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Today is R-Day, the day when the class of 2017 is dropped off by their families to start their West Point experience. I had the chance to talk with hundreds of family members this morning. Most knew nothing about the West Point Band. All of the parents with whom I spoke (with the exception of the old grads) were quite surprised to find out that there are no cadets in the West Point Band, and there is no way for a cadet to become a member of the band. One woman was quit shocked to hear that I had been at West Point for 11 years, thinking that it had taken me 11 years to graduate from the United States Military Academy.
Each of the approximately 80 instrumental positions in the West Point Band is auditioned. Most band members enlist in the Army specifically to serve in the West Point Band. When a vacancy arises, it is advertised on the band’s website, to other military bands, in trade journals, and to universities and colleges nationwide. Applicants send an audition packet that includes a CD and a resume. A committee of West Point Band personnel reviews the packets. Selected candidates are invited to West Point for an in-person audition at Army expense. If the winner of the audition is a civilian, he signs a contract to serve specifically in the West Point Band and heads to Basic Training. (A different process is in place if one joins the West Point Band from within the military.)
A college degree is not required to join the band, but at the time of this writing, 93% of band members hold college degrees, mostly in music. Many renowned institutions are represented in the degrees band members hold: Curtis Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, University of North Texas, among others. Below is the breakdown of college degrees:
- 48 hold master’s degrees
- 35 hold bachelor’s degrees
- 5 have begun or completed course work on doctoral degrees
- 1 holds a doctoral degree
- 1 holds an associate’s degree
So, the West Point Band is a unique bunch of musicians. We have a page on our website that answers all sorts of questions most people have about the band. Check it out here.