"The Beacon" Summer 2019 Edition
Our periodic mailing, available here in PDF format:
Join us at Groton Bible Church, 66 Toll Gate Rd. in Groton, CT on Friday, April 16th at 7pm for an evening of LIVE music featuring clarinet soloist Chief Musician Cedric Mayfield and a performance of Mozart's Serenade in C.
*Limited Seating is available for this LIVE event. Tickets are free, but required for entrance and can be obtained starting April 2nd by visiting
https://us-coast-guard-band.ticketleap.com. COVID protocols will be in place, including wearing of masks and social distancing.
My hometown is Buffalo, NY. I’ve been singing as early as I can remember- playing outside in my backyard or waiting for the school bus in elementary school. I've always been drawn to singing and the voice. Private voice lessons in high school led me to college at The Crane School of Music, New England Conservatory, and Bard Vocal Arts for graduate studies.
My husband and I have lived in the New London area along with our four awesome children for the past 3 years. We love being a part of the U.S. Coast Guard Band. I'll have 10 years of service this December. Our family enjoys the outdoors, snow, music, movies, biking, hiking trails, and spending time with friends and family.
1. What is your favorite song?
I don't have one but if I had to pick two it would be "Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell and "Don't you worry 'bout a thing" by Stevie Wonder.
2. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher or other professional in our field?
Each person has a unique voice, embrace the one you have and don't try to sound like someone else.
3. What sound/noise do you love?
4. What sound/noise do you hate?
Crying baby in distress
5. What is a talent or interest you have that is unique, or that not many people know about?
I really love interior camping and mountain climbing. Art interests me. I come from a family of visual Artists.
6. Do you have any family traditions that are especially meaningful?
Most of our vacations are centered around visiting family we don't live by. We go camping every year. Homemade gifts during the Holiday season.
7. When all is said and done, what do you want people to say about you?
That I cared about people.
8. What is something that seemingly everyone likes except you?
Cake, kittens, and rollercoasters.
9. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
My intuition. I recently had an ER trip for my youngest son. He had appendicitis. I am glad I knew there was something out of the norm at the right time.
10. Where do you see yourself after leaving or retiring from the military?
I would like to be teaching voice and collaborating with my family of Artists in some way with music. I've always wanted to have a small sheep farm but never the time to do that now! My husband and I have been foster parents and are adoptive parents. As more time allows we have thought about doing that again.
Brooke Allen joined the band as co-principal bassoon in 2004. She studied with Ben Kamins at Rice University, Bill Ludwig at Louisiana State University, and when she switched to bassoon in high school, with Chris Ulffers of East Carolina University. In her spare time she plays with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and teaches at the University of Connecticut. Brooke was a member of the CG Band Woodwind Quintet for many years and is now a member of the Woodwind Trio.
1. Who is your favorite composer/author/artist?
BRAHMS! To me, Brahms sounds the way the best hug feels. The warmest, most needed hug. Maybe it’s a romantic hug? Plus I love the way he writes for the bassoon. When I play Brahms I feel a real union between my personal musical voice, the voice of the bassoon, and the thrust of the music he wrote. I’m a fan of Jane Austen, too, so I’ll throw in that the way I feel when I read her novels is the way I feel when I listen to and play Brahms. Sorry, wait- I can’t not mention Beethoven. GOAT! (I just learned that’s short for “Greatest Of All Time.”)
2. What is the most challenging thing about your instrument?
I’m constantly telling my students that the bassoon is not a naturally resonant instrument. It’s just not loud enough- especially in a modern wind ensemble! So, most of the effort I put into playing deals with making the bassoon really sing for me. We have to monitor our bodies for tension that could impede the sound. We have to make sure our reeds (which we make ourselves) are vibrating efficiently, and we have to make sure the clunky keywork is in working order and sealing properly! Also, it is super easy to play out of tune on a bassoon, unfortunately. That’s probably the most difficult thing about it.
3. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
Oh I had an amazing steak dinner in Chicago with some of my best friends in the CG Band when we were playing there a few years ago, but I can’t even remember the name of the place! I’m trying to eat less meat these days. Ambience and beloved company make the meal for me. I can’t be that picky about the food because I do not like to cook. I adore every meal prepared by someone who isn’t me! My fiancé Rob loves to cook and is really, really good at it. I love dining with friends and family. I love eating outside in the summer.
4. What do you appreciate most in a friend?
I can’t pick one quality, so I’ll pick one friend. I appreciate that she was fiercely loyal and protective of me during a tough time in my life, that she makes me laugh, I can tell her anything, and that our children love each other like siblings. The bonus is that she’s an incredibly talented clarinetist.
5. If you weren't a musician, what would you be?
I think if I knew that, I would go do it! I never wanted to be a musician because it was easy for me or because of any rewards beyond the music making in itself. I guess I just had to do this. If I couldn’t pay the bills perhaps I’d, I don’t know, be a babysitter, or a shopgirl? My latest retirement idea was to learn diesel mechanics so I can work on my old sailboat engine myself.
6. What is the latest tv show you watched or book you have read, and what made you choose it?
I’m reading “Normal People” by Sally Rooney, because I loved the tv miniseries- I guess a theme of mine is heartbreaking romance! I’m borrowing the book from my stepdaughter-to-be, Katie, who recommended it. I’m slowly making my way through Carrera’s “Inside the Yoga Sutras.” Ashtanga yoga has been my solace and therapy during the pandemic.
7. How many places have you lived? Do you have a favorite, and why?
My dad was a Colonel in the Marine Corps and we moved a lot. Southern California was my favorite, where I went to elementary school in Oceanside. My mom made us feel like we were on vacation year-round when we lived there. I loved going to San Diego, Hollywood, San Francisco, the beach, the mountains... the West Coast awes me. I spent a summer in Santa Barbara at Music Academy of the West and a summer in Petaluma for CG Chief Petty Officer Academy, both were absolute highlights of my geographical life. I was born in St. Louis, went to high school in Jacksonville, North Carolina, college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, grad school in Houston, and lived in Chicago for a year before I joined the band. Each of those places will always feel a bit like home to me.
8. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
I am a pretty good mom. I have two kids and if I can take even close to half of the credit for how great they are, that has to be my favorite thing about myself. I think our future is in good hands when I think about Amelia and Matthew.
9. What would you say is the best thing about being in the Coast Guard Band?
I have to say the best thing is the other members of the Band. Because there are only 55 musicians in the CG and all but one of us are stationed together for our entire careers, we get to know each other - thoroughly. I love and respect these incredibly talented and intelligent, humble and funny people so much! I’m proud of the music we make together. I’m proud of the friendships and care we have for our families and for each other’s families.
10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Top of my bucket list right now? - A retreat to the Swiss Alps with my yoga teachers for hiking and yoga practice and good food. Truly though, I love to travel and play Coast Guard Band concerts, I don’t even care where we go. I hope we are back on the road soon. I find the most meaning in my job as a musician when I’m in front of an audience that is there because of their patriotism and desire to support the Coast Guard. I’m proud of the way the Coast Guard takes care of Americans, and it is just super great to go on the road and “Represent.”
Musician 1st Class Joel Baroody is a native of Herndon, Virginia, where he began playing trumpet at age 10. Joel holds trumpet performance degrees from the University of South Carolina and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. His primary teachers were Phil Collins, Alan Siebert, James Ackley, and Ed Cooper. Joel was named Principal Trumpet of the Coast Guard Band in July 2017 and was appointed to the Coast Guard Brass Quintet in October of 2018.
You know, for most trumpet players you'll probably hear Mahler—and Mahler is certainly a favorite—but I've been on a Shostakovich kick for the last few years. You can hear the struggles of his life so clearly in his music, and it reaches me on a very visceral level, surpassed probably only by the triumphant moments that inevitably emerge. Plus, I really, really like fast notes, and he wrote a whole lot of those. Wynton Marsalis is a favorite living artist, and for something non-musical, I'll pick Bill Watterson (author of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip); I admire the scope of his imagination, and his work always reaches me whether sentimental, zany, poignant, intelligent, or just funny.
For the technical challenge, I'd say efficiency/endurance. Trumpet is a very physical instrument, and even when you're in great shape, trumpet players can't play all day. Part of my brain is constantly calibrating and adjusting how I'm playing, out of a worry that I won't have chops left for whatever's coming next. Obviously that's a mental challenge, too, because of course you can't play like that—nobody wants to hear a worried-sounding trumpet player! The principal role brings its own mental challenges as well, because especially in a military band the principal trumpet part gets a LOT of the solo material that composers write. But it always keeps me on my toes, which is good!
I proposed to my wife in Granada, Spain at the Alhambra, which is a famous Moorish fortress, now a museum/cultural site; after she said yes (woohoo!) we went to a restaurant at the top of a hill overlooking the Alhambra and the entire city. When we finished the walk up the hill, we stumbled upon a crowded plaza with a pickup flamenco group that was jamming away with two guitars and their voices...then we ate on the rooftop of the restaurant as the sun set with all that in the background—I mean, who even cares what we ate! But, bonus, the food was incredible and so was the wine.
Flexibility, empathy, humor, and adventure. I think I gravitate toward people that laugh hard, try hard, push me to be better, and help me to try new things.
Boring. I'd be boring. .....just kidding; I'd love to see if alternate-universe Joel could've made it to the majors as a baseball player. I also had a phase where I was thinking seriously about becoming an architect so I could design roller coasters.
I just went through Barry, which is a comedy/drama series created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg with Bill Hader playing a hitman who's on a job but gets roped into attending an acting class and finds that he wants to do that instead of murder. I picked it because I love Bill Hader and I was excited to see his dramatic acting chops, which are amazing. Probably don't watch it with your kids.
I suppose six, that I can really remember; Saudi Arabia and Arizona when I was really little, then grew up in Northern VA, then my two college towns and finally here to Connecticut. I have loved things about everywhere I've lived, but Cincinnati was special because of its arts community, food scene, and I met my wife there. Gotta say though, I find that Connecticut grows on me every year. I could do without the 8 months of winter though.
My wife gave me a good compliment recently; she said (I'm paraphrasing here) "I love that you're always just down to do stuff." I think it's okay to "not feel like it"—and I can couch potato with the best of them—but I can also reflect that being "down to do stuff" has led to almost universally positive experiences for me, whether it's going on a walk late at night, traveling somewhere out of my comfort zone, playing new music, cooking something new, or starting a business. I figure that's a pretty good quality that I'm thankful I have.
I've been places I probably never would've otherwise gotten to visit (Taiwan, Alaska, ...Pascagoula), done things I probably wouldn't have gotten to do (flown a plane, perform in some famous concert halls), and gotten to work with some amazing colleagues who are the best in the world at what they do. For the most part, no two days are really alike—I don't think everybody can say that, and it's very cool and I'm lucky.
Well, the COVID pandemic stymied our trip to Spain, and we're both still pretty salty about that—so that's stop number one. But...so many places! If things ever calm down in our lifetime I'd love to visit the Middle East, but most of all I'd settle for the pandemic to be over so we could go visit our families. And hey, then the Coast Guard Band could get back out there too. Hang in there everybody! Wear your masks!
MUC Kelly Hurrell joined the Coast Guard Band in 2004, after earning degrees from Florida State University and The University of Texas. She is the Band’s principal clarinetist, and a member of the Woodwind Trio. In her free time she also performs with the Seven Reed Quintet, compromised of members of the Coast Guard Band. Originally from West Palm Beach, FL, she now lives in Waterford, CT with her husband, Matthew, three kids, two dogs, and three cats.
What a complicated question for a musician! Since it says song, I’ll take it literally and choose music with words. The real answer is I can’t possibly narrow it down to even like 20, so I’ll just arbitrarily pick one I really like. Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl in the past couple of years has become my go-to doing dishes music when we as a family each get a turn asking Alexa to play something. It instantly transports me back to my childhood, and it’s almost like I can imagine the inside of an old Pizza Hut after a little league game. It just makes me smile, and the bonus is my kids don’t hate it.
Paraphrasing: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t change something that works for you just because you see others doing it a different way. What’s so interesting about wind instrument playing is how different everyone’s bodies are, and so much about our sound is largely due to these specific quirks in our own anatomy.
The best sound in the whole world is the sound of my kids’ laughter. They all are unique, and all have the ability to immediately make me smile.
I really cannot stand what I call “chaotic noise.” Loud sounds are fine- I am a musician after all- but many different sounds happening simultaneously and independent of each other really, really bother me. Like a tv on while there’s someone on the phone, and also a whining child within earshot. I’m always reminded of that scene in the Grinch where he laments “oh the noise, noise, noise, NOISE.”
The easy answers are baking, knitting, and exercise, but those are neither unique nor unknown to others. I guess I would say that I really enjoy people-watching. I’m fascinated by different personality characteristics, and how they interact with each other. It’s why I’m often very quiet and uncomfortable in large groups- I don’t know how to fit myself in. In small groups or one-on-one I’m much more extroverted.
My favorite family tradition is that we go cut our own Christmas tree at a local farm the day after Thanksgiving. My husband is really against Christmas music or movies before Thanksgiving, so we usually make a big day of it playing music and decorating.
All I really care about is that my family and friends know how much I love them. Of course in general it would be nice if people thought I was a kind person that generally made the world a more pleasant place.
I don’t like beer or wine, which is definitely abnormal.
I’m very thoughtful. I put a lot of time and effort into gift-giving, and generally really enjoy doing things for others, and making people feel good. My kids are probably ending up spoiled just because if I’m out and see something I know they would love I have a hard time not getting it for them. Funny enough, I have a far easier time saying no if they actually ask for stuff when they are with me.
Once I retire I’ll move someplace close to a kid, or two, or three. If I’m the luckiest, they will all move to Austin, TX and my husband and I will buy a charming craftsman house in Hyde Park where I’ll find some type of part time work outside of music entirely. There’s an excellent chance that once I retire from the Band I’ll never touch my clarinet again. It’s been a good ride, but I’m ready to do something else, too.
Jeff Spenner is the Assistant Director of the US Coast Guard Band. He commissioned as a Chief Warrant Officer in 2019 having previously served in the Army as a musician after completing a bachelors degree in trumpet performance (U. of Illinois), masters degree in orchestral conducting (Western Michigan U.), and working for several years as an arts administrator and freelance musician.
Argh, this is so hard to answer for all three. I usually take the cop-out answer for the first two and say that it's "whoever I'm studying / reading at the time." For composers, though, I think Gustav Mahler is one whose works I could never tire of listening to. His music goes through the whole range of human emotions, and his 2nd Symphony is my all-time favorite piece of music. Favorite author is even harder to nail down since, even though I'm a bibliophile, I'm pretty omnivorous in my reading without many "go to" authors. I've really been enjoying Neil Gaiman stories lately. For artist, though I love Van Gogh and have a larger than life print of Starry Night hanging in my house (seriously, it's larger than the real one at MoMA in NYC), I can lose myself in the works of M.C. Escher. It's at once fun, freeing, and stimulating letting my mind wander those endless staircases.
Currently, it's that to realize musical ideas I'm reliant upon colleagues. Conductors make no sound themselves, even our "practice" is the silent art of score study, and it's humbling to be in a role that requires people gathering together in a time that discourages just that. Otherwise, the most challenging thing is that you need to be an expert (or at least good at faking it!) in so many things - as a conductor you wear many hats as a coach, a performer, a manager, a historian, a theorist...and there is always something more to learn and discover! Coincidentally, this is also my favorite part of being a conductor. Semper in doctrina!
It's not the best in terms of quality of meal (that award goes to a wonderful dinner I shared with my wife at Russian Tea Time in Chicago), but the best meal I can remember was the first meal after Army Basic Training. I had been burning calories so much and so fast that I could not stay full. Every letter home I wrote complained about being hungry, so my parents took me to a Golden Corral buffet where I filled up for the first time in many weeks!
Respect. Not just of me, but of my time, space, feelings, needs, etc. I'm an introvert, so I love and appreciate my friends who understand what that means for our relationship.
Very sad. I can't ever remember a time where I didn't want to be a musician. Maybe an astrophysicist, veterinarian, or board game designer?
I'm currently reading an annotated edition of Alice in Wonderland. It and similar books (Phantom Tollbooth and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory to name but two others) fired and fueled my imagination as a child and instilled a deep love of thinking, puns and word play, thought experiments, and quirky eccentric references.
6 places: Essexville, MI; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Lexington, KY; Kalamazoo, MI; Ft. Leonard Wood, MO; Norwich, CT
My favorite is right here! For the first time in many years, I'm not a transient. My wife and I love the beautiful house we bought and are looking forward to setting roots in our community. It feels wonderful knowing we're going to be in the same place for many years. I'm so happy to be somewhere that has easy and close access to great culture and great seafood!
I'm an unabashed and unapologetic nerd. Music, books, Star Trek, board games, herb gardening, the science of cooking...when I get interested in something I do a deep dive into the rabbit hole and love to geek out about it.
Without a doubt, it's getting to work with world-class colleagues who amaze, inspire, and challenge me every day. As a conductor, it's a dream come true to be able to program any piece and know they can make it sound amazing. I feel like I'm driving a high end sports car on the podium or cooking with the finest tools and freshest ingredients!
- I would love to travel to Antarctica and hang out with some penguins. Someday, my wife and I dream of traveling to the Galapagos Islands (where there are also some penguins to hang out with).
Today on the U.S. Coast Guard’s birthday, it’s very fitting that trombonist and arranger MUC Sean Nelson joins us for Tuesday Talk. On our livestream concert tonight you will hear his new vocal arrangement “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” as well as his arrangements of “Happy Birthday” and the “Armed Forces Medley,” and you will hear his phenomenal trombone playing throughout, in the full band selections and the Dixieland Jazz Band.
1. Who is your favorite conductor you have performed under?
Matthew McInturf, the wind ensemble conductor at Sam Houston State University, where I got my bachelors degree. I learned so much about music from him and really grew as a trombonist.
2. When the Band is traveling and has some free time, what are you likely to be found doing?
Sometimes it’s something cool, like renting a Camero convertible and cruising the hills of San Francisco or eating tacos at some hip dive, but other times it’s something nerdy like learning about bugs at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans.
3. If you had $1000 to spend on something completely frivolous, what would you buy?
New microphone. I’ve been recording more at home, both for my own projects and for friends as well.
4. Is there a new hobby or project that you have begun because of being in quarantine?
I composed a piece for jazz orchestra, had my friends record and video themselves at home, compiled the video and mixed the audio (with a little help from my friends), and released a virtual big band video. In the process, we raised over $2000 for charity. And the recording came out so well that I released it on Spotify as my first single.
5. Do you have any family traditions that are especially meaningful?
Thanksgiving is always a meaningful day in our family. We make the day long drive out to visit extended family, and my kids always love playing with their cousins.
6. What do you find the most challenging thing about your instrument?
The trombone can be a humorous instrument (which was why I picked it as a kid), but I am always trying to sound graceful and smooth. The slide can be difficult to make sound refined, but it also opens up new avenues for emulating the human voice.
7. Do you have a favorite game or sport?
Hacky sack, played at various rest stops along 95 on the the bus ride down to DC, has a certain appeal to me. Stretch the legs, get the body moving, get some friends involved.
8. Besides something music related, name a potential Jeopardy category you would sweep.
I’ve watched enough Jeopardy to know that there would be no sweeping from me!
9. How many places have you lived? Do you have a favorite, and why?
I grew up in Dallas, and went to college in Huntsville TX and Denton TX, but I have fond memories of my first apartment in New London CT, which was this very cool row house on a cobblestone street where all the houses had been restored. I could walk to a coffee shop and a theater. And my landlord thought the sound of me practicing trombone was cool!
10. What is your favorite piece written for band and why?
I love the orchestral transcription of Symphonic Metamorphosis by Hindemith. It’s so exciting and still sounds so fresh and modern, all these years later.
This is a little bit long because my path to becoming a professional musician and member of the USCG is pretty convoluted! I grew up in Chiang Mai, Thailand and attended a school with a fantastic marching band program. I love to eat, and on the day of instrument sign-ups I took too long at lunch and was late getting in line. All the saxophones were taken, so I had to play clarinet instead.
I heard some recordings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and knew that I wanted to play classical music for my career. We didn’t have any professional clarinetists or teachers in Chiang Mai, so I didn’t have my first clarinet lesson until I came to the US.
My early musical training came from my band teachers and from my dad, who played a dozen instruments. My sister had emigrated to California, and I was visiting her in the summer after my freshman year at Payap University. One day, I went to visit a friend at California State University at Northridge, and I was wandering around their music department. In a life-changing moment of serendipity, the chair of the music department struck up a conversation and invited me to play for him using whatever student clarinet he found in a closet somewhere. Through this “audition,” he helped me gain admission to CalState Northridge. After 2 years, I transferred to the conservatory at Roosevelt University in Chicago because I was determined to study with players from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I received my undergraduate and master’s degrees from Roosevelt before joining the USCGB in 2005.
My daughter, wife, and I live in Stonington, and we have 2 amazing cats and 21 hungry koi fish. We love to ski together, travel around the world, and eat lots of delicious food.
I catch up on some rest and I seek out regional food specialties.
I would buy some expensive Japanese koi or some parts to customize my motorcycle.
I built a waterfall for my koi pond and am creating a wetland filtration system. Basically digging big holes and piling big rocks up.
We go to the Thai temple to honor the memories of departed relatives and celebrate holidays. We also host a huge family Thanksgiving feast every few years, and have a reunion with my wife’s family every year at Christmas.
There are some very high notes (altissimo range) that we don’t use often. They are not enjoyable to practice and can be very exposed and need to be in tune. Also I hate squeaking when there is a bubble inside the tone hole. It happens randomly and it’s a terrible sound.
Racquetball year round, and skiing in the winter. Skiing with my daughter the last few years has been especially exciting —she’s a natural!￼
Koi ponds. Thai cuisine.
Chiang Mai, San Diego, Northridge, Chicago, New London, Stonington.
Connecticut- I love the scenery, and I love having 4 seasons.
Holst: First Suite for Military Band in Eb Major. Op. 28 number 1.
Our Principal Tubist, MUC Adam Crowe has been in the Coast Guard Band for 21 years. Originally from Guin, Alabama, he now lives in Gales Ferry, Connecticut with his wife, Sabrina, and children, Lucas and Aubrey.
Who is your favorite conductor you have performed under?
The late Dr. Gerald Welker, conductor of the Wind Ensemble at the University of Alabama. He had a way of inspiring young musicians and pushing them to achieve levels of excellence that shouldn't have been possible. His standards were the same whether you were a freshman or a grad student, they always served the music. Sometimes in concerts he would stop conducting entirely and simply look at you - it was electrifying. He was a special musician.
When the Band is traveling and has some free time, what are you likely to be found doing?
I like to seek out local cuisine wherever we travel. Roadside boiled peanuts in South Carolina, whitefish in Michigan, brisket in Texas, chicken gizzards in Oklahoma - regional foods often tell a story about the people who live there, that is interesting to me and always worth seeking out.
If you had $1000 to spend on something completely frivolous, what would you buy?
My wife might tell you that I never spend frivolously (I compare prices in the grocery store), but if pushed there's a good chance I would grab a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 10 year or Highland Park 30 year old.
Is there a new hobby or project that you have begun because of being in quarantine?
Our family adopted a 5 month old rescue dog named Koda, a husky/lab mix who loves all the sticks and who keeps us toddler-level busy on a daily basis.
Do you have any family traditions that are especially meaningful?
We have a couple of Christmas traditions that are meaningful to us. We enjoy hanging the handmade ornaments from our children and reminiscing each holiday season. I always play the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble Christmas album (with my favorite tubist John Fletcher) as we gather around the tree at the crack of dawn.
What do you find the most challenging thing about your instrument?
The tuba plays a supporting role in a band or orchestra the vast majority of the time, providing a foundation or backbone for the ensemble. It takes a special type of person to live and breathe this emphasis on relatively simple ideas that have little room for error. Finding the zen of perfect time, intonation, and support of others, while still finding your own voice, is the most challenging thing about my instrument.
Do you have a favorite game or sport?
It's no secret that I love video games very much, starting with the lesser-known Atari 5200 in the '80s and continuing through today with the great storytelling that Bethesda and Obsidian are doing. My wife and I are also graduates of the University of Alabama, so college football is definitely at the top of our list!
Besides something music related, name a potential Jeopardy category you would sweep.
I know quite a bit of useless knowledge, so probably "Potpourri". My parents bought a set of encyclopedias when my brother and I were young and I would spend hours lying on the floor and reading through it. I was a regular nerd before I was a band nerd.
What is your favorite piece written for band and why?
David Maslanka's "A Child's Garden of Dreams" I think really expanded the concept of what a large scale band work could be. Multiple movements depict abstract scenes from Carl Jung's research into dreams, and a demanding, almost orchestral approach to scoring makes this piece stand apart from most band pieces. It's a really beautiful and powerful work that I hope I get to perform again.
Hi, I’m MUC Christopher Smith. I joined the USCG Band in 2005. I grew up in Danbury, CT with musician parents and 3 siblings. I knew from a very young age I wanted to play percussion, just like my father. I enjoy spending time with my kids, sailing, motorcycling, biking, and swimming. I also dabble with wood working, and of course, playing percussion.
1. What is something you miss about Danbury?
I miss Amigos Deli- amazing food!
2. What would you say is the best thing about being in the Coast Guard Band?
I get to make music every day with an amazing group of musicians and friends.
I’m not picky... all of them
4. If you had to choose one recording or artist to tell someone to listen to of a professional on your instrument that emulates your idea of the perfect sound, what would you choose?
The music I listened to growing up has a very strong influence in what I think is the “perfect sound,” starting off with my #1 influence, my father’s superb percussion playing. #2- My parents listened to mostly classical and jazz music. So I listened to quite a bit of Yo-Yo Ma and Gary Burton. As I got older I listened to quite a bit of the New York Philharmonic and their principal percussionist, Chris Lamb.
5. What is your greatest accomplishment at this point in your life?
My greatest accomplishments by far are my two daughters, Zoey and Charlotte
￼6. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher or other professional in our field?
There are no shortcuts in life or music, you work hard to get what you want.
7. What is something that seemingly everyone likes except you?
8. What is an movie or tv show from your childhood that you love/d?
9. What is something you have learned about the Coast Guard’s missions that you didn’t know before enlisting?
I didn’t know about the off shore drug enforcement... Awesome!
10. Describe your ultimate dream house.
Anywhere with my family and my instruments.
Aloha! I'm MU1 Bryce Nakaoka and I play horn in the Band as well as the Woodwind Quintet. I was born and raised in Pearl City, Hawaii and joined the Coast Guard Band in 2010 after graduating with a BM in Education from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I currently reside in Quaker Hill with my wife, our son, and Tomi the Corgi!
1. What is something you miss about your home state?
Family and friends. Those two typically lead to the other thing I miss most about Hawaii: food!
Travel! I've had some wonderful opportunities over the past 10 years to travel all over the country and Taiwan. I love finding interesting places to eat but if I see a decently rated Korean BBQ joint close to our hotel, you know where I'll be for dinner. I'm an early riser as well so I'm always searching for great breakfast joints.
Not the best meal I've every eaten, but I always look forward to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve dinners. My wife and I are both from Hawaii so most of our family is also there. We typically hop between 2 parties each night and get our fill of delicious food. There were years while we were still in college that I would go to 3 or 4 parties and had to be rolled around by the end of the night. Sadly, my body can't handle eating all that food anymore.
My concept of the ideal sound changes depending on the genre, composer, era, and ensemble so I don't really have a single recording or artist that would best answer this question. That said, I enjoy American Horn Quartet recordings for the very different voices that all four members bring to the group.
Funny Answer: I won the Coast Guard Band Sequestration Starcraft II Tournament.
Serious Answer: Our son just turned 1 so keeping him healthy, happy, and COVID-free is the real answer.
6. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher or other professional in our field?
I think the best advice I've been given by many teachers and musicians has been to record yourself. I'm guilty of not doing it enough, but other than having other people listen to you all the time it really is the best way to get instant feedback and really makes for effective deliberate practice.
Alcohol. Mostly because my body violently rejects it and partially because I'm not convinced that most alcohol is actually tasty.
8. What is a movie or tv show from your childhood that you love/d?
So many! From the early 90's I really enjoyed Dragon Ball Z, Animaniacs, X-Men, Spider Man, Reboot, Tranformers Beast Wars, and Batman The Animated Series which is the best version of the caped crusader. Mark Hamill will always be the best Joker. The original lineup of Cartoon Network's [adult swim] with shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Sealab 2021, and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law were amazing. The original lineup also included Cowboy Bebop which is still my favorite anime.
9. What is something you have learned about the Coast Guard’s missions that you
didn’t know before enlisting?
Everything. I only had vague knowledge that we had a Coast Guard when I auditioned. Since, I've learned what a versatile and multifaceted organization the Coast Guard has become over its history.
-Cleans and maintains itself
-Mainland (Continental United States for the mainlanders reading this) sized house and lot
-At a reasonable price
-Close to work
-In a good school district
-Relatively close to our families
-Cleans and maintains itself
Howdy! MUCS Kelly Watkins joined the US Coast Guard Band in February 2003 as the first (and still only) female trumpet player in the history of the band. Born and raised in Texas as the youngest of five children, she attended college in Louisiana and Illinois before making her home in Connecticut.
Most definitely the food! A native Texan, it’s pretty challenging to find quality BBQ and Mexican food up here in the Northeast...but that doesn’t stop me from trying!
Being afforded the opportunity to travel, see a broad swath of this beautiful country, and meet some pretty amazing people along the way.
Ooo, tough one! I consider myself a “foodie” and like just about any type of cuisine. But if I have to choose just one meal it would be from Honey Paw in Portland, ME. I’ve eaten there a few times and everything I’ve had has been divine!
Timofei Dokschitzer performing the Aleksandra Pakhmutova “Trumpet Concerto”. One of my absolute favorites!!
To have accepted myself for who I truly am and to live my life with authenticity and compassion for others.
To push yourself beyond what feels comfortable...take risks. The real music happens in the risks.
Any sort of Sci-fi or fantasy television. I’m too much of a realist!
From kindergarten through middle school my father either managed a movie theater and or owned movie stores so I had access to a lot of movies as a child. I love a lot of 80’s movies including “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club”, and “Goonies”.
I really didn’t know anything about the Coast Guard’s mission of Ice Operations. Growing up in the South I didn’t have much exposure to ice or freezing temperatures.
1940-1950’s era home with lots of character. Large covered front porch. Located in a beautiful wooded area near coastal Maine.
Hello, I’m percussionist and Musician First-Class David West. I’m originally from Buffalo, NY, so naturally, I’m a die-hard Bills and Sabres fan. I’ve been a proud member of the Coast Guard Band since October, 2007 and live in Salem with my wife and two children.
1. What is a talent or interest you have that is unique, or that not many people know about?
I’ve become a relatively competent DIYer; whether it’s landscaping, electrical, plumbing, framing, woodworking, auto-mechanics, etc. I recently built a little two-story barn. I like to say that I play for work and work for fun.
2. If you had it to do over again, and could pick a different instrument to play, what would you choose and why?
I’m pretty envious of good singers, so I wish I would’ve worked on that from a young age. Although if I chose singing over drumming, I most certainly would not be a professional musician today!
3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’m more interested in the “how” would I go. I’d like to sail to Key West, or ride a motorcycle to Alaska, things like that.
4. Where do you see yourself after leaving or retiring from the military?
Sailing to Key West or riding a bike to Alaska, with my wife of course while my kids are supporting us financially. Yup, I’ve got it all figured out.
5. What is the latest tv show you watched or book you have read, and what made you choose it?
I watched a Bob Dylan documentary, and it was just a random Netflix click.
6. What is your favorite piece of music you have ever performed?
Probably my first time being part of a Gustav Mahler symphony. I played timpani on his Symphony no. 1 and that had my adrenal-gland working hard.
7. Do you have any strange fears or phobias?
God hates a coward, but I’m not a fan of snakes.
8. Is there a particular "bucket list" item you'd like to tell us about?
I’m just looking forward to all the things/events being a dad brings.
9. What is your favorite quality about your instrument?
That it’s actually many instruments, present in just about every music genre, and deeply rooted throughout all human history.
10. What is your favorite thing about living in Southeast CT?
Flying my Bills flag in Patriots territory.
Chief Musician Leah Abbott grew up in South Florida and attended college in Miami and Boca Raton, FL; Baltimore, MD; and Cambridge, MA. She was a founding member of the acclaimed woodwind quintet Vento Chiaro before joining the Band in January 2003.
Nerd alert: I collect pens. I have a small collection of roller ball and fountain pens, some of which are family heirlooms. I write daily and it is a joy to feel the glide of a good pen over the page.
I love the clarinet and am very grateful that I get to play it daily as my vocation. But, if I could also have started the piano early in life, that would have made me a very happy young person. I have recently studied piano formally, but it's so difficult to learn something new as an adult!
Paris, France, is my absolute favorite city.
I hope to play the clarinet always. I also enjoy sharing my love for the instrument with the next generation of students. So, I hope to expand my clarinet studio to include teaching from home upon retirement.
I belong to a small book club in my neighborhood. I am leading the discussion this month on "Ask Again, Yes," by Mary Beth Keane. It's a wonderful, intimate portrait of how a tragedy affects two families living in and around New York City. Told serially, from the point of view of each of the main characters, Keane really captures the tone and mindset of people of all ages.
Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Sublime.
No. Just the usual ones.
I don't like adventure for the sake of doing something daring or risky. So, I don't have a bucket list per se, but I would *really* like to travel more.
The vocal quality of the clarinet and the absolute legato it can achieve is something I'm always striving to perfect. Maybe one of these days. . .
New London's access to Long Island Sound with its salty breezes is my favorite thing about southeastern Connecticut.
Today’s #tuesdaytalk is with Coast Guard Band bassoonist/contraforte...ist (?) MU1 Tyler Wilkins. Although he was hired to be in our bassoon section four and a half years ago, he plays over ten instruments in total, so don’t be surprised if you see him performing on something that isn’t in the bassoon family. Originally from Kentucky, he now lives in Norwich, CT with his wife of seven years, Laura, and their three children, Azariah, Justice, and Rosalyn.
1. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
I value my ability to communicate clearly using words, especially in writing.
2. What do you appreciate most in a friend?
The ability to have a deep, theoretical conversation without getting confused or offended.
3. What is your favorite word?
In sound: “Bootycane” (I should explain. This isn’t a real word, but it’s a word my dad made up when my sister and I were kids. He would say it whenever we were taking a picture and needed to smile. It has a 100% success rate.) In meaning: probably “redemption” or “propitiation”
4. What is your least favorite word?
In sound: “transmogrify.” Sometimes I wake up with this word repeating in my head and I get irritated. In advertising: ”premium“
5. What noise/sound do you love?
Once I found these gigantic, bass wind chimes and they sounded amazing. I also love the sound of the key of F# major. It’s my favorite key. To me it sounds cold, bright, delicate, and happy - like ice or snow.
6. What noise/sound do you hate?
I don’t like the sound of humans chewing very much. I don’t want to hear other people chewing, but I also don’t want them to hear me chewing.
7. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
When I was younger, I started out wanting to be a video game designer, which broadened out into computer programming. I have also always said that if I couldn’t make it in music, I’d want to learn to use heavy construction equipment and build buildings.
8. Who is your favorite composer/author/artist?
For music composition and art, my favorite time period is the impressionist period, so for composer I’ll say Claude Debussy, and for visual art I’ll say Claude Monet (I guess anybody named Claude will do). I do also really like Salvador Dali’s work. Author is harder. Probably Charles Spurgeon. I‘ve never read anything by him that wasn’t incredibly well-stated.
9. What is your favorite song?
I’ve always disliked this question because it’s too hard. A long time ago, I decided to say that my favorite band is Earth, Wind, and Fire, and that my favorite song by them was “September.” It may not actually be my true favorite, but that’s ok. I never mind hearing it, so maybe it qualifies.
10. When all is said and done, what do you want people to say about you?
That I reminded them of Jesus, and that I was primarily concerned with what he wanted.
Due to recent events, security has been heightened at all government installations, including the United States Coast Guard Academy. Please consider allowing a little more time to pass through Academy entrances due to security precautions. As a reminder, please be sure all adults have a valid ID card (driver's license, etc). Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Last September, MU1 Ryan Foley won a highly competitive audition against a field of more than forty flutists from across the country to earn the position of co-principal flute in the Coast Guard Band. Before enlisting in the Coast Guard in March of 2019, MU1 Foley received degrees in flute performance from Brigham Young University and The University of Texas at Austin. Coast Guard Band Newsletter The Beacon sat down with Ryan to catch up with him during his first few months on the job:
BEACON: Where are you from originally and what were you doing just prior to joining the Coast Guard Band?
MU1 Foley: I'm originally from Excelsior Springs, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Prior to joining the band I had just started an Advanced Musical Studies Certificate at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.
BEACON: What has been your initial impression of life in the Coast Guard Band?
RF: It has been such an exciting and amazing opportunity to be a part of the US Coast Guard Band. It's incredibly rewarding to come to work and make music with world-class musicians on a daily basis.
BEACON: What was your Coast Guard Band audition experience like?
RF: The Coast Guard Band audition was the most organized and comfortable audition that I have taken. Everything was well planned and efficient. It was one of the first auditions I've taken where I actually enjoyed the audition! Everyone's friendly and welcoming demeanor helped me to grow in confidence throughout the three rounds.
BEACON: What do you like to do when you’re not playing the flute?
RF: When I'm not playing the flute I love all things food related! I spend a lot of time baking, cooking, watching cooking shows, and trying out restaurants with my wife. I also love to watch and play soccer and spend time outdoors with our dog Mushu.