Friday, August 19, 2011

Why Navy Music is Important

In 1988, as a musician 2nd class stationed with Navy Band Guam, I got the opportunity to tour throughout the Micronesian and Carolinian Islands, the South Pacific, Australia, the Philippines and Japan. My tour with this small fleet band, directed by Master Chief Musician Rick Fowler (this was the only remaining Navy band led by senior enlisted), was one of the highlights of my career. I can still remember the smiles on the faces of the Chamorro children when the band would perform a cha-cha at a middle school concert. The school kids would dance the cha-cha in huge groups of sometimes 100 or more as though they were a professional dance troupe, never missing a beat as they sang and clapped to the music that they loved. The music made them very happy and made us feel like we were bridging cultures by making friends with a new generation of local Guamanians.

A few years later, in 1991, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa (twice!) with the Navy Showband out of Norfolk. I have great memories of performing alongside Senegalese drummers as we performed with the military band from Dakar. The visual image of bands from distinctly different cultures playing music together was a shining example of how America can work together with people from around the world.

America's Navy has only recently adopted the motto, A Global Force for Good, but it’s been a part of what we do for many years -through music! Although many of my memories of Navy music are from 30 years ago, I still remember the experiences as if they occurred yesterday.

Today, Navy bands are still performing around the world, improving relations with our allies and winning the hearts and minds with the universal language of music. This year alone, our bands have performed in Italy, Vatican City, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mauritania, Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Jamaica, Ecuador, Australia, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea and China, among others.

At home, our bands serve as an important community relations tool. There are many in our country who rarely see a Sailor. Venture to our heartland, and you’ll find people who have only seen our ships on television. Our bands are an excellent means of bringing the Navy to our citizenry. With over 150 ships underway, and over 8,000 Sailors deployed on the ground in support of overseas contingency operations, it’s more important than ever that Americans understand what our Navy is doing.

Last year, our 13 Navy bands completed 7,237 missions, performed for over 13 million people live, and over 513 million people on television. We can provide any style of music in any setting anywhere around the world. It has been our job for over 200 years. It’s what we do.

Capt. Brian Walden is commanding officer of the United States Navy Band.


Rick LIndroos said...

Excellent article, Captain Walden. What an opportunity to be in the Guam Band and to work under Master Chief Fowler. I will always cherish the Navy Music Program and be grateful for the musical knowledge and experience from which I gained. It has furthered my music career in ways that are unexplainable. Congratulations on all of your successes and the successes and achievements of the United States Navy Bands.

CPT (ret.) Rick Barnes, Ph.D. said...

Dear Captain Walden:


Your article and this video support what Dr. Juliana Geran Pilon of the Institute of World Politics and I have been saying. When U.S. military bands are assigned overseas and are performing for foreign nationals, they are, in fact, acting as agents of public diplomacy for the American government.

Military bands are creating friends and dis-spiriting foes overseas through the use of what Prof. Joseph Nye refers to as "soft power." And to that end, military bands are integral to our national security.


Rick Barnes, Ph.D.
Captain (Retired), U.S. Army

Former Commander, Staff and Faculty Company and former Director, Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization, U.S. Army Element, Armed Forces School of Music, Naval Amphibious Base (Little Creek), Norfolk, VA

Telecommunications Manager, Radio Operations, Voice of America, Washington, DC