The 7/11/2016 edition of NonprofitQuarterly.org published an article by Sophie Lewis (h/t Joe Patti) that examines the value military bands add to the national cultural scene and why you should care that some in congress are attempting to all but eliminate funding for the entire program. Lewis’ article joins another exemplary piece of writing from Dave Philipps in the 7/1/2016 edition of the New York Times. In that article, the author goes into considerably more detail covering what the bands do, the diversity among musicians, and their key role in cultural diplomacy.
I spent the last two years of high school, at the height of the cold war era, living in the Virginia side of Washington D.C and studying with the principal tubist of the United States Air Force Band. That exposure, along with being fortunate enough to perform alongside and learn from numerous military musicians through a myriad of local gigs and ensembles, provided a special opportunity to learn about a culture most in the classical music field tend to miss.
Consequently, I found the closing paragraph from Philipps’ article particularly striking.
“Military bands are a critical part of operations,” said Mark Wright, a Defense Department spokesman. “They inspire, they build a rapport with our citizens and foreign nations. The types of operations we do may be hard to understand, but everyone understands music.”
I could go on (and on) about my personal experiences and even provide a comprehensive history of military and music (I wrote two papers on the topic during my undergraduate years for military sociology and civil war history courses), but I would rather you spend the time helping make sure US Armed Forces military bands don’t become a historical footnote.
Here’s What You Can Do
In order to overturn the efforts from House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee members Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) which successfully added an amendment to the 2017 defense appropriations act that all but guts the entire military music program, you need to:
- What: contact both of your Senators and ask them to do everything they can to remove this amendment from the appropriations act.
- When: ASAP!
- What to ask: Strike Section 10010 from S 3000, or keep the language out.
- Contacting Senators: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact.
If successful, the discrepancy between the two versions of the bill will end up in a conference committee, where Senators and Representatives meet to resolve disagreements on a particular bill. This is the stage where you need to keep up pressure on your Senators and your Representative to leave out Section 10010 and to continue to allow the DOD to fund military musical unit performances.
- Contacting Your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
If you’ve already contacting your Senators, that’s terrific! Now you need to continue reaching out to them as many times as you can work into your schedule. Following up is a crucial step in the process; the more frequent the communication, the better the chance of success.
If You Have Some Additional Time…
I strongly recommend you read a wonderful article by composer Alex Shapiro for the American Composers Forum. I can’t think of a better article for those inside traditional orchestral classical music to better understand just how important military music program is and how much our field would suffer if their funding is gutted.
The brass name plate on the door declared, “COMMANDER.” As I entered, my eyes grazed a wall of framed, autographed photos featuring highly ranked officers. Bookshelves held an assortment of reading material, CDs, files, and a few mementos of stuffed animal toys. A combat helmet casually rested atop a coat rack in which camouflaged jumpsuits hung next to civilian clothes. I was inside the Fort Monroe Army Base in Virginia.
How did I, a chamber-music composer, end up here?