What It's like to Be a Musician in a Military Band

with Brandyn Taylor

Date Posted: July 29, 2019

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Before joining the United States Army Band, were you already enlisted; or was it the band that influenced your decision to join the army?

Being a member of the United States Army Band has been a dream of mine since I heard of this incredible career opportunity for musicians while I was in high school. I enlisted in the U.S. Army specifically to join the band and am currently a member of the 116th Army Band which is stationed near Atlanta, GA at the Joint Force Headquarters on Dobbins Air Base. I have been a member of this organization for three years and take a great deal of pride in serving the United States of America through music. It is important for students to know about this career opportunity, especially considering that the United States Army is the largest employer of musicians in the nation!

What was the process for joining the Army Band?

There are three different types of Army Bands that one can audition for: Special Bands, Active Duty Bands, and Reserve/National Guard Bands. Each audition provides a unique set of challenges that are important to understand and prepare properly for. For the Active Duty and Reserve/National Guard Bands, the most important aspect of the process (in addition to meeting the Army eligibility requirements) is passing the Army Musician Proficiency Assessment or AMPA. Passing the assessment is required upon enlistment to enter into the band field. The AMPA has three parts: ceremonial music, prepared music, and quickly prepared music. When I joined, the minimum passing score was 18 out of a possible 36 points. Additional points can be earned through showcasing skills such as singing, doubling, and jazz improvisation. Scoring over a 30 on the assessment will bring you big time respect among your fellow soldiers, so prepare diligently. I can still remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I scored a 37 on the assessment!

After successfully completing the enlistment process with your recruiter and band liaison, you will complete 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and then a 10-week course at the Army School of Music.

What was your job description and/or your duties in the army band?

My primary duty in the 116th Army Band is to make music at a high level, but every soldier has other responsibilities to take care of in order to keep the organization running smoothly. I personally run the social media accounts for our band, am saxophone section leader, lead the saxophone quartet, am a certified Combat Life Saver, and will be going through a course in August to be certified to train and grade soldiers in the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

"A good educator is always seeing past the current state of a student and demands them to achieve at a level that they didn’t think possible." - Brandyn Taylor

How has being a member of an army band influenced your career as an educator?

This is a good question, because it is somewhat difficult to quantify. One thing I’m sure of is that upon completing Basic Combat Training at Fort Benning, I had a new appreciation for discipline and the limitations of the human body. I try to instill discipline in my students’ practice habits, as well as push them beyond what they perceive their current ceiling to be. A good educator is always seeing past the current state of a student and demands them to achieve at a level that they didn’t think possible. This constant pushing students out of their comfort zone helps them to be more fearless. I always tell my students that risks are important in music, like the famous synthpop song by A-ha : “It’s no better to be safe than sorry”.

What other performance opportunities did you receive due to your involvement in the army band?

The Army Band has afforded me countless performance opportunities throughout the southeast, so I’ll just list some of the more interesting ones: the Navy Band’s International Saxophone Symposium, the diamond jubilee for the Aga Khan, the inauguration for the Governor of Georgia, concerto soloist with Ola Middle School band at University of Alabama’s Honor Band Festival, and CNN Center in Atlanta.

"...make authentic music in your audition" - Brandyn Taylor

What advice would you give to students preparing to audition for an army band?

So many things! I’ll try to narrow it down to two.

  • I would say to put your whole heart into it and really try to make authentic music in your audition. Tone, accuracy, articulation, style, tempo, consistency, phrasing… all of these things are good, but they are only a means to effectively express yourself in music. Without expression and character, the music will leave the listener wanting.
  • Record yourself and practice in less-than-ideal situations every once in a while. The day of your audition is likely to be less-than-ideal! Try playing through your audition twice and then immediately record the third time while you are tired. Try running a few laps around your house to get your heart rate up, and then record a run of your music. Try only warming up for 5-10 minutes and then record a run of your music. You want to be flexible and ready to play your audition at the highest level at any time!

What are some of the benefits of being a part of the United States Army Band?

There are numerous benefits such as fantastic healthcare, education benefits, enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses, scholarship opportunities, student loan repayment, retirement, and perhaps best of all – getting paid to do what you love, make music.

Atlanta-based saxophonist Brandyn Taylor is the saxophone instructor for the Atlanta Music Academy, and the saxophone section leader of the 116th United States Army Band. In addition to mentoring a thriving private studio of students from across the metropolitan region, he is an Artist Affiliate of saxophone at Georgia State University and is in demand as a clinician throughout the state.

Brandyn has performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Ballet, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Saxophone Quartet, Bent Frequency, Terminus Ensemble, and Chamber Cartel. Since 2012, he has been an active jazz and commercial recording artist in the Atlanta area, having been featured on singer-songwriter Ellis Paul's most recent album, "Chasing Beauty," as well as several commercial recordings with Brandon Bush of the band Sugarland. He made his Nashville recording debut in the summer of 2014 with the band RYE. Former students have been awarded top prizes/chairs in competitions across the state of Georgia and earned full-ride scholarships to study music at prestigious universities.

Brandyn holds degrees in music performance from Columbus State University and Georgia State University. His primary teachers include Dr. Jan Berry Baker, Dr. Alexander Pershounin, and additional studies with Dr. Frederick Hemke, Joseph Lulloff, and Mace Hibbard. Brandyn is a Vandoren Regional Artist and a Conn-Selmer performing artist.

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