Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day from the Road

by MU1 Casey Elliott
Any veteran of our U.S. Armed Forces can tell you that a job in the military is full of unexpected turns and extraordinary moments. As a member of the Navy Band Sea Chanters, the Navy Band’s chorus, I was surprised and excited when I found out I'd be joining the Commodores Jazz Ensemble for their 2012 fall tour through the South. Today our concert took place in the P.E. Monroe Auditorium on the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. The Sea Chanters normally tour in the spring, so performing a tour concert on Veterans Day was a once-in-a-lifetime privilege! Our audience was full of proud American veterans, as well their families and friends who knew well the meaning of the word "sacrifice." The auditorium rang with patriotism as the audience sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," and it was a thrill to see so many veterans stand and receive well-deserved applause as the Commodores played each Armed Forces service song. After the concert, the performers took advantage of the chance to visit with these veterans and hear stories about their time in service, and about those with whom they served.

The inimitable
Chief Malvaso
One of our own shipmates is currently on his final national tour with the Commodores. Chief Musician David G. Malvaso, known to his friends as "Gary," is moving on to retirement after 24 years in the Navy Band. Described by his bandmates as "thoughtful," "unassuming" and "down-to-earth," Chief Malvaso has led an amazing career while maintaining his reputation as one of the kindest gentlemen with whom one could hope to serve. A truly gifted guitarist with great range and killer solos, his musical interpretations always perfectly embody the style and feel of the genre he's playing, whether it’s jazz, blues or rock.

A native of Baltimore, Chief Malvaso laughed as he described how his journey as a musician began: "My brother owned a guitar – got one for Christmas but never played it, so I used to sneak it out of his closet and start playing it. I got really interested in it. He asked me to run an errand for him one day and he said he would give me the guitar if I did, and that was my first guitar." Larry Woolridge gave Chief Malvaso his first guitar lessons, and his first paying gig was in a cover band called "Good 'n' Plenty" at the age of 16. His favorite artists include Pat Martino, Jim Hall, Barney Kessel, Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Martin Taylor.

As a member of the Commodores' rhythm section, Chief Malvaso has performed with world-renowned artists such as James Moody and Branford Marsalis, yet when asked to identify his most memorable musical engagement while serving in the Navy he offers, "To me they all have something that you’ll never forget…you know? Some kind of moment….a great solo here, a great vocalist there…in general they’re all good." Upon retirement, Chief Malvaso says he will miss coming to work every day with such world-class musicians, but he is also really looking forward to spending more time with his wife, daughter and sons.

Being on tour with Chief Malvaso and the Commodores has been an incredible, unique musical experience for me. I'm grateful to the members of this band for treating me as one of their own (and answering the countless questions about jazz that I've asked over the past few weeks) and to my shipmates in the Sea Chanters who have, through their hard work, made it possible for me to be out here touring. Spending Veterans Day with residents of Hickory will always be one of my favorite Navy memories.

We are grateful to all those who have served our country. It is humbling to follow in the footsteps of the men and women who played a crucial part in securing the freedoms we enjoy today, and we hope we make our nation's veterans as proud of us as we are of them.

Happy Veterans Day!

About the Author

MU1 Casey Elliott is Associate Musical Director of the US Navy Band Sea Chanters, is a native of Borger, TX.


Nancy Risch said...

I was at the concert in Hickory, and I just have to say you have an amazing voice and a wonderful stage presence. The Navy Band Commodores concert was a fabulous experience!

ardy said...

woow... really amazing.. :)

Anna Budiana said...

woow.. really amazing.. awesome.. ^^d