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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 100 – The Band When

- 100 – The Band When I was invited to speak at today’s ceremony I was asked to talk about my experiences in the Navy Band; and I am glad to have this opportunity to tell you about the band that I have the privilege to lead and to tell also about its role in communicating Navy’s story at home and abroad. I hope that my story is one that also informs you that your art can take you in many directions; paths that you may not currently envision. For me, being a member of the Royal Australian Navy Band is doubly pleasurable; because I have been given the rare opportunity to lead ‘one of Australia’s premier military ensembles’, and to live my life’s passion within an organization that encourages music and also has a proud record of service to the nation. For more than 108 years now, Navy musicians, both individually and collectively, have been communicating their art ashore and afloat. Despite the long and sustained period of service, I suspect that not many of you here today know what is that the Navy band does. Let me tell you about the band and its record of service. Prior to and immediately after Federation, music was provided in the various state Navies by bands formed within the structure of each group. One of the very early naval bands was the Band of the Victorian Naval Brigade. This band deployed to China as part of the Australian naval contingent that assisted in quelling the Boxer uprising. These musicians were the first Australian naval musicians to see active service; and that record of active service continued throughout World War I, World War II, the Korean War, in Vietnam and more recently in the Rehabilitation of Iraq and in Afghanistan for the War on Terrorism. In World War I, when Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Australia led a taskforce that was deployed to find the German Pacific Fleet, the embarked musicians performed as first aid orderlies. During WWII, musicians served with distinction in Her Majesty’s Australian Ships in all theatres of war. To supplement their musical duties, they worked as gun crews, shell bearers in magazines, in transmitting stations, as first aid parties and as lookouts through day and night watches. Fatalities occurred; and given the fact that cruisers were prime enemy targets, musicians were among those unfortunate sailors who lost their lives in HMA Ships Perth, Australia, Penguin, Canberra and Sydney. Musicians also saw action aboard the carrier HMAS Sydney III in Korean waters in 1953, and the Fleet Band performed two concert tours of Vietnam during the early 1970's. Currently, the Royal Australian Navy Band has positions for 106 full-time musicians and 118 part-time musicians structured within two components. The Permanent Component has two full-time detachments and the Reserve Component comprises five part-time detachments. Each of these detachments is positioned around the nation; so the band has a substantial ability to reach many people and to communicate the story of the Royal Australian Navy. Indeed, the Royal Australian Navy Band is one of the few platforms in which Navy can communicate its message to the people of Australia; but its musicians also add significant value to overseas deployments undertaken by major fleet units. Through ship borne deployments, the band provides personnel who are cross-trained in a range of mariner and non-musician specific skills. This enables its musicians to make a very meaningful contribution to the capability of the ships that they join as well as adding value to the Fleet’s engagement profile whilst ashore. Of the 106 current serving permanent musicians the band has 45 members entitled to wear the Australian Active Service Medal; 12 of whom also wear the Iraq campaign medal. Importantly, a high percentage of its people have served at sea and the band continues to provide a very impressive output for Navy at home and abroad. In Australia each year, the band delivers Navy’s message, by communicating through its music, to hundreds of thousands of Australians. Tasks range from supporting local community groups and ex-Service associations to supporting ceremonial, public relations and social activities for the wider naval family. The band is always present at Welcome Home and Departure Ceremonies for ships deploying to and returning from operational areas. It is interesting to note that in 1900, on the eve of Federation, the bluejacket New South Wales Naval Brigade Band farewelled Australia’s Naval Expedition to the Boxer uprising. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 101 – Today’s Navy Band continues that tradition established by the bluejacket band; however, instead of playing ‘Sons of the Sea’ and ‘God Save the Queen’, as was the case in 1900, today’s musicians perform the popular tunes ‘I Am Australian’, ‘My Country’, Australia’s national song, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and our National Anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair’. The band, and its musicians, communicates a strong level of national pride to all who attend those ceremonies. The Royal Australian Navy Band has performed on the shores of Gallipoli and in the bunkers of Vietnam, throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, at the Royal Tournament in England, in Disneyland, at the Popes summer palace (Castel Gandolfo), in the "Big Egg" Stadium in Japan, and in many other countries throughout the world. These performances, throughout Australia and the four corners of the world have created the proud traditions upheld by Navy’s current generation of musicians, and have established the Royal Australian Navy Band as ‘one of Australia’s premier military ensembles’. About Me My journey with the band commenced 32 years ago. I took up music at 17, a relatively late age, and after completing my fifth grade AMEB assessment on Clarinet I attended the audition for entry as a musician and was accepted. Nowadays, the audition standard is, I am pleased to say, very, very, much higher; and I can also state that the applicants with AMEB qualifications are consistently well-prepared. Since enlistment I have been fortunate to travel to many parts of Australia and throughout the world. As a junior member of the Navy Band and specialist clarinet soloist I performed in Malaysia, the Philippines, and New Zealand and embarked in the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. I had the opportunity to develop my core skills and enjoy my role as a soloist before discovering arranging, composition, and conducting. As one of the senior managers I’ve had to move away from the core skills and develop other competencies in music administration, and music leadership. As the leader of the Navy Band I have deployed four times to Iraq and other countries within the Middle East Area of Operations: Something that I never envisioned 32 years ago was flying throughout Iraq in Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters and travelling in armoured personnel conveys in the company of 17 other Navy musicians; all whom were carrying loaded weapons. We did this, not only to provide brief musical diversions for our deployed forces and to boost their morale; but also to communicate the gratitude of a grateful nation. In more recent times, I had the good fortune to lead a 70-piece Australian contingent to Brunei to celebrate the Sultan of Brunei’s 60th Birthday and a 35-piece Navy Band contingent to Tonga for the King’s Coronation. The Royal Australian Navy Band was the platform in which the Australian Government communicated its goodwill to our close regional neighbours. Music has taken me to many parts of the world and filled my heart with much pleasure, and I commend all of today’s graduates to follow their passion and their gift to wherever life’s journey takes them; and to enjoy the ride. You have the gift to speak a universal language and to communicate, through your art, your individual story and perhaps also the collective story of the organisation for which you may one day be employed. Closing Remarks The Royal Australian Navy Band is fortified by its heritage, and along with other disciplines within the music industry, whether that be in music administration, education or performance, has its roots firmly embedded in the history of human existence. Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle Plato, is credited with saying, ‘Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything’. Each of the graduates here today has already shown that they have ‘what it takes’ to succeed—determination, perseverance, and a high level of demonstrated skill; and I hope that each of you realise your dreams, hopes and aspirations. Good luck, and thank you. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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