The Tullahoma community received a special visit from the United States Navy when the U.S. Navy Band put on a free concert inside the Tullahoma High School gymnasium on Sunday, March 17.
Conducted by Capt. Kenneth Collins, the Navy Band made a quick stop in Tullahoma as part of its annual concert tour, even allowing 10 Tullahoma High School Band students to hop in and join the group for one song.
According to Petty Officer First Class Bryce Edwards, who plays the euphonium in the Navy Band, Sunday’s stop was the second time the ensemble has come to Tullahoma to perform for the community at large. Edwards credited the enthusiasm of THS Assistant Principal Greg English, who previously served as one of the school’s band directors, for the assist in setting up both concerts.
Edwards and English both attended Tennessee Tech University, so they have history, Edwards said.
When lining up the tour dates for the Navy Band’s first visit to Tullahoma, Edwards contacted English to see if the school would be interested in being a host school, to which English immediately answered in the affirmative.
“I gave him a call, and before I even said the words, ‘Hey, you want to host a—,’ he said yes,” Edwards said with a chuckle.
The same thing happened for Sunday’s concert, Edwards added. He emailed English again while lining up the tour stops, and English enthusiastically encouraged Edwards and his bandmates to return to Tullahoma.
“It wasn’t even really a decision,” Edwards said. “It was so easy.”
According to Edwards, not all the tour stops are so easily nailed down, so Edwards applauded English’s ability to be “proactive” about the tour stop.
Edwards also praised the JROTC program for its participation and the band students, saying they also got “super involved.”
“We love that,” Edwards said.
Not only did the community enjoy the military musicians, they also got to hear the talents of some special student musicians as well.
Ten THS Band students won the opportunity to play one piece of music with the Navy Band during the concert, something the Navy has been doing for many years.
Every time the band hits the road for the concert series, they always try to bring student musicians up on stage with them whenever possible.
“Every concert, every public performance we do that is involved with any kind of school,” Edwards said, “we always invite students to come play.”
The song of choice for the student participation, according to Edwards, is John Philip Sousa’s “The Washington Post” march.
“It’s always ‘Washington Post,’” he said.
According to Edwards, the Navy Band is one of the only military bands that allows students to perform alongside it members, and they use the concert as an opportunity to impart some wisdom with the programs after the concert.
“If at all possible, we always try to involve ourselves in master classes and clinics the next day at schools,” Edwards said.
Unfortunately, the musicians’ tour schedule prevented them from being able to hold a clinic for the Tullahoma students.
“Our travel schedule is such that we have to drive all the way to Johnson City and then do a show… so unfortunately, we are not going to be able to come back and do any master classes,” Edwards said.
Had the band not needed to hit the road to make its next stop, however, there would have been a master class or a clinic on Monday, he added.
Having the students perform with the Navy Band is a special opportunity and one the members of the military ensemble don’t take lightly.
According to Senior Chief Musician Courtney Williams, having that student participation is always a “great opportunity.”
“I remember being in school, and an opportunity like this would have blown my mind – to be able to sit in with a professional organization like this and have a chance to sit beside somebody who’s doing this for a living, which is what a lot of the kids who are coming up are aspiring to do,” he said with a laugh.
Williams, who was the narrator and vocalist during the performance, said he always enjoys these public performances.
“It’s great to perform any time, but in schools you get the opportunity to connect with school kids as well as the general public, so this is a great opportunity to get the whole community together.”
His favorite portion of the concert every time is the Armed Forces Medley, which allows veterans and their families to stand and gain some public recognition for their service. That short moment of pride for those veterans is “one of my favorite parts every time.”
For more information on the U.S. Navy Band, visit www.navyband.navy.mil.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.