Know Your Military

How the Navy Keeps Music in Schools

Aug. 19, 2019 | BY Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD

The U.S. Navy Band brings together musicians from across the nation to serve in "The World's Finest."

Whether they are performing at Carnegie Hall, the White House, or in classrooms across the country, they inspire patriotism and preserve the nation’s musical heritage. 

Members of a Navy band play instruments.
Navy Band Show
The U.S. Navy Band Cruisers plays for a live webcast performance at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Feb. 27, 2019. The episode of “Origins of Inspiration” allowed musicians to share their musical inspirations and answer questions about music and the military.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190227-D-KL657-013

The band has several ensembles covering a variety of musical styles. From its chamber ensembles and full concert band to its bluegrass and rock/pop bands, all aspects of the U.S. Navy Band are dedicated to the education of young musicians through the promotion and fostering of music education in U.S. schools. The Music in the Schools program brings band members and students together in clinics, master classes and recitals at local schools. 

"Throughout the year, we go to schools around the area, from kindergarten through high school. We go in and we play shows for them and talk to them about the Navy," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Justin Cody, "School is hard and to give them a couple of hours where they can come into the gym and just dance and laugh and have a good time and sing … it provides invaluable experience to them."

A program monitor displays show information.
Monitor Display
A program monitor displays the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers’ live webcast at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Feb. 27, 2019. The episode of “Origins of Inspiration” allowed musicians to share their musical inspirations and answer questions about music and the military.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190227-D-KL657-008

Music education in school is beneficial and the opportunity to advocate for that education is an honor for Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David Smith.

"Band is really the community I submitted myself in," he said, "It really got to the point where my reason for going to school was going to band practice. It's where my social group was, band directors mentoring over me, and they just provided me an opportunity to cultivate a skill that I am using today."

Musicians play instruments in a studio on a stage with overhead lights.
Webcast Performance
The U.S. Navy Band Cruisers prepares for a live webcast performance at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Feb. 27, 2019. The episode of “Origins of Inspiration” allowed musicians to share their musical inspirations and answer questions about music and the military.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190227-D-KL657-009

The band's rock/pop ensemble, the Cruisers, recently performed and answered questions from students during a webcast aimed at schools across the country and the world.

During the webcast, sophomore Jaida Butler said, "You had many options, you could have gone to the philharmonic or stayed local. What made you want to join the Navy?"

We always hear 'military,' we think war and things, but when we hear they have a band and they actually come out and play for us, we realize it's more than just going to war..."
Suitland High School student Jaida Butler

"For me, it really came down to what I wanted to have in life," Cody said, "Being a part of the Navy is a family, but it also gives me an opportunity to provide for and support a family on my own."

Butler, a student at Suitland High School’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Suitland, Md., said that Cody's answer "was exactly what I wanted to hear." She said she's decided to pursue a career in classical music. 

She added that she may even consider auditioning for a military band. "We always hear 'military,' we think war and things, but when we hear they have a band and they actually come out and play for us, we realize it's more than just going to war and killing and things like that," Butler said. "So, it really just opens up our eyes to how much fun the military could be."

Students holding instruments with music stands in front them sit in a classroom.
Suitland Students
Students at Suitland High School’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Suitland, Md., attend an applied music class taught by band director Cullen Waller, Feb. 25, 2019. The high school offers a rigorous four-year arts program that offers artistically talented high school educational opportunities designed to prepare them for college, professional study, or career options in the arts.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190225-D-KL657-007
Students in a high school music class huddle around the teacher.
Music Class
Students at Suitland High School’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Suitland, Md., attend an applied music class taught by band director Cullen Waller, Feb. 25, 2019. The high school offers a rigorous four-year arts program that offers artistically talented high school educational opportunities designed to prepare them for college, professional study, or career options in the arts.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190225-D-KL657-005

Suitland High School's Center for Visual and Performing Arts develops and mentors artistically talented students. 

"Our relationship with military bands is probably more than you may get at other places," said Cullen Waller, the band director at Suitland High School, "We are fortunate enough to have an applied lesson program where we have private teachers come in for our lessons, and most of them are active military or retired military."

Jhair Salvon-Rivera is a sophomore at Suitland and his music tutor is Audrey Cupples, who spent 26 years in the U.S. Marine Band, "The President's Own."

"I actually knew about Dr. Audrey before I came to the school," Salvon-Rivera said, "So when I found out that she was my private lesson teacher … I freaked out because I was I was gonna be taught by...one of the best saxophone players I’ve ever heard."

A teacher seen through two students sitting with their backs to the camera.
Band Director
Students at Suitland High School’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts attend an applied music class taught by band director Cullen Waller in Suitland, Md., Feb. 25, 2019. The high school offers a rigorous four-year arts program that offers artistically talented high school educational opportunities designed to prepare them for college, professional study, or career options in the arts.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190225-D-KL657-006
A teacher looking at a computer screen sits at a desk across from a student.
Performance Review
Band director Cullen Waller reviews a student’s performance at Suitland High School’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Suitland, Md., Feb. 25, 2019. The high school offers a rigorous four-year arts program that offers artistically talented high school educational opportunities designed to prepare them for college, professional study, or career options in the arts.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron, DOD
VIRIN: 190225-D-KL657-004

Music is universal and inspiration is a powerful motivator. Whether it comes from family, friends, teachers, athletes, artists, nature or other sources, our lives can be changed forever by the inspiration of another.

"It's amazing. Being able to communicate in a different way. I don't know how to explain it," Cupples said,  "You're creating something bigger! Knowing you can work towards something and achieve it and create this beautiful thing, it's really awesome."

The Music in the Schools program is a bridge between the military and the communities where these bands perform. From the stage to the classroom, service members are committed to sharing military pride and professionalism with America's citizens. 

Click here to listen to the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers in the "Origins of Inspiration" webcast.