US Congresswoman Denigrates Military Bands And Musicians

Adaptistration People 153Regular readers are already aware that the single largest US employer of full-time professional musicians is the United States Armed Forces. In addition to their critical role inside the US Armed Forces, their contributions to the cultural and artistic fabric of communities they are stationed are practically too large to measure. But that doesn’t seem to stop legislators from looking at their meager budgets as fertile ground for cuts or to denigrate their value as artists and soldiers.

The latest public display of open hostility toward military musicians from a member of congress is Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who was quoted in an article by Oriana Pawlyk in the 3/22/2016 edition of advocating for gutting the entire United States Air Force band program because it doesn’t contribute enough to national security. Titled Congresswoman to Air Force: Put down the tuba, pick up a gun, the article reports Rep. McSally’s disdain for military musicians.

“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

There’s an articulate and thoughtful reply to Rep. McSally’s position from Eric W. Benken, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (the highest noncommissioned officer position in the United States Air Force) from 1996 to 1999. His reply came via Facebook so you may not be able to access the post; as such, a screencap is provided here.


Unfortunately, the sort of behavior displayed by Rep. McSally is not unique nor restricted to political party affiliation. We examined an attempt from 2011 to gut military band funding via legislation proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).

For now, you can respond to Rep. McSally’s remarks directly via her Facebook page where she posted the article. to date, the vast majority of comments have been sharply critical of her remarks.

In addition to her Facebook page, you can contact Rep. McSally via her Twitter account or email via her webpage.

I also recommend setting aside some time today to learn more about the US Armed Forces ensembles and their missions.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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6 thoughts on “US Congresswoman Denigrates Military Bands And Musicians”

  1. The bands are also part of our cultural heritage – and there are people who are just looking at any way to “save money” at any cost. Point #1 – there’s more to life than money. Point #2 – the band musicians do provide a service – then they go home and with that money buy food and gas in their communities. So, if they suffer, so do their communities.
    It doesn’t take masters’ degrees to see the problems with that way of thinking.

  2. I am a retired Marine, two tours of duty in Vietnam, and after 26 years of continuous active duty I feel qualified to offer my opinion on the musician/band issue. I often tell people that I do not want to be a member of the band in a combat zone. Not only did the band play for morning colors and special occasions, which were many, but they provided perimeter security, they were litter bears, they performed police details around the compound, they are weapons qualified, they are physically qualified, I can go on and on. Representative McSally has no idea of what a musician/band member is called upon to perform. Much of it is outside the musical realm. I would suggest McSally hangout with a band in a combat zone and see for herself. Of course with the bunch in congress, seeing does not mean believing.

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