Last month, the band performed for a Hiring our Heroes job fair at the Lexington Ave. Armory in NYC. The event was designed to connect veterans and their spouses with companies looking to hire, helping to combat the high unemployment rate among veterans. It was a great gig, and parts of our performance were broadcast nationally on NBC’s Today. I wanted to take our readers through what a gig like this truly entails for the Soldier performing.
Most band members began their day sometime between 2 and 2:30 a.m. for the 3:30 a.m. bus departure to the armory. Being in the Army, we are used to early mornings, but 2 a.m. is pretty early, even by Army standards. There was an uneventful bus ride to NYC and we were at the armory by 5:00 a.m., while most of NYC was still asleep. It was eerie to see the streets of lower Manhattan totally deserted. Once arriving at the armory, there was a fair bit of down time. We always leave ourselves plenty of extra time in case there is traffic or any other difficulty in arriving at our gig. We changed into uniform and readied ourselves to perform a sound check and our first spot for NBC at around 6 a.m.
We performed a portion of a couple of different marches, while standing in the middle of the Lexington Ave. Armory. Camera operators walked around and through our formation while we played. At times, we performed with the camera inches from our faces or instruments. Having a camera that close to you makes you glad you took the extra time to have your uniform in order. After a few brief moments, we were done. Anytime we perform for a national TV audience, it’s a great gig. This particular performance was a bit unique in that we made it on national TV before 6 a.m.
After our TV spot, we had time to kill, but no real knowledge of how much time to kill. We were given an area in the basement of the armory to wait, and even some coffee. Not knowing when you have to perform next makes for a challenging situation, especially when the next note you play could be heard by millions of people. Our Drum Major, Sgt. Major Jones was doing his best to find out from the NBC producers when we would next be on the air so that we all had enough time to form up upstairs for our next spot.
So, like many things in the Army, gigs like this are a very high stakes game of “hurry up and wait.” That is a phrase often heard in the Army … we have to be at X location in 15 minutes, so let’s double time it, only to find out that the people meeting you at said location won’t be there for three hours.
That much waiting around also makes for a challenging chop situation. With no real knowledge of when you will play next, it’s tough to keep your chops totally warm all the time. This is again a challenge, because to sound and feel your best, your face must be totally warm. Another challenge of waiting so long is keeping your uniform looking good. Sitting down for long periods of time while wearing a highly pressed uniform do nothing to make it look better. However, when we form up to perform, everything must look immaculate.
All in all, the event was a tremendous success. The band performed for thousands of veterans attending the job fair, performed at the official ceremony during the job fair, attended by Medal of Honor winner Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, and played to a national TV audience. Hiring our Heroes is doing good and important work, and I was impressed with the diversity of companies looking to hire veterans.