Getting ready to leave Spain

In the fall of 1997, while still living in Spain, I began to look for other work. Melissa wanted to work as well (as a clarinetist), so we thought Washington, DC, would be a good place for us to try to work in the same city. Washington is unique with so many military band jobs in the same area. We weren’t sure being in the military was for us, but we did like the possibilities of good benefits that were being offered with these positions.

Because we didn’t have a computer, I started going to an “internet cafe” in La Coruña to learn of any openings for these bands (technology background: cell phones  were becoming popular at this time in Spain, and I had one friend in the orchestra, who had a computer). An opening for Solo Cornet in the U.S. Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”) caught my eye, so I sent in a recording to get to the semi-final round. It was accepted, so I had to go to a Military Entrance Processing Station to get a physical. The closest one to me was in a military base in Germany, so they flew me to Germany. While there, I had some down time, so I decided to go for a walk in the nearby forest. I walked out of the base as a civilian (with no identity card in my pocket) and enjoyed a long walk–seeing at one point a herd of small deer. But when I came back to the base, I was denied entry, because I had no ID. The military police escorted me to my room to verify that I was who I was. They flew me back to Spain. And later, the U.S. Army paid for me to fly Lufthansa business class from Spain to Washington, DC (via Germany).

The audition was fine, and I did well. But no one won the audition. I came to realize only later, that a Solo Cornet opening was unusual for a military band–and not realistic. If a candidate were really great enough to convince a band to hire them as Solo Cornet, then that candidate would probably be good enough to win a principal opening in a major symphony orchestra. Much more likely is a candidate rising through the section over many years. Nevertheless, the great thing about that audition was that it was totally paid for by the Army.

Later, I applied for the U.S. Navy Band. They accepted my application, but the audition was during a week where I had to play with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia. So, I asked them if I could audition a week earlier. This was highly unusual, but they agreed. When I was there, there was not screen for my audition, since I was the only one there. I looked out at the members of the Navy Band listening to me play, and they wore khakis, white shirts and ties (with or without a black coat) and some wore dungarees. I wondered how they could be a “uniformed service” and wear so many different kinds of uniforms! The audition went really well for me, but I had to wait the results of the regularly-scheduled audition a week later. Unlike the Army, the Navy did not offer to pay for my travel expenses.

Fortunately, I found out that I had been offered the job. This was a major life-changing event. We began to make plans to leave Spain, going through all of the details of packing, getting tickets and saying goodbye to the wonderful people at the OSG and our many friends we had made in Spain. We were returning to our country after nearly four years, but we would always remember fondly our “world’s longest honeymoon.”

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