Tell us about the new website.
There were three specific goals in mind. First, we wanted to enhance the website with more substance, presenting information that is relevant to the public. The interface and navigation must be simple and reliable. Second, it has to present the proper mix of two very diverse areas…music and the United States Navy. Third, it needs to represent our organization in a personal sense and encourage visitors to learn about individual members. We had many meetings to try to figure all of that out and I was really fortunate to have some great people to work with on the web team: Musician 1st Class Adam Grimm (assistant webmaster, a great mind, and a fine graphic artist who created many incredible graphics for the site) and Musician 1st Class Jeremy Buckler (the social media coordinator who manages our presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr).
The previous site was functional and got the point across, but we wanted to try and take that up a few notches. We wanted to represent this fine organization in the best way possible knowing that the vast majority of people that will experience the Navy Band will do so on the internet. This, in many respects, is the only way that people around the world will know who we are and what we stand for. It is first contact. For this reason, the website needed to be an extremely positive “statement” about the organization. That was the concept that drove the design and always “reined us in” when thinking about how we were going to do it.
We worked on the website for about a year. I took over as webmaster in October 2009 and we launched this new website in September 2010. In my opinion, it has some very interesting features coupled with common functionality. The homepage has a clickable slideshow, or billboard, that takes the user to various features of the website. We really wanted to represent each performing unit of the band equally so there is an “Upcoming Events” feature on the home page where the visitor can link to each performing unit, see when their next performance is, or go to the full calendar and see performances a month at a time.
Other new features include a ”Historic Moment” page that will change every other month (where you can read about an important person or event from Navy Band history), an online version of the “fanfare” newsletter and links to our all new social media sites (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr). There are also updated biographies on the biography pages.
One aspect of the site that I’m very proud of is the creation of instrument slideshows on the all of the portrait/bio pages. A considerable amount of time was spent coordinating with Chief Musician Steve Hassay, and Musicians 1st Class Shana Catandella and Christian Johanson to create different slideshows. I think it is a subtle thing, but I really like it. The calendar and national tour page are much more interactive with drop down “cards” that give extra information. There is a much more interesting and intuitive navigation system too; I think that getting around the site is now pretty easy. There is also a lot of new artwork on the site. Hopefully, overall, the website is professional, with a modern design, and represents the Navy Band and the Navy in a very positive way.
2. What got you interested in creating this site?
I’ve been interested in art and design for a long time. I was actually a double major in college for the first two years: art and music. It was extremely time consuming being in two separate artistic disciplines so I eventually had to pick just one. I chose music, though I never lost my love for art. I became interested in plants and landscapes, going on to earn a Certificate in Landscape Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture. All of these interests led me to my work on the website.
A few years ago, I designed a very small website for my band, and I found it challenging, intriguing and rewarding all at the same time. Web design, for me, is an incredible mixture of a two different areas: the technical and the artistic. Web sites need to be visually appealing. Pages have to make sense, be well balanced, have a proper text to image proportion, etc. Landscape architecture and website design are not that different. With a landscape, even though there is a different “palette,” you really need to understand this spatial concept and design with this knowledge. When I was in architecture school, they hammered that into us. Also in school, I learned a variety of graphic design software that was really my strength for the project at the beginning. At first I didn’t really know any HTML at all. I designed the Tobago Bay site from a graphic standpoint, not having any knowledge of HTML, and had to learn it from the ground up. I read a lot of books, found online tutorials, etc., and while I understand a lot of things now, it was much more difficult than I had originally thought. It is still a continual learning process. I’m just really glad that I’m surrounded by such talented people.
We will be offering a ”Video Spotlight.” With our new video capability, we are planning on having some other very interesting videos online as well. The online version of the “Fanfare” newsletter will offer extended spotlight interviews. We recently added a “Featured Performer” item to the site. You can easily link to a band member’s portrait and biography. Our event calendar will be aggressively maintained allowing folks from all over the United States time to plan attending upcoming performances. As of this interview, we have performance dates through May 2011.
The history and discography sections will be much more extensive in the coming months. There is a wealth of material in our archives department that we plan to tap into, including photographs and information that I think people will find quite interesting. The education section is going to be greatly expanded as well, and we are hoping to add more recent recordings and showcase other Navy Band activities.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
First and foremost I enjoy spending time with my family. My wife and two boys give everything meaning. Like most musicians, my job is also my hobby, and I enjoy being a percussionist. I am the lead singer in a calypso band where I also play steel pans. When I have time, I enjoy movies. I also have a deep interest in all aspects of design, from interior to exterior. I love gardening and look forward to “playing” around in the garden a bit more next year.
Chief Musician Juan Vasquez is principal percussionist in the Concert Band.