by legendary euphonium soloist, Arthur Lehman U.S. Marine Band,
edited by David Werden
MY AUDITION FOR THE NAVY BAND
Many years ago, after I had taken army basic training before WWII, and when I was spending three years working in an aircraft factory in Bristol, Penna., I was taking lessons from a fine trombone player who was principal with the Trenton symphony orchestra (new jersey). He had been a member or the Arthur Pryor band for sixteen years and, oh boy, was he a wonderful trombonist! At that time I didn't use a vibrato. That was because I didn't know how to produce a vibrato, I could find no one who could tell me how to use one, and I knew no one with a vibrato I admired. So I simply wouldn't use any.
After working those three years in the aircraft factory, I was recalled to active duty and I spent the next two years playing in a small army band. We moved from camp to camp, usually spending but six months in any one place. During that time I heard concerts on the radio of the U.S. Navy Band, the U.S. Marine Band, the U.S. army band. One day when I was listening to a Navy Band broadcast, Harold Brasch played a fine solo. What a wonderful sound he produced! Just the sound I wanted. And his vibrato was splendid. I fell in love with his tone. Finally, in May 1946 I was discharged and my army service ended. Was I happy about that! I went back to work at the aircraft factory hating every minute of it, just as I had hated the job for the three years I'd worked there from 1941 to 1944. However, mercifully, the factory dwindled in size when the war ended. They had to let so many workers go because they had no more government orders that they had gone from 6,000 workers to 600! I wasn't a war casualty but I was a peace casualty. Happy day for me, in a way. After that I was out of work. However, during the summer of 1946, while I was still working at the aircraft factory, I started taking lessons from Harold Brasch in Arlington, VA.
What a trip that was! I left on the train at around 8 am. And didn't arrive back home until around 10:30 p.m. but how rewarding those lessons were. Can you believe this? Harold gave me a three hour lesson each time! And did he cover a lot of territory. Wow! We covered so much ground that I was afraid that I could never remember it all and I needed to remember it all. On the way back to my home town in Penna., on the train, I wrote down everything I could recall about our lesson. Since it was so soon after the lesson, I could remember every detail of every subject he touched upon. I wrote it all down and studied it during the time between lessons. I believe that I had five or six lessons during that summer. I made very good progress, I feel.
When fall came, he had to go on tour so we knocked off the lessons. Then, over the winter I didn't want to have to make a trip like that. Then, before we could think about starting lessons again in the spring or summer, I received a telephone call from Harold. It must have been in march or April of 1947.
He was coming up to Allentown, Penna. (thirty miles north of my home town of Doylestown) to be a guest soloist with one of the bands in that city. Could I come up, hear the concert, and talk to him? He had something he wanted to discuss with me. What that was he wouldn't say.
On one Sunday, on the day of the concert, I drove up to Allentown to hear the concert. My mother went along. She loved band concerts. It was a very good concert and Harold performed brilliantly. After the concert we had a nice chat. The upshot of it was that he thought I should write CDR Brendler for an audition for a spot in the euphonium section of the U.S. Navy Band as someone was leaving and there was an opening. That as a real puzzle for me. Should I go down and take an audition, trying to get into the Navy Band? It would be a complete change in life for me and I would be living away from home. My father had died recently so my mother was all alone.
I considered this for three months and finally decided to write for an audition and I did. Soon I received a letter from CDR Brendler. He gave me the okay to come down for an audition and gave me a date and time when I was to appear. I wrote back that I'd be there. At the scheduled day and time I was front and center. I met CDR Brendler, a truly fine band conductor, and I took my audition. Harold was in attendance. Incidentally, Harold had helped me on the sly by reading off the titles of the pieces in the Navy Band's euphonium audition folio. Did that during one of our telephone conversations. What a help that was. I got hold of all of the euphonium parts to those pieces which I could possible obtain and I drilled on them. I could almost play them by memory.
When I took the audition, I waltzed through those pieces as though I owned them. Did CDR Brendler think "What a sight-reader!" I doubt it for although he told me after the audition that "We will let you know" how I'd made out and if they were going to accept me, to this day I have heard nothing from the Navy Band about this or about anything. Does this mean that they don't want me? Silly question. However, many years later I learned that Harold and CDR Brendler had a sort of a feud going on. They weren't getting along well at all. Very antagonistic, both of them. Did CDR Brendler - noting that my name is as German as Brasch's - feel that with me he would be getting another Harold Brasch with whom he couldn't get along? Who needs that? He must have thought. That could be why he never even informed me about the results of my audition. Of course, there is a possibility that while in my eyes I had done well in the audition, in his eyes I had not. Who knows? At any rate I didn't make it. As it turned out, not making it was the best thing for me.