Ever thought about trying out for a service band? Michael Durig is the guitarist for the US Navy's CINCLANTFLT band. (In English, that means: Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.) He has some advice for you. By Mike Durig, USN
I have been in the service for four years plus. Before that, I am a five
year vet of DisneyWorld, Busch Gardens (Tampa FL), Delta Steamboat Company,
Mantovani Orchestra and the bunch of sideman gigs.
I joined the Navy when the opportunities at Disney World disappeared during
the Gulf War. I was working part time on a regular basis, so when the war
came along, the extra work dried up. A buddy of mine was a retired bass
player (First Class Petty Officer) from the Navy Band, Washington D.C. and he
introduced me to the Bandmaster in Orlando FL. I was thirty four when I
entered, one more year would be too old. I barely made it and if it wasn't
for a Band Officer who really like my playing, the recruiter wouldn't have
had a clue as how to process me in time.
It is very much a physical job and whiners are not welcome
I spent three months running, doing push-ups and sit-ups so I would be fit
and at weight standards before I entered the service. I went to boot camp
for ten weeks, then I went to Little Creek for A school (six months). It is
very much like the Berklee Schools methods.
During school, the guitar studies include solo, combo, big band ensemble and
ear training /theory. Then you study the military side of the house which
include marching in formation and Navy guitarist/keyboard/vocalist must play
auxilary percussion, (Bass drum, cymbals, and the assorted toys for concert
band formations). It is not just guitar playing!!
After school, I went to Italy and spent three years living there and
traveling around Europe playing in our big band, marching in full honors for
my command and playing solo/combo for VIP's. It is very much a physical job
and whiners are not welcome. Because of the busy schedule, practice time
sometimes becomes short and if you are not driven to become better, it is
easy to fall off of your instrument. The bands run themselves, so the day to
day business such as booking, finance, inventory of instruments,
transportation, etc. are jobs that are assigned to individuals who are
We are required to continue our educations through Personal Advancement
Requirements, PARS. We are tested twice a year for possible advancement, and
those who don't get promoted in the prescribed time will not be re-enlisted.
Upon my return, I went to school again for another six months, and now I am
stationed in Norfolk, Va with the CINCLANTFLT band continuing my service to
To reflect, it is one hell of a job. I have seen people and places that make
me so damn glad that I am an American. Some of them were so generous and
pleased that we came to play for their town, they showed us the grandest of
time. Some of them lived in such bad conditions, I couldn't believe these
conditions still exist. I have lost two "shipmates" to death. One was my
sponsor and after his death, I stood in his place and took up the slack until
his position was filled.
I have enjoyed my service so far and because of my previous experience, I am
going to continue to work here furthering my craft. I would encourage anyone
who wants to grow up and grow musically, the opportunities for those who like
to work are endless.