Coast Guard Band News

Tuesday Talk with MUC Brooke Allen

       

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.”

 

Tuesday Talk with MU1 Joel Baroody

               

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.

1. Who is your favorite composer/author/artist?

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.

2. What is the most challenging thing about your instrument?

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!

3. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

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.

4. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

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.

5. If you weren't a musician, what would you be?

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.

6. What is the latest tv show you watched or book you have read, and what made you choose it?

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.

7. How many places have you lived? Do you have a favorite, and why?

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.

8. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

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.

9. What would you say is the best thing about being in the Coast Guard Band?

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.

10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

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!

Tuesday Talk with MUC Kelly Hurrell

                    

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.

1. What is your favorite song?

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.

2. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher or other professional in our field?

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.

3. What sound/noise do you love?

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.

4. What sound/noise do you hate?

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.”

5. What is a talent or interest you have that is unique, or that not many people know about?

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.

6. Do you have any family traditions that are especially meaningful?

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.

7. When all is said and done, what do you want people to say about you?

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.

8. What is something that seemingly everyone likes except you?

I don’t like beer or wine, which is definitely abnormal.

9. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

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.

10. Where do you see yourself after leaving or retiring from the military?

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.

 

Tuesday Talk with CWO Jeff Spenner

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.

              

1. Who is your favorite composer/author/artist?

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.

2. What is the most challenging thing about your instrument?

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!

3. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

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!

4. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

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.

5. If you weren't a musician, what would you be?

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?

6. What is the latest tv show you watched or book you have read, and what made you choose it?

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.

7. How many places have you lived? Do you have a favorite, and why?

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!

8. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

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.

9. What would you say is the best thing about being in the Coast Guard Band?

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!

10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

- 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).

 

Tuesday Talk with MUC Sean Nelson

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.

 

Tuesday Talk with MU1 Charlie Suriyakham

     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.

              

1. Who is your favorite conductor you have performed under?

Daniel Barenboim

2. When the Band is traveling and has some free time, what are you likely to be found doing?

I catch up on some rest and I seek out regional food specialties.

3. If you had $1000 to spend on something completely frivolous, what would you buy?

I would buy some expensive Japanese koi or some parts to customize my motorcycle.

4. Is there a new hobby or project that you have begun because of being in quarantine?

I built a waterfall for my koi pond and am creating a wetland filtration system. Basically digging big holes and piling big rocks up.

5. Do you have any family traditions that are especially meaningful?

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.

6. What do you find the most challenging thing about your instrument?

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.

7. Do you have a favorite game or sport?

Racquetball year round, and skiing in the winter. Skiing with my daughter the last few years has been especially exciting —she’s a natural!

8. Besides something music related, name a potential Jeopardy category you would sweep.

Koi ponds. Thai cuisine.

9. How many places have you lived? Do you have a favorite, and why?

Chiang Mai, San Diego, Northridge, Chicago, New London, Stonington.

Connecticut- I love the scenery, and I love having 4 seasons.

10. What is your favorite piece written for band and why?

Holst: First Suite for Military Band in Eb Major. Op. 28 number 1.

Tuesday Talk with MUC Adam Crowe

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.

Tuesday Talk with MUC Christopher Smith

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.

3. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

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?

Chocolate

8. What is an movie or tv show from your childhood that you love/d?

MacGyver

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.

 

Tuesday Talk with MU1 Bryce Nakaoka

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!

2. What would you say is the best thing about being in the Coast Guard Band?

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.

3. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

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.

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?

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.

5. What is your greatest accomplishment at this point in your life?

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.

7. What is something that seemingly everyone likes except you?

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.

10. Describe your ultimate dream house.

-Cleans and maintains itself
-In Hawaii
-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

Tuesday Talk with MUCS Kelly Watkins

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.

                   

1. What is something you miss about your home state?

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!

2. What would you say is the best thing about being in the Coast Guard Band?

Being afforded the opportunity to travel, see a broad swath of this beautiful country, and meet some pretty amazing people along the way.

3. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

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!

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?

Timofei Dokschitzer performing the Aleksandra Pakhmutova “Trumpet Concerto”. One of my absolute favorites!!

5. What is your greatest accomplishment at this point in your life?

To have accepted myself for who I truly am and to live my life with authenticity and compassion for others.

6. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher or other professional in our field?

To push yourself beyond what feels comfortable...take risks. The real music happens in the risks.

7. What is something that seemingly everyone likes except you?

Any sort of Sci-fi or fantasy television. I’m too much of a realist!

8. What is an movie or tv show from your childhood that you love/d?

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”.

9. What is something you have learned about the Coast Guard’s missions that you
didn’t know before enlisting?

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.

10. Describe your ultimate dream house.

1940-1950’s era home with lots of character. Large covered front porch. Located in a beautiful wooded area near coastal Maine.

Tuesday Talk with MU1 David West

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.

Tuesday Talk with MUC Leah Abbott

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.

              

1. What is a talent or interest you have that is unique, or that not many people know about?

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.

2. If you had it to do over again, and could pick a different instrument to play, what would you choose and why?

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!

3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Paris, France, is my absolute favorite city.

4. Where do you see yourself after leaving or retiring from the military?

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.

5. What is the latest tv show you watched or book you have read, and what made you choose it?

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.

6. What is your favorite piece of music you have ever performed?

Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Sublime.

7. Do you have any strange fears or phobias?

No. Just the usual ones.

8. Is there a particular "bucket list" item you'd like to tell us about?

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.

9. What is your favorite quality about your instrument?

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. . .

10. What is your favorite thing about living in Southeast CT?

New London's access to Long Island Sound with its salty breezes is my favorite thing about southeastern Connecticut.

Tuesday Talk with MU1 Tyler Wilkins

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.

 

 

 

Tuesday Talk with MU1 Wes Mayhew

Introducing a new weekly segment to get to know our members on a more personal level: #tuesdaytalk. This first interview is with the Band’s bass trombonist, MU1 Wes Mayhew. Wes has been in the Coast Guard Band twelve years this coming August. Originally from Kentucky, he now lives in Gales Ferry, CT with his wife Nicole, and two sons Aaron and Corey.
 

1. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Witty banter. I like to make folks laugh. Finding humor in any situation or conversation is important. I find it helps folks relax and connect to the situation. I like to lighten the mood when possible.
 
2. What do you appreciate most in a friend?
There are two things I appreciate, reliability and humor. I feel true friends are there mentally and/or physically when you need them. A good friend can always make you laugh no matter how long it has been since last seeing one another.
 
3. What is your favorite word?
My favorite word is “cumbersome.” I always think of “cucumbers” when I say it. It also sounds like a question within itself, especially if you grew up in southern Kentucky as I did. “Hey there, you cumber-some?”
 
4. What is your least favorite word?
My least favorite word is “grotesque.” The word sounds fancy to me. However, the meaning and context of the word is anything but. I guess it is a fancy and respectful way of saying something is extremely ugly or gross. Confusing word!!
 
5. What sound/noise do you love?
Unexpected flatulence is not a sound I particularly love, but can bring tears of joy to my eyes when heard during an intensely quiet moment.
 
6. What sound/noise do you hate?
A noise I hate is the sound of metal scraping on metal. It actually makes my teeth hurt.
 
7. If you weren't a musician, what would you be?
If not a musician, I would probably be some type of handyman, repairman, or builder. I love working with my hands. I love repairing things that are broken. I love the feeling of slowly building something and then being able to enjoy it once the job is complete.
 
8. Who is your favorite composer/author/artist?
My favorite composer is Tchaikovsky. My first orchestral experience as young musician was playing his 5th Symphony. I fell in love with the sweeping melodies, dramatic flare, and romantic style. My favorite author is Dan Brown. I love how he twists and entangles spiritual, mystical, technological, and archeological elements together in his stories. My favorite artist is Picasso. I love the abstract nature of his paintings. His use of contrasting colors and shapes is visually striking to me.
 
9. What is your favorite song?
My favorite song is Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I remember watching the video premiere of it when I was a little kid. The video scared and fascinated me all in the same moment. I remember being confused as to why Michael Jackson was a zombie. I was too young to understand special effects, makeup, and costumes.
 
10. When all is said and done, what do you want people to say about you?
When all is said and done, I would like to be remembered as a good friend, loving father and spouse, and lastly as a talented trombonist and musician, who hopefully has inspired young musicians along the way.


 

Now Presenting Our Virtual Concert Hall

Due to recent events regarding Coronavirus concerns, your United States Coast Guard Band will not be performing for live audiences until further notice. In the meantime, we are excited to present our Virtual Concert Hall! Please enjoy these performances via our YouTube channel (United States Coast Guard Band) or our Facebook page. We hope to "see" you there!
 

The Coast Guard Band continues to represent the United States Coast Guard to the American public, and looks forward to continuing that tradition through our Virtual Concert Hall during this time of maintaining responsible public health standards.

Security Notice

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.

Getting to Know New Coast Guard Band Flutist MU1 Ryan Foley

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.