing a full concert for the 475th anniversary of a scenic town on the river just south of Heidelburg. I thought I was an OK sight reader, but there were 450 charts in the book!! All kinds of National Anthems, Marches, Patriotic songs, Pops music, Show Tunes and Movie Themes, Polkas and oompah music for days. We got treated like kings, stayed in a cool hotel, played a concert in the town square and a local castle before the fireworks. Got fed and drowned in Bier. People were so starved for live music they really appreciated us. The next day we would play a retirement ceremony for the Commander of a tank battalion, off at some desolate fire base on the Soviet border. Anthem and Black Jack March, get back on the bus. Tanks were so loud you couldn't hear the band.

Good luck and read Catch 22 for me...
 

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I was in the Air Force Band from 1983 to 1992. We didn't get sent to the school in Norfolk, we had to pretty much be a 5 level when we first arrived.

My audition was accepted as long as I agreed to my first duty assignment being Offutt AFB in Omaha. That was okay with me, I'm originally from Omaha, although at the time I hadn't lived there for a long time. It was Jazz, Concert and Marching bands. Jazz was meh, Concert was pretty darn good. I did a permissive PCS after a few years to Robins AFB in Georgia. Jazz there was really good, Concert was a bit meh. Suited me just fine. I'd have gone 20 except for the 'peace dividend' at the end of the first Gulf War. They bought out my enlistment contract for $25K. That suited me too, as it turned out the band there kind of did a nose dive after that. Now it's inactivated and no more.

I really enjoyed being in the AF Band. I made a few life-long friends (who seem to be dying off these days), and since I grew up an Air Force brat I pretty much was familiar with the scene. I'd do it again.
 

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I got Levied to Yurrip and ended up playing in a "Show Band". The 76th Army Band out of Worms Germany. All we did was work all the time. We traveled all the time. It was basically a 30 piece marching/symphonic band, 20 piece stage band and...
By the time I enlisted for the 76th in 1977, it had moved to Kaiserslautern, and had become more of a ‘public relations’ band — mostly performing for the German people : beer tents, wine fests, concerts, parades, etc. all over West Germany, and sometimes France, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
 

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I was in the Air Force Band from 1983 to 1992. We didn't get sent to the school in Norfolk, we had to pretty much be a 5 level when we first arrived.

My audition was accepted as long as I agreed to my first duty assignment being Offutt AFB in Omaha. That was okay with me, I'm originally from Omaha, although at the time I hadn't lived there for a long time. It was Jazz, Concert and Marching bands. Jazz was meh, Concert was pretty darn good. I did a permissive PCS after a few years to Robins AFB in Georgia. Jazz there was really good, Concert was a bit meh. Suited me just fine. I'd have gone 20 except for the 'peace dividend' at the end of the first Gulf War. They bought out my enlistment contract for $25K. That suited me too, as it turned out the band there kind of did a nose dive after that. Now it's inactivated and no more.

I really enjoyed being in the AF Band. I made a few life-long friends (who seem to be dying off these days), and since I grew up an Air Force brat I pretty much was familiar with the scene. I'd do it again.
Interesting. I was in '83-'87 at Chanute. I'd bet we know/knew some of the same people in the system.

John
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
By the time I enlisted for the 76th in 1977, it had moved to Kaiserslautern, and had become more of a ‘public relations’ band — mostly performing for the German people : beer tents, wine fests, concerts, parades, etc. all over West Germany, and sometimes France, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Wow, that was us too. Stuff like Volks Marches where a few surrounding towns full of people, would walk over to another rural little farm town, where they had a carnival and Bier tent set up. The sax section had this thing about riding the Bumper Cars! hahaha

Right before I came back to the States, I was in the train station in Worms, going to Frankfurt. I ran into my roommate from the 6th Army Band, Seth Brody, a monster tenor player. He and Ron Howell the Warrant Officer who auditioned me, had been Levied to the band in Kaiserlautern. Seth told me about the first time Mr. Howell conducted the Anthem... he faked them all out... then tapped his Baton and admonished the band to pay attention. We laughed so hard.

My last duty station was Fort Ord, in California. When I first arrived it was the 28th Army Band, a Division band part of the Basic Training Brigade. We went through a whole Change of Command Ceremony one month later, when the Basic was discontinued, to became The 7th Division Light Fighters. The band worked a lot, but was great about taking time off too. I lived off post, in the little Military ghetto sandwiched between Monterey California and Fort Ord, called Seaside. I used to go over and climb the giant sand dunes. Take a cooler of food, beer... slather on the sun block... shed all afternoon, watching the sun set into the Pacific.

I got drafted really late. By the time I cycled out, there weren't any draftees left, and the next crop of college kids enlisted into the new Volunteer Army. Most of the really good players I ran into were draftees, or Regular Army guys like me, who enlisted to get a deal for job and duty station. By '76 the draftees were gone. The band in Monterey were all young, had women, and the Lifers were very poor payers... but good soldiers!

The thing that saved me right at the end there, was the Monday Night Band at Monterey Peninsula College. It was a for credit class, offered to the Adult Night School per audition. I heard about it from my Platoon Sgt. who played Lead Trumpet. I wish I could remember the teacher who led that band. He was a legendary educator, West Coast writer, arranger and conductor. Cat was on the Board of the Monterey Jazz Festival. I'll have to do a search... he wrote a bunch of charts. His name is on the tip of my tongue.

Both the tenor players were good players. I think Rodger Eddy is still a pro player in the Santa Cruz Monterey region. So, I played lead alto, soprano and clarinet. We did a lot of really cool gigs that were benefits for the Monterey Jazz Festival. That was a smoking band, and we alway had guest artist perform with us too... Name Brand/Real Deal cats like, Clark Terry, Herb Ellis. We played at the cool old De Anza Hotel in Old Town a few times. Now it's been torn down, but the very coolest place we played is called Doc's Lab. It's a weather beaten old wood facade of a home from the turn of the 20th century, now sandwiched next to the massive Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row. If you didn't know about John Steinbeck's character Doc you would miss his house.

In the rear of the old house was a sort of primitive event space. The band set up there looking down at waves breaking on the rocks and the giant horizon of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It was a catered Sunday afternoon Black Tie Fundraiser for the Jazz Fest.

From hangin' out with players in the band who grew up in Monterey, I got hooked up with two good small groups, who had paying gigs playing jazz, in tourist restaurants and bars. Great jams and parties too, I never would have hooked up with if I hadn't been into Jazz. I was going to live in Monterey, but my Dad died right as I was discharged, so I went back to the Bay Area.
 
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