Title: Drum Major, U.S. Navy Band
Hometown: Clinton, MS
Now resides in: Severna Park, MD (just north of Annapolis)
Degree: Bachelor of science in music education, 1982; Master of music performance, 1984 - University of Northern Colorado
What brought me to Tech: I came to study with Raymond G. Young who was a renowned soloist on my instrument, the euphonium, and a respected conductor. My high school band director recommended him highly. I was aware that the music program was known for its talented instrumental teachers and great concert band. I was offered a scholarship and a service award after an audition at the school.
How did you choose your career: I came to Tech fully intending to become a music educator and band director in the public schools. My private instructor, as well as the other music professors, encouraged me to go to live performances. I attended a concert by one of the premier service bands and even spoke to one of the members backstage after the show. It was the first time I had heard a professional military band, and I was hooked. I thought to myself that I could do this and brought the idea back to my instructor. Mr. Young helped me research how to get into one of these bands, and I began practicing and entering competitions to help better my chances and get some exposure. I had a long way to go, but the atmosphere of excellence in the music department taught me to set goals and work to reach them.
My most memorable performance in the Navy Band: I have had many memorable experiences while a member of the United States Navy Band in Washington both as a performer and a Drum Major. During a performance while on a national tour just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, our vocal soloist was performing a popular rendition of “God Bless America.” During the performance, the audience all quietly stood up and began singing along. The wave of emotion that came back to the stage from the crowd was almost overwhelming. None of us was prepared for this reaction, and the soloist could barely choke out the rest of the song. There was not a dry eye in the house, including the band. After she finished there was a spontaneous moment of silence and then the audience erupted in applause that went on for several minutes.
Another very memorable moment came during a Full Honors Arrival ceremony at the Pentagon for one of the break-away republics that formed just after the fall of the Soviet Union. I was Drum Major, so I could see all of the dignitaries during the event. This ceremony marked the first visit to the U.S. for these military leaders as citizens of that new independent country. They were being formerly recognized by the United States, the world's leading "super power", as a legitimate and free nation after years of oppression under the USSR. As we played their new national anthem, all the foreign dignitaries literally "puffed up" like pigeons, and you could see the tears of pride rolling down their faces, each one, as they listened to their country's national anthem performed for the first time by the United States Navy Band.
The most unexpected part of my job: The most unexpected "perk" of my job has been the sense of pride that I feel every day just getting to serve my country while doing something that I love to do. Whether it's performing for the president or providing musical honors for military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. I get to be a part of many historical events, as well as lead a group of some of the most talented musicians in the world. What an honor!
How my college roommates continue to inspire me: Tech provided an atmosphere of excellence that motivated many of us to succeed in our career fields. I was surrounded by other highly motivated students all the time. For example, my roommates have all experienced success in their chosen fields. Donald Kitchens has been a successful middle school band director in Plano, Texas, and rose to his school district's head director position over all the middle schools in the city. Marty Courtney taught at a university in Tennessee for many years and then accepted a position as head of a program in Texas. Kenny Vise is the director of a highly successful High School Music program in Austin, Texas, and produces many successful music students on a regular basis. Paul Hageman is the chair of the music department at Texas A&M - Kingsville where he has been for 27 years. The only one of my roommates who has not followed a musical career after earning his music education degree is Brigadier General James J. Jones ASAF. Shortly after graduation, he joined the Air Force as an F-16 pilot and has enjoyed great success. He is now the Deputy Director of Operations, U.S. Central Command at McDill AFB in Florida.
All of my roommates have been a great inspiration to me as I have followed their successes throughout their careers. Tech instilled a drive in us that enabled each of us to reach our goals. Success breeds success. All of our instructors were successful musicians and great instructors and gave us all a sense that we could do what ever we set our minds to do.
Where I see myself in five years: I will have hopefully served my 30 years in the US Navy and will have new employment teaching or possibly working for the Naval District of Washington ceremonial office. I have also toyed with the idea of pursuing some entrepreneurial ventures. I no doubt will be performing as much as I can. I should have more time to do clinics and festival band conducting.
My best memories of Tech: My best memories of Tech all come from my involvement with the music department. From the instructors to playing in all the ensembles, my experience was very positive and motivating. The tools I gained while at Tech were more extensive than just professional knowledge. The attitude that was instilled in me and my classmates gave me the confidence to set high goals and work to achieve them. The instructors imparted more than just knowledge; they taught me how to succeed.
My advice to college freshmen today: My advice to the freshman would be to understand that college will be what you make it. If you come to Tech to take advantage of the incredible knowledge and resources in order to have a successful career and a productive life, then your time here will be well spent. If you come to Tech and do nothing, you will spend money and time and leave emptier than when you came. Learn to take charge of your own future quickly and let the expertise and experience of the faculty guide you. DO NOT be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and NEVER let the fear of failure stifle your drive to succeed. A meaningful life with an exciting career rarely just happens. You have to GO FOR IT.