I was watching Patton and at the very beginning, I couldn’t help thinking, “what would happen to that bugler if he screwed up this tune?” Right at the beginning when Gen. Patton steps up to the stage to give his speech, a bugle call is played. I don’t know what song it is, but it’s a bit longer than Reveille. I assume there are several different tunes that military buglers play. Reveille, Taps, and a few others? There must be a lot of pressure on these guys especially when they play a very important ceremony. Surely they make mistakes sometimes, right? Not a huge mistake but a little slip-up. Even though it’s a simple tune, surely in thousands of times of playing it, the buglers must make a few mistakes?
Do they get severely brow-beaten by their superiors or made to do KP or something as punishment?
Firts time, he’ll get glared at. Second time, he’ll get shouted at. Third time, well, playing in a band is a pretty cushy job, as military assignments go. If a soldier can’t cut it, he’ll probably be transferred somewhere less… pleasant. If someone like George Patton gets angry, he’ll be peeling potatoes within the hour.
You have to be very, very good to get the job in the first place. In today’s military, any more than the occasional mess-up for any musician means you’re probably losing your spot in the band, and will be put in a job that needs warm bodies (like normal infantry). And if you have a history of having just barely passed the audition in the first place, you will be preemptively warned before any notable performance not to screw up, or else.
Also, as I understand it, barring special occasions, the Army doesn’t use buglers any more, they use recordings of buglers played over a PA system.
Source: a friend who is a trumpeter in the Army reserve.
Seriously, why does the modern military even have musicians? Along with the many other things that have been transferred over to civilian employees, what tiny “need” the military has for musicians could be met by civilians hired to play for the few times live musicians are needed. Realistically, why does the Air Force need a jazz band? They have, or at least had, one. It played at a school where I taught a few years back.
I remember reading a while back that the military came up with a device that plays very realistic-sounding bugle calls, and can fit right into the bell of a bugle. So the army can send any schlub out there with a bugle, have him push a button and stand real still, and you can’t tell the difference unless you’re paying real close attention.
Why does Arlington Cemetery need fancy soldiers to play dress up and ‘guard’ the place by walking stiffly and throwing around shiny, outdated, unloaded rifles? Why does Ft. Riley need a cavalry troop to train on horseback and wear uniforms from the 1870s? Or that New York National Guard unit that has been in continual service since the 1790s; does the Army really need them to train and dress as if they were going to fight the War of 1812?
It is all PR, pure and simple. When the General takes over a new command, which looks better at the CoC ceremony, a PA system, or a sharply dressed, tight-knit military band? When some WWII hero dies, which would his family prefer, a CD, or an actual uniformed bugler?
As its been noted, PR. I took members of the Army band around to different high schools while I was recruiting. Plus miltary bands are not easy to get into. You have to be interviewed by an Army band representative as well as the other tests you need to do when enlisting. (I’m sure the other brnaches band requirements are similar)You have be able to read music well, also because they’ll make you play music that they brought ith them, right there at the interview.
Civilian contract bands? Nah, it would be a real downer to morale first of all. I’m always a little leery of contractors in the first place. About ten years ago the army started contracting cooks at the mess hall on Fort Myer (and a few other places I know of). When the military cooks were there the food was fantastic. Seriously, guys that lived off post would come there to eat. Then the contractors started. Within a month almost everyone I knew stopped eating there. (I moved off post aroundd then and started bringing my lunch because of it) I stopped in the barracks which was right across from the mess hall and asked my soldiers why they were eating pizza every night for 10 bucks or more a pop instead of the mess hall…and they told me the contracted cooks “don’t care”…they’d feed you a cooked rat if they could.
I worked with several contractors in the Pentagon. They were worthless. I ended up doing jobs they were supposed to. I constantly had to stop them from taking advantage of my troops. (they knew if they could get Private So and So alone they could get him to do work that they didn’t want to. An E-2 with 6 months in is usually too intimidated to say “hell no”.) So yeah, I think a lot of contractors are BS artists in the military. A contracted band would be a bad idea. Besides why pay them when you have soldiers that can do the same job? The soldiers don’t get overtime and the band members want to play music for morale, esprit de corps and all that. A contractor is just doing it for a check.
Military bands do tour and play for the troops. Its not all marching band music. Jazz, rock, country, etc. It may seem silly to you, but it can be a morale booster to the troops.
and of course they play at important functions for the president, and other heads of state. The band is a cushy job, too. That and vetinary assistant are probably two of the hardest jobs to get due to limited slots, and the cushiest.