NEWPORT, R.I. - The Navy Band Northeast is locally famous for their concerts on the Fourth of July and performances during other summer festivities. But a community outreach program that has taken the 39 command members to dozens of cities and towns across the northeast has made them famous among a different audience: students.
After performing for students in kindergarten to college-bound high school students, the Navy Band Northeast has earned the Navy’s Personal Excellence Partnership Flagship Award for their performance efforts in regional schools.
Since June 2010, the Navy Band Northeast has brought music to 22,000 elementary, middle and high school students all over the northeast through the program.
“Outreach is an important goal of ours and I realized there’s so much we can do,” said Navy Band Northeast Director Lt. Scott Mythen.
The band has held about 80 performances in the last year alone, and dedicated 320 hours to the project. Performances are held according to formal agreements between band officials and school district administration.
A typical show includes a couple hours of planning before a combination of concerts or music instruction clinics.
“The musicians in the band get so much energy out of interacting with the kids,” said Mythen. “We love to just bring music to these students.”
During a performance in Providence, RI, Veazie Elementary School Principal Susan Chin surprised her students when she conducted the final selection: The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Other school performances have been held throughout Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and New York, and have generated interest among students of all ages.
The shows for elementary school students are designed to trigger interest and enthusiasm for music, while the secondary school programs have a dual-purpose mission of generating enthusiasm and building musicianship in students.
“Every one of the musicians [in the band] knows how critical it is to have good music instruction,” Mythen said. “They are products of public music programs and many of them were music majors in college.”
The band members’ passion for music is one of many driving forces behind the wildly successful program. In addition to sharing the goodwill of the Navy, the program is offering students and music programs a critical outlet for curricular development.
In current times, school districts nationwide are trimming budgets for the fine arts which is taking music away from the reach of most public schools.
The band has held several performances in the Providence, RI, an area in which many districts have had music programs cut for some time and the Navy Band Northeast’s performances provided a refreshing look at music.
“Music education is dear to my heart and it pains me to see all the cutbacks in the arts,” Mythen said.
The outreach effort has been well-received. Thank you notes from students and teachers are saved by band members, in addition to scrapbooks from elementary students, which are often done in crayon.
After a performance at her elementary school, Susan Chin, a former member of the Army National Guard Band, thanked Navy Band Northeast for performing and emphasized the impact it had on students. “For many students it was their first time seeing or hearing musical instruments live,” she said.
The Navy Band Northeast also hosts a popular music program, in which band members perform songs from artists like Lady Gaga or Cee Lo Green.
Afterward, the band usually hosts an instructional session with music students to help them improve their performance. Music education will continue to be a significant target area for community outreach for the band members.