Army making overtures to musicians

September 29, 1992|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Do you play oboe, clarinet, piano -- or baritone euphonium? If so, Uncle Sam Wants You!

To get you, he'll give you a bonus of $1,500 to $2,000 to enlist, not to mention $25,200 for college after a four-year hitch. And John Philip Sousa will become your patron saint.

Although the Cold War is over and the armed forces are being reduced, "Bands are still critical for morale and esprit de corps, and we've had troubling vacancies Army-wide," said Constance R. Hill, public affairs officer for the Baltimore Army recruiting battalion.

For that reason, the Army has put musicians right up there on the help-wanted list with combat troops, linguists, electronic warfare specialists and practical nurses. And the Army is offering enlistment incentives to get them.

College funds, but not signing bonuses, are also available for guitarists, drummers, and tuba, trombone and French horn players. "We need them, but not as critically as the other instruments," Ms. Hill explained.

Applicants must be competent on their instruments and be prepared to audition when they apply, Ms. Hill said.

Enlistees may be sent to a military music school to improve their skills before assignment to one of the 47 Army marching, concert or ceremonial bands at posts around the world. Recruiting continues despite the downsizing of the Army, Ms. Hill said, because various critical positions must be filled no matter what.

Ironically, while the Army is recruiting musicians, the Senate Armed Services Committee is trying to eliminate the bands of enlisted personnel who supply ceremonial music at the military academies at Annapolis, West Point and Colorado Springs. The academies have promised a fight, and the issue will be joined at noon today when a House-Senate conference committee begins debating the defense appropriations bill.

When the Senate Armed Forces Committee proposed eliminating the academy bands, chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said the bands should be made up of midshipmen and cadet volunteers.

The Naval Academy band director, Cmdr. Michael Burch-Pesses, said his 64 enlisted musicians offer a service that cadets and midshipmen don't have time for.

"The mission of any service academy is to provide leaders, not to train musicians," he said.

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