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Thread: A Future In Euphonium

  1. A Future In Euphonium

    Hello, I was curious as to what the future looks like for a Euphonium Player.

    A little about me, I am a Junior in High School, and I just recently found out that I have made All-State in Florida for the second year in a row. I figured now is a premiere time to be looking at things such as colleges and degrees, so I was curious, as many people on here are professionals, what opportunities are for Euphonium players. I would like to attend Florida State, regardless of degree, but I understand that they have a very strong music program.

    What do you think the chances of making it by playing Euphonium are? I don't aspire to be a teacher, I would really like to perform. From what I understand, the only real full-time job performing Euphonium in the US is military bands. I would love to do so, but how competitive/difficult is it to get in? How is the experience? How is the pay? How often do you travel? How secure is your job? Is there anybody on here that has perhaps been through the entire military band career that could explain how tough it was to get in, their enjoyment, and if they think I have chances of making it?

    Thanks ahead of time for your responses!

  2. #2
    I'll let Dave or one of the other pros talk about the military bands, except to say that it's a good gig if you can get it. My contribution will be from the "euphonium jokes" forum:

    What is the difference between a professional euphonium player and a large supreme pizza?

    A large supreme pizza can feed a family of four :-D

  3. #3
    That's a big question!! (Actually, several questions)
    I would like to attend Florida State, regardless of degree, but I understand that they have a very strong music program.
    Typically a service band audition panel is not going to care what your degree is. They are going to care how you play. Having some kind of degree is good, simply because it shows you can succeed in a competitive environment.

    What do you think the chances of making it by playing Euphonium are?
    No one here can answer that accurately. The overall odds are not great because there are a LOT of good euphonium players out there who will be going for the same gigs that you are.

    I don't aspire to be a teacher, I would really like to perform.
    From what I understand, the only real full-time job performing Euphonium in the US is military bands.

    In the USA that is the situation. In no way, shape, or form is it a good idea to put all your eggs in the service-band-gig basket. As I said, the odds are small. If that is your dream then you should work for it and try to get it. But you need a Plan B. When you get out of college you need to be able to find a job that you like. That alone is tough, especially right now. With a little luck the economy will be better by the time you get there!

    Let's say, just for fun, that you also like architecture. So you could double-major yourself in college maybe: Architecture and Music. If you want to learn all you can about music, then a music major is an advantage. Depending on the school, it will give you more options and more courses... and possibly more lessons. But you still need to have a gig-ready career path, too, so that's where the double major comes in. Even if you are good enough to walk right into a service band gig, there may not be an opening when you graduate. It could be a couple years, for example, and you may not enjoy selling burgers during that time.

    One should always remember that music is a FINE hobby! I was in a service band for 26 years. Swell. But what about when I got out??? I had not set myself up for a college teaching career, and I'm not making my living playing now, but I am enjoying music in a hobby-like environment. Because of my skills and history and still get some professional-level opportunities. I've played in the MN Orch a few times and also played on A Prairie Home Companion a few times. Then I've done a recording with Symphonia and played at some ITEC's and other events. But in between those higher-profile activities, I've had a lot of fun playing and teaching! I played for a little while in the Sheldon Theater Brass Band near me. I'm active in my church and with its brass group. I love to teach, which keeps me on my toes and actually lets me keep learning along the way myself.

    You may be starting a hobby/career at a much earlier age than I did. Be creative! You could form a brass quintet (yes, and use euphonium instead of trombone - it works fine on most literature). Or you could form a brass quartet - 2 cornets, horn, and euphonium. The latter instrumentation has a lot of original literature and tons of transcriptions written for it (especially from England). With a small group you can make a little money and get some musical gratification at the same time. Some people work on building a solo career. If you have talent and imagination, maybe you can get hooked up with an instrument company and do clinics. A person with good promotional skills could certainly make something work!

    I would love to do so, but how competitive/difficult is it to get in?
    As I said, VERY tough. Brian Bowman's studio all by itself could adequately staff the vacancies that arise in all the premier bands, so you need to be really, really prepared. You need to study not just in college, but perhaps on the side as well... preferably with someone who has service band experience, but also with the Meads, Childs, Freys, etc. who you can access along the way. Prepare all kinds of lit constantly. Sight read something every day. Listen to service band recordings and performances; and I mean REALLY listen. Try to pick up on the style. Become an expert in playing marches. They actually require a lot of skill and style to do them correctly. Play in any ensemble that will have you! Play solos anywhere, any time. If you belong to a church, play there! Whether or not you have a home church, volunteer at other churches. They are great opportunities to play in front of people, and the congregations will really appreciate it because the horn fits that environment so nicely.

    How is the experience? How is the pay? How often do you travel? How secure is your job?
    It depends to some extent on the particular band. The "Premier Bands" have the best playing situation in general. These are the top bands for each of the five armed services. In the same ball park are the Army Field Band and the Academy bands. But the "post bands" are also good gigs.

    The premier bands travel some, but not a lot. The Army Field Band is geared for travel, so you will see a lot of territory in that group.

    The pay in the premier bands is roughly comparable to that of a starting teacher. If you look at benefits, don't get confused by the difference between pay and benefits. Your pay is like a normal salary and is taxable. Benefits can include housing allowance, food allowance, adjustment for dependents, etc., and are not usually taxed. The retirement program is pretty good, although that could change in the future for new members. You get free health care, which IS a good deal, at least while you are in.

    Job security is pretty good. Generally they won't "fire" you unless you are really causing trouble or incapable of doing the gig. "Layoffs" are usually handled by attrition but that is not guaranteed. The services are reducing forces these days, so you'd want to be a really good contributor. Play well, keep improving, find ways to be flexible (in the office, doubling, etc.). Those all are a boost to job security.

    Overall experience is great for most people. A chance to play euphonium and get paid for it - good start, huh? You need to be able to accept the less-attractive parts of the gig, though. Some of the bands have had duties around their base from time to time. Many of the gigs you play won't be high on the "musical gratification" scale. You will do some marching gigs. You may play in some very uncomfortable weather. You WILL be expected to keep military grooming. How do you feel about getting regular haircuts, keeping your shoes shined, shirts, pressed, etc.? You may have the pleasure of standing inspection, where you stand in formation as an officer looks every person up and down and notes little infractions, like lint, a scratched belt buckle, sideburns that are too long, etc. After a few years in the Iowa Hawkeye marching band, a lot of this was familiar territory for me! In fact, when it came to the act of marching around, the Hawkeyes were a LOT more "military" than the military bands usually are.

    In my case, I did all that uncomfortable stuff and didn't enjoy it. But I could tolerate it. I even learned to have some respect for ceremonies in little towns and learned to actually listed to the military vets who spoke at ceremonies. I heard folks who had been through Hell in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. It was an education and a valuable experience.

    And then there were the other things. I played tours where we had great crowds in different cities every night, and they loved our performances. I played in Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. I toured in 42 states during my career. We did recordings and FM broadcasts. We played along with some very famous musicians.

    That was me. A few of our folks seemed to hate every minute of their time in the band. They didn't like haircuts and military grooming, didn't want to put up with the uncomfortable gigs (well, actually none of us wanted to put up with those!), and didn't really appreciate band music in general (vs. orchestra music). For them it was not a good gig. So how's your attitude?

    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  4. Quote Originally Posted by DaveBj View Post

    What is the difference between a professional euphonium player and a large supreme pizza?

    A large supreme pizza can feed a family of four :-D
    Man, that makes me hungry for pizza. Wish I could afford one... : )

  5. Mr. Werden, thank you for your answer! I really enjoyed hearing about your overall experience in the bands. Now I'm confused about the audition process. Do you audition for a particular band, which would have a vacancy in Euphonium, or do you audition for the military band in general? If so, what if there are no vacancies? Will they not accept your audition?

  6. #6
    Each band has a fixed number of players for each instrument. Think of it like your city. You might have outstanding abilities to be a mayor, but until it's time for an election, you are not going to have a chance to get the job. And you don't run for mayor in a state-wide election; you run only in your town. If the Army Ceremonial Band has a euphonium audition (i.e. next week), they hire (at most) only enough players to fill the empty chair(s). In this case I believe it is 1, as it almost always is. You would audition for that job, with that audition panel. If an opening arise next month in the Marine Band, your audition for the the Army counts for nothing for the Marine gig. Different job, different audition panel.

    And by the way, several service band auditions have gone by where no one was hired because the panel didn't feel there was a candidate with enough qualifications. They had to run another round later.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  7. I think it's important to distinguish between the premier bands and non-premier (Field/Division/Fleet/Post/Reserve/Guard) bands.

    What Mr. Werden describes is true for the premier bands (The US Army Band, West Point Military Academy Band , US Army Field Band, Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, The Marine Band, The US Navy Band, US Naval Academy Band, US Air Force Band, Air Force Academy Band, US Coast Guard Band).

    For non-premier bands the process depends on the service. For the Army, Air Force, and Marines, you audition before enlisting: if you don't pass the audition, you don't have to enlist. For the Navy, you enlist before auditioning: if you don't pass the audition, you will be assigned an MOS based on the "needs of the Navy." As with the premier bands, auditions are for currently available positions, however, unlike the premier bands, if there are no current vancancies, you may audition for the next available vacancy. In most cases, unsuccessful candidates may re-audition after 30 days.

    Regardless of service, non-premier band members WILL be assigned collateral (non-musical) duties in addition to their musical duties, and ARE subject to deployment.

    For service-specific audition information see:

    Army Bands

    Navy Bands

    Marine Corps Bands

    Air Force Bands
    Last edited by megan; 11-07-2012 at 10:35 AM.

  8. #8
    "For the Navy, you enlist before auditioning: if you don't pass the audition, you will be assigned an MOS based on the "needs of the Navy."

    That's just not true. The Navy has NEC's, Navy Enlisted Classifications. Each navy band has it's own designated/assigned audition coordinator. It's fairly easy to arrange for an audition. There are a series of conditions for any enlistment into the armed forces. First and foremost will be to get physically qualified. "Needs of the Navy" applies to people that do not meet the obligations for enlistment, completion of basic training, and for the navy, battle stations. At any given time when there is a physical fitness, or training failure by the recruit, the member can then be reassigned, or separated (discharged). In fact, nothing is guaranteed until you graduate from both basic and the "A" school.

    The best bet is to contact an actual active duty member, or several of them, for advice on auditioning into the navy fleet bands. There are two active duty euphonium players in the fleet bands, that I know of on this board. Somewhere, there is a great analysis of auditioning for the service bands that Dr. Jerry Young wrote.

    http://www.dwerden.com/forum/content...Dr-Jerry-Young

    http://www.public.navy.mil/BUPERS-NP.../default2.aspx

    "We are seeking qualified musicians for placement in the Navy Music Program. After a successful entrance audition into the program (played live), you will be guaranteed placement into the School of Music (MU "A" school).** Upon completion of MU "A" school, you will be assigned to one of our 11 Navy fleet bands. "

    and

    "** Currently the Navy Music Program is under manning constraints and successful applicants are placed on a waiting list for entry into the Navy. However, applicants are still welcome to get an audition on file."


    So NO, there is no requirement to "enlist before auditioning".

    ----------------
    EDITOR NOTE: I modified the link to Dr. Young's article to the Articles section of this site. I have published it here with his blessing.

    Edit: Thanks Dave for the edit. I just needed to reply to correct some assumptions. I was a fleet musician for eight years. No, I didn't make it a career. But it did pay for my education and provide for my mortgage. I would also like to add that several fleet musicians have made premier bands, and in general, it is possible to make them from any branch of service. It happens all the time. Military musicians move from one service to another. If this is something that you wish to do, GO for it. Good luck!!

    Edit#3: GO Navy BEAT Army.....
    Last edited by Markmc611; 11-07-2012 at 10:47 PM. Reason: Pointed Jerry Young Link to Article Version

  9. #9
    I gotta say, Euphinator, I sort of envy the position you're in now. If I could take a time machine back and talk to myself in high school, I'd tell myself to practice my zadnitsa off in HS and college (and buy a good compensating horn) and make every possible effort to get into one of the major service bands. You have a chance to make that happen. Go for it! Have a backup plan, but do go for the dream!

  10. Quote Originally Posted by Markmc611 View Post
    "[COLOR=#333333]For the Navy, you enlist before auditioning: if you don't pass the audition, you will be assigned an MOS based on the "needs of the Navy."

    That's just not true.
    Well, either the Navy recruiter I met with didn't know the policy (and didn't bother to check) when I inquired about auditioning for a fleet band 20-some years ago or the policy has changed in the interim, because his reply put me off of auditioning.

    Either way, thanks for the clarification.
    Last edited by megan; 11-07-2012 at 09:28 PM.

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