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  • Writer's pictureLisa Kachouee


What was the audition process like for your current position?

Auditions are usually announced on the Navy Band website, and also appear on various social media pages. I had to submit a resume and was then invited to a live audition. When I arrived at the audition, I was given a number and taken to a large warm-up room to wait. Each candidate was given a few minutes in a private room right before they played their first round, which was held behind a screen. Four candidates advanced to the second round, this time without the screen. The committee talked to me a bit about the job, asked me some questions, and asked if I had any questions for them. Finally, after each candidate had been heard, I was offered a job with the Navy Fleet Bands!

What is a typical day or week like as a performer with the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet Band?

Band members are assigned to small groups including standard brass and woodwind quintets, brass band, and popular music groups in addition to the larger ceremonial band, wind ensemble, and marching band. This flexibility in personnel allows for performances in support of a variety of events. We perform for military ceremonies, march in parades, visit schools for education outreach, give full concerts of wind ensemble, big band, and popular music, and deploy to other countries in support of goodwill missions. A typical week involves rehearsals, performances at ceremonies or other gigs, PT (physical training), individual practice, and collateral duty work.

Tell us a bit about basic training and the physical requirements for a position with the Navy Bands.

Winning the audition is just the beginning of the process. I worked with a recruiter in my city to go through the military entrance processing and medical screening, which involves a thorough vetting of physical and mental health and readiness and an aptitude test. From there I went to basic training for two months where I trained with a division of about ninety people. In addition to physical training, there are classes on Naval history, tradition, regulations, basic seamanship, damage control, marching, and more. The physical requirements vary depending on your age but are easily manageable for most people with some preparation. I definitely recommend being able to meet these requirements before you get to basic training; this will make your experience easier. Overall, getting through boot camp is more a mental challenge than a physical one.

Do you have duties associated with your job beyond rehearsing and performing?

The band is a self-sustaining unit which means that in addition to performing, we run our own administration, operations, scheduling, travel arrangements, public affairs, etc. Each band member has at least one collateral duty. Over the course of my time in Hawai’i I have worked as a music librarian, historian, operations assistant, and representative for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation. You can also create your own opportunities: after schools were closed down due to the pandemic, I helped organize and run a series of virtual masterclasses taught by band members for music students all over the country. There are also possibilities for arranging music, doubling on other instruments, conducting, running sound, leading rehearsals of the smaller groups, travelling, and working with musicians in other countries. More general responsibilities include staying up to date on Navy-wide safety training, preparing for bi-annual physical fitness tests, and studying for advancement exams, a big component of promotion within the Navy.

Are there any subset chamber groups that you play in as part of your position?

In addition to playing in the wind ensemble and ceremonial band, I am a member of the woodwind quintet. We do primarily educational outreach, military ceremonies, and chamber recitals. This is one of my favorite aspects of the job! I currently serve as the band’s woodwind section leader, and it is my responsibility to schedule and run sectionals. There are also seasonal temporary groups for events like chamber series concerts and holiday caroling.

Do you pursue any teaching or performing beyond your job?

I personally have not since I spend most of my free time working with my husband testing equipment and taking product photos for his clarinet business, but many of my colleagues perform regularly in the Honolulu area. The number of outside teaching and performing opportunities will also depend on where you are stationed.

Share a favorite memory you have from your time with the band thus far.

Just one!? I relish every opportunity I get to teach or coach in this job, as that type of outreach was one of the main reasons I pursued this career. It was also an incredibly powerful experience playing for the Pearl Harbor anniversary ceremonies; particularly in the presence of World War II veterans, of whom there are so few still alive.

When you were an undergraduate, was a job with a military band your ultimate goal? If not, what led you to this career path?

I kept an open mind as an undergraduate and tried to prepare myself for any opportunity that might come along but, yes, I did always have the military in the back of my mind. I knew that I wanted to play, and the military was one of the more stable careers that would allow me to do that while serving my community and country. However, I chose to go to graduate school first and completed Master’s and Doctoral degrees in clarinet so that I would always have the option of teaching at a university.

Do you have any advice for clarinetists interested in military band positions?

Do not let basic training or the idea of being in the military put you off. Boot camp is temporary, and there is a really incredible job waiting for you on the other side. I love the people I work with and am so grateful for the opportunities and unique experiences I have had because of this career. Listen to recent recordings of the military ensembles. Start looking at old audition lists and learning those excerpts -- you will see much of the same material from list to list. Learn as much as you can about the program from the bands’ websites, and talk to people you or your teachers may know in the programs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If the military does become a serious consideration for you, look into the enlistment bonuses and student loan repayment programs that may be available to you.

Do you have any tips for keeping in playing shape and continuing to improve during this time of social distancing?

In a lot of ways this time is a rare gift in that you have a chance to just be. Take some time to think about your own musical goals without the external pressure of deadlines and requirements. I have seen lots of resources circulating through social media such as the 100 Days of Practice Challenge, various warm-up and technique groups, virtual classes and lessons, etc. If these kinds of things are motivating for you, check some of them out! They are a great way to get back to fundamentals, especially if having the support of a group helps you. The clarinet community is, overall, a welcoming and kind group of people who just want to help each other become better musicians. You can also use this time to get more creative in your approach to music. Maybe try a new style, find ways of getting inspired outside of the practice room, do some virtual collaboration with friends. Take a deep breath, experiment a little, and see where your mind takes you. Remember why you became a musician in the first place, and see if you can find a way to help others through your art.

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