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'Send the Band': Military Musicians Use Music to Break Down Barriers and Build Relationships


Armed with his trumpet, SN Brian Boydston plays "Anchors Aweigh." The range in his Virginia Beach, Virginia, practice area comes from notes on a scale. He sees his talent as an instrument of patriotism and diplomacy.

"What I hope to accomplish is building a positive relationship between civilians and the Navy," he told CBN News. "I think that's a big part of the Navy's mission statement is doing just that."

Nearby, SN Jessie Nunn hones his skills as a baritone vocalist.

"My mom told me about the Navy being an option for me to continue being a singer when COVID hit 'cause when COVID hit there were no more gigs like pretty much anywhere, and I wasn't ready to give up the dream yet," he shared. 

'Promote Understanding'

CDR Mark Corbliss says musicians graduating from the Naval School of Music go where people rarely have the opportunity to see a Navy professional at work.

"So we connect with the 90 percent of Americans that have never served in the military, and we promote understanding of what the Navy does and why it does it for this country," he told CBN News. 

And regardless of the reason for the performance, each one serves a specific purpose.

"And it's also our job to inspire patriotism and to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans around the country and to remind people how very important the military is for this country," he explained.

Marine Detachment 

Anywhere from 50 to 130 sailors and Marines from around the country attend the Naval School of Music for a 21-week course. From here they deploy to locations all over the world.

LCPL Daniel Saufley plays trumpet for the school's Marine Detachment

"I'm really looking forward and hoping that I get to do outreach in high schools or middle schools and what not 'cause a lot of the times most people, myself included, my first exposure to the military was through a military band that came through and gave a performance," he shared.

Percussionist LCPL Amanda Sealock believes training on instruments like a drum set helps her achieve her goal of being a well-rounded military musician. 

"There's just more opportunities for drum set and for marching snare drum, then there is for mallets," she explained. "Like mallets and orchestral playing is a lot more niche, and there's a lot fewer jobs I guess." 

CW04 Jack Davis commands the Marine Detachment.

"I think military music inspires people in a way that is very difficult to describe," he told CBN News. "I think you could go and ask anybody on the street from when we pass by in a parade or come to one of our concerts, 'Did they feel better about the country?'"

"They feel pride in the Marine Corps; they feel good about what the Marine Corps stands for, and what the country stands for," he continued.

'Send the Band'

Military musicians also play a vital role in overseas diplomacy.

"The overseas bands, the mission is a little bit different because we are there to be ambassadors for our country, and we go to other countries, and oftentimes, and I've actually been in a situation where we've been trying to open relations with a particular country, and they just send the band in first," explained MUC Vince Moody, rehearsal division instructor. 

"And nothing brings people closer than either good food and good music, right, and if you have both of them, that can open up a lot of avenues to communication," he continued. 

Best of Both Worlds

Military musician training includes private lessons, music theory, instrumental and ensemble performance, plus playing a diverse range of music. Another part is drill band class; the students train for ceremonies, learning how to march properly before they get out to a fleet.

"What we do is a professional level job, so a lot of times we bring people in that may be young but have a lot of potential, and we continue to build," shared GYSGT Jerry Williams, conducting instructor.

The first step for musicians still includes boot camp, and leaders say other benefits along the way are the best of both worlds.

"You're getting paid to do what you love, while serving your country!" exclaimed Corbliss. "I mean, that's it! What do you need? It's fantastic; you get to passionately pursue your career and still serve your country and do what you love."

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