Q&A Spotlight: Military Bands Inspire & Salute Veterans
In honor of Veterans Day, we’re recognizing the inspiring contributions of our nation’s military bands. We visited with Specialist Christopher Short, a French horn player with the 257th Army Band, District of Columbia – Army National Guard. The 257th is recognized as “The Band of the Nation’s Capital.”
YPP: What attracted you to music and the military?
Short: I’ve always had interest in the military, based in part on family history. My father served in the Navy in Vietnam and my grandfather in the Army Air Corps during WWII. I also have a brother in the National Guard. In college I earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in French horn performance. I considered an active duty military band but chose teaching instead. I’m currently an elementary music teacher in Manassas, Virginia. Six years ago I learned about the 257th and thought it would be a great way to fulfill my military interest while still teaching; I enlisted in 2010. Along with the Guard and teaching music, I play my horn as much as possible, including in the Manassas Symphony Orchestra.
YPP: What’s a typical routine for the 257th?
Short: We drill one weekend a month, typically 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. Days start with physical training – we must maintain the same fitness standards as any soldier, including sit-ups, pushups and running. There’s also some general soldier training. The rest of the weekend is a variety of rehearsals, including large group and smaller ensembles. We’ll practice marching if we have an upcoming marching performance. It’s definitely a heavy weekend of playing. When I started with the 257th, we met Monday nights, a weekly rehearsal schedule like most civilian groups have. But now it’s one weekend per month – we drill along with the rest of the Guard.
In the summer we have two weeks of active duty, which may include concerts, ceremonies and events around the D.C. area. I’ve had a lot of unique performance opportunities with the 257th. For example, our band leads the military contingent in the national 4th of July parade down Constitution Avenue. Crowds jam both sides of the street – it’s a lot of fun. We’ve also traveled to Jamaica, where the D.C. Guard has a partnership with their military.
YPP: How does your military service support our nation?
Short: We do two main types of concerts. Some concerts are mainly for the public. We consider our annual holiday concert a gift to our neighbors; it’s grown into one of our more popular events. I believe audiences come away feeling happier and more patriotic. We also play for a variety of military events and ceremonies, including retirements. I often hear people say, “The band is here, it must be big event.” When we play at a military retirement, it makes that person feel special and supported. Live music at an event instantly makes it feel more special.
YPP: How do you suggest we thank our veterans?
Short: When I go anywhere in uniform, people thank me for my service. That’s nice, but actions speak louder than words. As a nation, we need to ensure our veterans get the care they deserve. Individually, supporting your local veterans groups is a good thing. When we play at veterans homes, they are really appreciative and eager to share their own military stories. We really enjoy those concerts.
YPP: What does patriotism mean to you?
Short: I think patriotism and citizenship are closely tied. I try to be a good citizen and lead a good life – treating others like I want to be treated. If I meet someone from another country, their impression of me may be the impression they have of America. I want them to walk away thinking Americans are good people.