The trombone is an interesting instrument. No, wait! Don’t click away! Seriously, we’re building to a point about the military.
Basically, playing music on the trombone requires two manipulations to produce different notes and patterns.
First, changing the position of the slide. The musician moves their arm closer or further from their body, lengthening or shortening the instrument and producing a different pitch.
Almost more important for producing the proper sounds, though, is how the musician changes the tightness of his or her lips.
Trombone players are actually buzzing into the instrument, not just blowing, and can change the note by tightening or loosening their lips while buzzing (so to speak…).
Neither method is a particularly quick way to change notes when compared to the quick fingerwork of a flute, trumpet, or violin.
That’s what made it so surprising to watch Army band member Sgt. 1st Class Carmen Russo absolutely slay “The Flight of the Bumblebee” three times in a row, each time faster than the last (and played on successively smaller trombones).
“The Flight of the Bumblebee” is a fast-paced, technically challenging song when played at normal speeds on an instrument like the trumpet or flute, making the staff sergeant’s success at high speeds on the trombone all the more impressive.
There are no GIFs or screengrabs that can properly demonstrate what is going on here, so you’ll just have to watch the video. You can jump ahead to 4:10 if you only want to watch the fastest rendition.
Other than the National Anthem, there really isn’t another song out there that evokes the pride of country like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when the iconic singer teamed up with the United States Air Force band to perform it during COVID-19, it’s no surprise the rendition is truly breathtaking.
Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)
Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic
While Greenwood never served, he has long supported the troops and military community. In a 2000 interview with Military.com, Greenwood was asked why he thought the song has such a powerful message for the military. He responded:
“I knew we had a song that touched the heart of the public. I knew that it was a song that gave proper salute to the military and its job. I knew that it honored those that had died, and I knew it made people stand up. I actually wrote those words: “I’d proudly stand up and defend her still today,” [meaning] even though pride had been gone in the past, it’s back and we should stand up at any time and defend this free country. So those who are away from home, it has much more impact on. I am a world traveler as well, and have been with the USO for 15 of the world USO tours with my celebrity cast. It does mean much more. You’re in another country where you’re subject to attack, and you long for the protection of the United States and all the things you find familiar about it.”
Here’s to you, Mr. Greenwood. Thanks for continuing to serve all of us.
Look, it is easy, and deeply enjoyable, to give Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis boatloads of crap for the shenanigans and mannerisms (shenannerisms?) he regularly deploys in the line of duty. It’s easy because he’s a good sport. It’s enjoyable because, well:
But credit where credit is due, it is no easy thing to drop in on a recording studio unprepared, be played a brand new beat, compose a non-wack verse and then get into the booth and spit your best whiteboy flow in front of a hot producer and a rapper at the top of his game.
TMR served 10 years in the Middle East as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, ala Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Though he started rapping young, he found he had to put his passion on ice during active duty — no time to think, let alone rhyme.
When he finally left the service, the transition was rough.
“It was a reality shock. I didn’t know where to go. You’re like, ‘I have all this time on my hands,’ and you get to thinking… ‘I was such a super hero in the military, but now I’m just a regular civilian. Nobody cares about me. I’m nothing now. Why should I even live?'”
Finding himself in a dark headspace familiar to many vets exiting the military, TMR did a hard thing: he asked for help.
With the assistance of the VA, he was able to reorient, finding an outlet in his long-dormant passion for rap. He now lives in Hollywood, CA, cutting tracks and shooting music videos to support his budding career as a musician.
And, no joke, in a single day of working together, TMR, producer Louden and the Artist Formerly Known as Ryan Curtis may just have succeeded in dropping the U.S. military’s first ever chart-topping hip hop track:
It’s a lock for New Oscar Mike Theme Song at the very least.
Watch as Curtis looks for lyrics in a Magic 8 Ball and TMR proves there’s no room in his game for shame, in the video embedded at the top.
Here’s a short list of things we already knew about Kaj Larsen:
1. He’s a former U.S. Navy SEAL
2. He’s an Emmy-nominated producer and war correspondent for VICE and he has a masters from Harvard University.
3. He’s a total hottie a founder of The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact.
But you might not know that he has rather eclectic taste in music and even learned to play while deployed.
“We’d sit around as a platoon. A couple of us played guitar, and we’d play and sing and that was extraordinarily significant for me on that first deployment. It helped carry us through.”
In a conversation with We Are The Mighty, Larsen shares the songs that meant something to him at different moments during his military career — whether it was the shotgun rack in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” hitting home before a mission, or the patriotism of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” during a controversial time in American history.
Larsen easily carries the gravitas of a combat-experienced SEAL, but he isn’t concerned about being vulnerable. He can laugh about being afraid of his jump training and how R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” helped get him out the door.
That’s the thing about music — in many ways, it becomes the soundtrack to our lives , and Larsen’s has been a rather inspiring one.
Check out what he had to say about music and his SEAL career in this video:
The military is getting into the music video business more and more lately. The Air Force caught a little flak for the video they put together, “American Airman,” featuring one of its bands, Max Impact — mostly because it looks like it cost more than the entire Marine Corps. They even went on to make more music videos.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has been in the game all along with its band, called “Pershing’s Own,” and its many iterations — the most notable of which is a bluegrass cover band, dubbed ” “Six-String Soldiers.”
When Igor Stravinsky was born, it was the Russian Empire who had a “special relationship” with the United States, not Great Britain. By the time he emigrated to Switzerland, the Russian Empire was the Soviet Union and Stravinsky was a global nomad. The talented composer had a knack for arranging and re-arranging the national anthems of his adoptive countries. Russia, Switzerland, and France all had Stravinsky versions of their national anthems.
It was while living in the United States in 1941 that Stravinsky decided to make a contribution toward “fostering and preserving the spirit of patriotism” in America. He re-arranged the national anthem of the United States, most notably to make it easier to sing.
Stravinsky moved to the U.S. in 1939 at the outset of World War II. The U.S. didn’t adopt the Star-Spangled Banner as its official national anthem until 1931, just in time to give Stravinsky a new home and a new anthem to arrange. During both World Wars, orchestras were encouraged to play the song and audiences were encouraged to sing along. There could be stiff penalties for noncompliance — especially for foreigners.
But Stravinsky didn’t need to be pushed to play the anthem. He was more concerned about the structure of the anthem.
He opened his first show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1940 with the traditional, well-known version. This version was arranged by Walter Damrosch, a New York musician and composer. The problem with that version is in its harmonization, according to the Marine Corps Band at the time. But concerns about harmony were pushed aside and Damrosch’s version became the norm across the country.
But not for Stravinsky. He heard a number of re-harmonizations of the tune in his time and decided to arrange his own. He even wrote to President Roosevelt about his intentions in editing the music.
Searching about for a vehicle through which I might best express my gratitude at the prospect of becoming an American Citizen, I chose to harmonize and orchestrate as a national chorale your beautiful sacred anthem the Star-Spangled Banner. It is a desire to do my bit in these grievous times toward fostering and preserving the spirit of patriotism in this country that inspires me to tender this my humble work to you as President of this Great Republic and to the American People. Believe me.
Faithfully yours, Igor Stravinsky
Playing his arrangement in the Boston Symphony Hall at the height of World War II in 1944 was another story.
Legend has it the Boston Police Department wasn’t thrilled with the changes to the national anthem and that the composer was breaking a Massachusetts law by “tampering with national property” and that he was to be arrested. Though the arrest never happened, the police did cite a state law about how the anthem should be played. The police misapplied the law, however. The law was made against using the Star-Spangled Banner “as dance music, as an exit march, or as a part of a medley of any kind.”
Instead of being fined or arrested, he simply removed the song from his set list.
Stravinsky would play his rearrangement for years after World War II ended, right up until his death in 1971. At his last show at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966, he closed with his version of the anthem, his own exit march. No one fined him.
He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.
Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.
We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.
“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”
He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.
Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:
Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”
A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.
He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.
We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.
“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”
We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.
No one seems to know who wrote the lyrics to the hymn, but they have shifted slightly over time to reflect the evolution of the Corps. In 1942, the final changes were made to reflect the addition of aviation to the Marine Corps mission. The first verse’s fourth line, “On the land as on the sea” became “In the air, on land, and sea.”
3. It specifically mentions battles from the 1800s
The opening line “From the Halls of Montezuma” refers to the capture of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.
4. The American flag was first flown in an overseas victory at Tripoli
“To the Shores of Tripoli” pays homage to the First Barbary War, when U.S Marines helped capture the Tripolitan city of Derna in modern day Libya in 1805. It was the first time Old Glory was raised in victory on foreign soil.
5. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Marines
The lyrics aptly reflect the spirit of the Corps, mentioning the “fight for right and freedom,” the importance of honor, and even a bit of branch rivalry: “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”
UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Home Bru is a North Carolina based band comprised of husband-and-wife Matt Brunoehler (guitar/banjo/vocals) and Chelsea Brunoehler (bass/vocalist), and whenever possible, drummer/vocalist Zac Bowers and pianist Wryan Webb.
Matt and Chelsea started singing together in the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club in 2003, and they have started bands everywhere they’ve been stationed ever since (even when they were separated!). In February 2016, they started Home Bru in North Carolina, and the band has been featured at various local events since. They primarily concentrate on covers of favorite Rock, Country, Pop, and Blues tunes, but they’ve recently been adding originals to their repertoire.
“Music tells our story,” says Chelsea. “Forming a band in each city we’ve lived has introduced us to our closest friends—our military family. We are fortunate to share music as a couple. It keeps us connected, even when separated by military obligations.”
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
U.S. Coast Guardsman Bobby “Blackhat” Walters is the epitome of “cool cat.”
He’s a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s also the winner of the 2017 Mission: Music competition that found incredible musicians from the military community, sent them to Nashville for a professional video shoot at the iconic Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios, then introduced them America, who voted for which artist would take the stage at Base*FEST Powered by USAA.
Walters’ blues and contagious laughter carried him all over the country and right up to that stage, along with headliners Thompson Square and DNCE.
“You know, when you’re going up onto that stage, and the first thing you worry about is ‘please don’t let me trip,'” he laughed. “But then I gathered everyone around me together and I said, ‘Okay guys, rule number one: have fun.'”
For many veterans, who put their creative careers on hold when they join the military, building an artistic life can be challenging. Opportunities like Mission: Music give talented service members a helpful boost as a way of thanking them for that service. Nationwide coverage and the chance to play at an event with major headliners can be a game-changer.
Walters called the experience one of the highlights of his musical career.
“They say you get the rockstar treatment, well, we got the ‘blues star’ treatment!”
Follow Walters’ journey from the U.S. Coast Guard to the blues, to competing in Mission: Music and receiving that victory call, all the way to the stage at Naval Air Station Pensacola and his meeting with Thompson Square in the video below:
(Bobby Blackhat slays at Base*FEST Powered by USAA)
The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.
Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.
The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.
How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.
The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.
The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.
The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.
In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.
The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.
And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.
It’s always going to be a tricky situation when the Russian Army and NATO allied armed forces are in the same fight. In the 1999 Kosovo War, such a situation could have sparked the all-out NATO-versus-Russia war the world had been hoping to avoid for 50-some years at that point. Good thing Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt was there to stop all the madness from taking hold over everyone’s better judgement.
No time for Stalin when you’re racing the Russians.
To be fair, he wasn’t yet Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt quite yet. In 1999, he was still James Hillier Blount, a Royal Military Academy-trained British Army officer, and he was leading a reconnaissance troop ahead of the coming NATO peacekeeping operation in Kosovo to the airport at Pristina.
He led his armored troop all the way to capital city of Kosovo, only to find Russian troops already already captured the airport.
No one told General Strangelove the Russians weren’t the enemy.
For Russia, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was a stark reminder of how far they had fallen since the end of the Soviet Union. The Balkans were firmly in Russia’s sphere of influence but there was little the Russians could do about the NATO meddling in their backyard — except maybe join them a little.
The Russians sent a small, token unit of peacekeepers to Kosovo and the first thing they did was a capture the airport. When Gen. Wesley Clark, then NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, found out the Russians had beaten NATO to the punch, you might think his response would be mild, considering they essentially had the same mission and the Russians were no longer the Soviet Union.
He gave an order to retake the airport by force.
General Michael Jackson politely implored General Clark to beat it.
Think, for a moment, what would happen if a NATO armored column completely annihilated a 250-man Russian peacekeeping contingent with 30 armored vehicles over an airport in Kosovo. British General Mike Jackson, the commander of NATO’s Kosovo Force, knew exactly what would happen.
Instead, the British General flew in to Pristina and shared a flask of whiskey with the Russian general of the small force, even though Clark was also on his way into Pristina. Meanwhile, Russian airbases and paratroopers were getting ready for any escalation that might come next. Thousands of Russian troops were on standby to kick off World War III.
Jackson and Clark met at the NATO headquarters in the capital of neighboring Macedonia. He reminded the Supreme Allied Commander that the Russians helped broker the peace deal that ended the war and would be assisting the peacekeeping afterward.
The British, instead of murdering potential allies, simply used the armor to isolate the airfield but didn’t even block the runway. Blunt, the commanding officer of an armored troop, with a parachute regiment and some SAS in reserve, instead called for instructions and held the position while the generals decided what to do — and what not to do. After a few days without water or food, the Russians offered to share responsibility for the airport.
But even if Jackson wanted to carry out Clark’s orders, Blunt — from a military family with more than a thousand years of service — would rather have taken a court martial than carry them out, starting a world war.
In the end, no one carried out Clark’s orders to recapture the airfield from the Russians by force. In fact, Clark left his posting as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander a little earlier than expected after the incident. Blunt served two more years in the British Army and recorded his first album just a few months later.