Questions about military bands

I have a few questions about military bands, chiefly in the US, but I’d be interested to hear about other countries as well.

  1. Do band members use their own instruments or the does the military supply them?

  2. Before you enlist as a musician, do you have to audition? Say you’re not very good; will the military accept you anyway and give you lessons to bring you up to standard?

  3. I’ve heard that in times of war, the band members have the additional duty of handling the corpses of fallen soldiers. Is this true, and if it is, what sort of training do the band members get to teach them how to handle human remains?

Ex American military bandsman here. I retired in 94 so my info is not exactly current, but it’ll be close.

1) Do band members use their own instruments or the does the military supply them?
They will supply you with an instrument, but you can use your own. Probably most do use their own.

2) Before you enlist as a musician, do you have to audition? Say you’re not very good; will the military accept you anyway and give you lessons to bring you up to standard?
Yes, you must audition and each branch has their own minimum standards. If you meet a certain minimum standard, you would be sent to the Armed Forces School of Music for (used to be) 6 months. This applies to Army, Navy and Marine Corp, but not the Airforce

3) I’ve heard that in times of war, the band members have the additional duty of handling the corpses of fallen soldiers. Is this true, and if it is, what sort of training do the band members get to teach them how to handle human remains?
No, bandmembers won’t be handling bodies except under the most dire circumstances.
Additional duties would include supplementing Military Police, Guard Duty and other tasks like that.

Missed the edit window:

Re; #2
It’s Air Force. Not Airforce.

Also note that standards have gotten pretty high in all branches of the military. A lot of folks going into the band programs have years of formal training and even college degrees. It might be a good idea to check with a recruiter and try to get some idea of what the audition would be like.
You may need to “go to the woodshed” and practice for a while, just to save yourself time.

Can’t help you in the first two questions, but I know for a fact that I was in Afghanistan in 2012, and the Division Band was tasked with providing security to certain facilities in addition to performing.

Historically, this, along with stretcher duty, was what musicians did during battle. I doubt if this is current, since bandsmen with instruments dont march into battle much anymore. (Scots with bagpipes might still do this…)

Bagpipes are an Area Denial Weapon.

My sister played flute in the Army band. As answered she did audition and did choose to buy her own instrument.

She did not handle corpses.

If you have a personal instrument - a flute, violin etc. - you’ll use your own. Less personal, such drums or piano, the government will provide.

One must audition for these bands, and competition is very keen. It’s hard to get a paying gig, and this is a great one, if it’s your cup of tea.

Head-count at the DFAC and/or ID check at the MWR doesn’t count.

Sidenote - when Elvis went into the army he actually turned down an offer to be in an entertainment unit.

Historically, the bandsmen were stretcher-bearers once the battle started. So there was probably more handling of wounded than outright dead, although I’m sure there were some mostly-dead or died on the way to the field hospital situations.

Also, historically there wasn’t an organized system for dealing with the dead. They typically stayed on the battlefield until the winning side buried them, usually in mass graves. This wasn’t reserved for the band though.

These days, there are specialized Quartermaster Corps units that collect the dead, ship them to the US, embalm them, and see that they’re buried, either in a National Cemetery or a family-chosen one.

Bandsmen these days are probably secondarily trained as MPs or security troops- basically light infantry, I’m guessing.

It was good duty. Except for the parades. But if it was raining, we were excused.

We played jazz for the OC and NCO clubs in the evening. Didn’t have to make muster.

We had drivers license for 3/4 ton trucks. In times of need we were to drive ambulances. Never happened.

This was a long time ago.

British military bandsmen and women are trained to use weapons, but are in great demand for functions, shows and parades. Standards are very high and competition to get in, fierce. Anyone fancy playing a trombone while controlling a bloody great horse with your knees? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QolCm6oHlz4

All soldiers will do whatever is required at the time, but the medical corps is there to provide help for the wounded. However "The Band may be detached on engagements away from the Regiment for long periods. In conflict situations the military bands primary role is in support of the Army Medical Services (eg Iraq in 2003), importantly the Bands musical contribution supports the moral component of fighting power."

The people that the army engages with are unlikely to be frightened by kilt-wearing pipers these days.

Haben sie gehort das Deutsche Band
Mit a bang
Mit a boom
Mit a bing-bang bing-bang boom
Aaah, haben sie gehort das Deutsche Band
Mit a bang
Mit a boom
Mit a bing-bang bing-bang boom

You need the special bagpipes.

Also, if there is ever some gold that needs heisting, as a band member be prepared to erect a bridge over a river.

Members of the U.S. Marine Band, “The President’s Own,” do not have to go to boot camp - the only Marines, I believe, of whom that is true. See “Recruit Training” on p. 3 here: http://www.marineband.marines.mil/Portals/175/Docs/Career%20Information/Career%20Info_16_FINAL.pdf

OP here. Thank you very much to everyone who took the time out of their busy day to post a reply to my questions. Your answers are interesting and informative.

Answering for the Spanish Armed Forces, and funnily enough I ran into this looking up information for another thread:

  1. The military will supply instruments. The soldiers may use their own so long as they’re regulation (trying to get the sergeant to “pass” a drum with your favorite team’s colors wouldn’t work).

  2. People wishing to enlist as military musicians must have at least two years of music school (the exact acceptable studies will vary by the candidate’s previous countries of residence).

  3. No idea, the page didn’t say and I don’t know any military musicians.

In the Irish Defence Forces, there are several full-time military bands, who recruit professional musicians, for whom playing music will be their primary (and pretty much their only) task. I think they may be trained as stretcher-bearers and medical orderlies, but they rarely if ever have to deploy those skills.

But there are also pipe bands - one for each infantry battalion. The members of these bands are primarily infantrymen, and perform the usual range of duties. There’s no separate recruitment intake - the bands are made up from regular enlistees who can already play, or who learn to play.