All your Trophy Point questions answered!
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Take heart Summer fun-seekers, a concert at West Point’s legendary Trophy Point Amphitheater just might be the perfect summer evening. This annual tradition on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy combines festive friends and family, Hudson River vistas, glimmering stars overhead, and rich American history with heart-stopping music performed under the stars by world-class musicians.
And while words cannot do this spirit-raising experience justice, here are just a few reasons West Point Summer Concerts will rock your world.
Music isn’t the only thing in the air at Trophy Point. From the moment you arrive, you’ll sense a patriotic energy that lifts your spirits. With high-flying flags, military heroes, and time-honored cheers, you’ll experience American pride on full display.
West Point’s world-renowned band boasts multiple generations of talented musicians, many of whom hold graduate degrees from top music institutions. If the band can captivate at ceremonies, parades, sporting events and celebrations, just imagine how they sound on their own home turf.
Unlike your typical music event, West Point concerts give you plenty of room to spread out, feast on a picnic, and relax with your favorite people. Trophy Point’s natural hillside amphitheater gives fans across the grounds spectacular views and impeccable sound quality. So whether you’re watching the band front and center or dancing on the hilltop with your kiddos, Trophy Point is on point.
West Point summer concerts are completely FREE of charge. Where else can you enjoy an out-of-this-world performance and dazzling fireworks show without spending a dime? Make a summer tradition out of it. And bring visitors. It’s a pretty safe bet this is one experience they can’t get at home.
Little known fact: The West Point band members are born Rock Stars. And they don’t take that responsibility lightly. So when you come to a West Point Band Music Under the Stars concert, expect great music, but don’t expect to stay in your seat. Because whether inviting kids onstage to play along, letting you choose the evening’s featured soloist, or leading audience sing-alongs, the band constantly finds surprising ways to engage you, the audience.
Think of the West Point campus as a living history museum. It’s where George Washington stationed his headquarters during the American Revolution, calling these very banks of the Hudson River “the key to the continent.” The West Point Band has been performing here since 1817. Since then, they’ve appeared at numerous historic events across the nation.
No filter? No problem. Trophy Point is the ultimate picturesque backdrop for a night of unforgettable music, easily transforming any smartphone photo into a masterpiece. Colorful sunsets echo melodies on the Hudson horizon. Heroic fireworks gleam with pride in the stars above. Rest assured, any memory you capture alongside the nation’s finest uniformed musicians will capture souls.
West Point concerts offer summer fun for the whole wolfpack. Your little ones will love the excitement of Trophy Point. Firework shows, dancing on stage, and plenty of opportunities to bask in the joy of music with the band themselves. Plus, there’s not a whiff of bad influence in the air. So parents can kick back, munch on picnic goodies, and enjoy wonderful performances worry-free. Win-win.
West Point concerts defy expectations. Sure, the band performs classical works, and they do it flawlessly. But these musicians are also masters of country and rock! Think rugged guitar jams, folksy banjo tunes, the whole enchilada. The setting is more relaxed than you would assume too. West Point feels like any college campus. Youthful, vibrant, and full of life. Ideal for a summer music celebration.
Where else can you see top-notch music at a beautiful venue with your loved ones for FREE? Where else can you celebrate America on the very grounds our forefathers fought for? Where else can you see live cannon fire? Cannons!? Only one place: West Point.
In December of 1860, the Dialectic Society gave an “entertainment” entitled “Toodles.” This forerunner of the 100th Night Show included two farces, a few dances, poetry and dramatic readings. During these years, before movies and television, amateur theater and musicales were often the only entertainment available to officers and families at West Point and these shows became a welcome part of life at West Point.
The first “100th Night Show” was a collection of skits presented by the First Class in 1871. The “Nineteenth Century Brevities” was performed in the Mess Hall, and resembled an English recitation more than anything else. By the late 1800’s the show moved to Grant Hall and was earning write ups in the New York Times. People began traveling all the way from the city to see the festivities. By 1902 the show found itself a proper stage in Cullum Hall, still used today for Cadet Hops with the Benny Havens Band. The next year the first full-length musical comedy, “The Caprices of Cupid” was staged by the Class of 1903 and ever since the “100th Night Show” has been a musical comedy. During the 1940’s and 50’s Academy Award winning lyricists like Sammy Cahn would take time off from writing lyrics for Frank Sinatra to work with Cadets crafting the next big 100th Night hit.
The story is not complete without mentioning the West Point Band’s “100th Night Show Orchestra” under the baton of SGM Scott Arcangel this year. The orchestra has always been built from members of the West Point Band and resembles a standard Broadway pit orchestra. For this years show SFC Mike Reifenberg has worked closely with Cadets for months, composing a full book of completely original music that covers everything from Broadway show tunes to Green Day-death-metal-rock.
This is the story of the 100th Night Show. You probably won’t hear many of the songs played again after the show, but we guarantee that you will be whistling at least a couple of them in the weeks to come.
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As a member of the West Point Band, my job can pull me in a lot of different directions depending on what we’re doing. One day I might be playing the fight song for an Army football game, the next I’m sitting down for a concert in Avery Fisher Hall. And then there are press releases I write for our performances, trombone sectionals I occasionally run for a local high school, or a two-mile run I might do before work.
Amid the many aspects of this job, it’s important to take a step back and remember what a privilege it is to wear the uniform. It’s important to honor those who made it possible for me to serve. There’s no better opportunity for me to do this than the West Point Band’s annual Veteran’s Day concert.
I always look forward to this performance. And it’s not just the impressive multimedia, or that I enjoy the historical elements of it. (Though those things certainly help.) I love this concert because it’s an honor recognizing those who have served. My contribution to this noble cause is through the music I make with my trombone. Whether it’s our stirring, upbeat renditions of marches or a bugler performing Taps, it’s always an emotional concert. I try and remember the veterans every performance, particularly when we play the Armed Forces Medley. But their importance resonates a little more on this concert.
No concert will ever be enough to say thank you to our veterans, but we’ll give it our best shot. I promise it will be a great production with world-class music and terrific entertainment. Please join us and help us celebrate the service of our veterans!
Free tickets for are required for the performance. They can be downloaded at http://www.westpointband.com.
Words by Staff Sgt. Phil Stehly, Image by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner
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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:
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.
Late May is a special time at West Point. For the Firstie cadets, known as seniors at most other colleges, it is graduation time. Many faculty members also leave the post to other assignments within the Army. For the band, it is a very, very busy time. As of today, there are 56 commitments for the unit in the 7 days that make up graduation week. Those events include rehearsals, marching drills, receptions, concerts, and graduation itself. Events start as early as 5:15 a.m. and go on well into the night on some days. This week is absolutely where the West Point Band puts all of its diverse talents on display.
Over the next few weeks, we will bring you several stories of what graduation week is like from the band member’s perspective. Stay tuned for good stories from inside the West Point Band.
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we will present two very different views of what it is like to be a woman in the West Point Band. The first comes from one of the band’s audio engineers, Staff Sgt. Brandie Lane.
One of the best things about being a woman in the audio industry is never waiting in a line for the bathroom at conventions. Bathroom humor aside, I am very lucky. I work in a field for which I have absolute love and passion. What many people consider a hobby, I consider a career. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the most talented people in the music business, been recognized as a Grammy winning engineer, and been trusted to inspire and educate future members of this industry. These opportunities are vastly different from the stereotypical memories that many women audio engineers (including myself) have. These memories include weird looks when seen behind a mixing board or setting up a speaker…usually followed by the statements: “isn’t that too heavy for you?” and “you don’t see that very often” as if describing a teacup poodle running with a pack of wolves. Instead of taking these moments as insults, I took them as fuel. This fuel was used to work harder and be the ultimate professional. The goal was not to prove anyone wrong, but to gain respect and to be hired again.
The main responsibilities of an audio engineer include dealing with the technical aspects of the recording and/or sound reinforcement process: setting up gear, turning knobs, knowing the software, and artistically enhancing the recording or reinforcement as necessary. These responsibilities are gender neutral…meaning, there are not gender specific awards for recording or engineering, I don’t sign as “Brandie Lane, Female Audio Engineer”, and there are no music reviews referencing the “feminine recording quality” of an album or concert.
However, being a minority in a professional field comes with many unwritten guidelines. There’s not a real chance of blending in and most actions are automatically under an imaginary microscope. There’s a spotlight that seems to magically cut on when asked a simple question and the example is set in the answer. For instance, people usually don’t want to hear from the 8th place finisher in a NASCAR race. However, when that driver is the only one with long brown hair and makeup, it’s a big deal. Throw in some digicam and combat boots to this equation…you might as well have a red-headed black sheep.
After the perplexed looks have faded, I always enjoy answering questions about my job as audio engineer in the United States Military Academy Band, being an active duty solider, not a cadet, who sets up speakers, and stands behind a mixing board, and works in a recording studio, in the Army, and went to basic training, and went to college for music engineering technology at the University of Miami, and yes…really went to basic training, and wears a uniform, and no…it’s not too heavy. It gives me a chance to show the public my passion for everything audio and to set a positive example for future audio engineers, minority or majority.
So, I’ll keep walking into that empty bathroom at the audio convention every year…and out of instinct, I’ll slowly open the swinging door so I don’t have a repeat offense of slamming some poor woman in the face who’s strategically wedged herself between the door hinge and hand dryer. Then, I’ll tune my senses to the nearest opening stall door, ready to play a game of musical chairs with the former tenant, the person behind me ready to pull a secret ninja move to the stall if I look down at my shoe, and the person who I thought was next, but they’re “just waiting for someone”. However, these instincts won’t be necessary. It will be an odd, yet reflective, moment as a woman in the audio industry as I realize there’s no one around me …just many porcelain options.
Words by Staff Sgt. Brandie Lane
Work and Play: Achieving balance as a member of the West Point Band
If there is one burning question on the lips of people who attend a West Point Band event, it has to be, “What is it really like to work in the West Point Band?” They may not ask this question directly, but I can tell this is exactly what they are wondering. People are curious about us. They watch us on stage performing in military band regalia with rank on our sleeves, and it’s natural for them to wonder about the person behind the uniform, both on and off the job. So in that spirit I thought I would recount some activities of a recent week. It isn’t everything, but it’s a slice of life that hopefully paints a portrait of a job in the West Point Band.
Tue, Dec 11 My day began as it usually does at 8:30am with warming-up at home. I have a series of technical exercises I run through, and then I improvise for a while. Afterward, in my Army Combat Uniform, I headed to the band building to rehearse for an annual show called “A West Point Holiday.” It’s a large-scale production with many moving parts. Think Radio City Music Hall— musicians, singers, actors, lighting technicians, audio engineers, stage crew, the whole ball of wax. This was our first opportunity to play through every number in the show in order, the beginning of a journey.
Wed, Dec 12 After a morning warm-up at 7am, I arrived at the band building for a promotion ceremony at 8:15. Three of my colleagues were getting promoted that morning. After the promotions, the Jazz Knights had a rehearsal at 9:30 for the cadets’ annual Corps Holiday Dinner, and then I headed home for lunch. At 1:30 I made my way to West Point’s performance venue, Eisenhower Hall Theater, for the second run-through of the WPH show. I arrived to an elaborate theatrical set that featured the band on multi-tiered scaffolds in front of a giant video screen. Wow. I hadn’t seen a set of this scale before in previous holiday shows.
We ran through the show twice, back-to-back, with initial lighting cues, audio, props, costumes, and acting. This was a “tech” rehearsal with stops and starts, but we were able to get a taste of what the show would look like. After the rehearsal, I went home to spend some time with the family. Then it was off to play a private party in a jazz trio I perform with. Provided outside gigs do not conflict with official duties, we can take them. This gig was a holiday gathering for a local bar association (lawyers, not saloons). We played jazz standards and jazzy versions of holiday songs. A local judge sat in with the band and played trumpet. He was pretty good, actually, and the room went wild for him (I think they were required to). When I got home, my wife and I talked about a book club she hosted that evening. They had a lively discussion with the book’s author who Skyped in from Chicago. How cool is that? Apparently it was a great success even though my wife had to make several trips up the stairs to deal with kids getting out of bed. I felt bad for her. It’s no fun to miss your own book club. Next time hopefully I can be home to help with the kids so my wife can have her evening.
Thu, Dec 13 I met with our commander to review an ad I created to be broadcast regionally on selected cable channels for an upcoming concert. Creating the ad is part of two “extra duty” positions, additional responsibilities I take on within the band. Most band members hold extra duties because the band is completely self-sustaining. These positions also give us an opportunity to cultivate new skills. For me, that means working in Publicity, developing media for promotional campaigns and events, really an extension of what I had already been doing as a civilian. It’s also a good example of how my schoolwork has a direct impact on my professional work, because it was in a music technology course where I learned to use video editing software. In that sense, the Army is getting a lot of bang for its buck through the GI Bill.
Next, I met with the Academic Initiative team. The AI is comprised of West Point Band musicians who work with West Point’s academic instructors in developing music lectures to help teach cadets the principles of their courses like English, Philosophy, or History. It’s my other extra duty position. I have a background teaching college, and the Academic Initiative, like Publicity, has been a good fit. Again, courses I’ve taken in my doctoral work have influenced my work in the band with the lectures I’ve developed. This particular AI meeting was a sort of year-end wrap up to catch everyone up on what happened over the past semester and discuss new ideas for the coming semester.
At 4:30 I drove to Cullum Hall for a sound check with the Benny Havens Band, a pop music sub-group of the Jazz Knights. After setting up my “pop music gear,” I walked across the street to the mess hall to perform a set of big band holiday favorites on my “jazz music gear” with the Jazz Knights for the Corps Holiday Dinner. It’s quite the event. All three of West Point’s generals and all 4000 cadets are there in the sprawling mess hall, visually akin to The Great Hall from the Harry Potter series, with its gothic architecture, battlements, and massive tapestries.
The dinner allows cadets to blow off some steam in a sort of last hurrah before finals. There was an abundance of food and excitement as the cadets were swing dancing away in their grey dress uniforms. A couple of the generals even got up and cut a rug. The dinner closed with the traditional singing of The Twelve Days of Christmas— 4000 giddy cadets bellowing “five golden rings.” Oh. My. Gosh. After the dinner it was back to Cullum Hall for a “hop,” West Point parlance for a dance. The Benny Havens Band rocked a couple sets of holiday songs interspersed with Journey, Katy Perry, et al. The cadets held a contest for ugliest holiday sweater. I don’t know in the end if a winner was declared, but there were several contenders. It was almost midnight by the time we finished.
Fri, Dec 14 We were supposed to be running the WPH show two final times starting at 9:30am, but we added a third run-through to work out any last kinks and put on the finishing touches. Our marathon rehearsals spanned the entire workday followed by the commander’s holiday leave safety brief. It was 5pm when it was all said done. I headed back home, taught a guitar lesson, ate dinner and hung out with the family, and then it was off to another jazz trio gig with the same group from Wednesday, this time at a local restaurant playing standards. It was about 11:30pm when I got home from the gig. I was beat.
Sat, Dec 15 After some religious events in the morning with my family, I grabbed lunch and at 2pm went to Ike Hall for the first of the two holiday shows that would start at 3pm. The theater was packed, and there was the buzz of holiday magic in the air.
Cameramen from Cablevision were sprinkled among us to film the show for broadcast. The show came off well, and we got a standing ovation. Even Santa (our supply sergeant incognito) made an appearance. After the show, I spent some time at home with my wife and children and my parents, who were visiting for the day. Then just after we put the kids to bed, the phone rang. It was my section leader. He informed me that a funeral request had come in for a local veteran who passed away. Two other band members and I would represent the Army at the funeral on Monday. Tucking that in the back of my head, my final task of the evening was to take my online statistics course final exam. I can’t say I was excited to take a math exam on a Saturday night, but I got an A! Woohoo!
Sun, Dec 15 After on-post church in the morning, it was off to the second and final West Point Holiday show starting at 3pm. The audience was definitely larger than on Saturday, easily 3000 people.
Overall, I have to say that this year’s show was unparalleled for musical variety. I really had to draw on my knowledge of many different musical styles to pull it off. I used three different guitars and amplifiers to achieve all the sounds necessary for the show. I was up on the scaffolding within the band, but I also jumped down and took center stage several times as a “featured” performer. I really had to keep my head in the game. And that’s just my little piece of the pie. Sometimes during the show I would look around at the awesome coordination of the show’s creative and technical people. The arrangements (written by band members) were extremely polished, and the performances were outstanding. It can be easy to take for granted how truly capable the people are who I work with on a daily basis. The real beneficiaries of this overflowing talent, however, was the community, who were treated to a world-class show, free of charge. Now that’s tax dollars at work.
Mon, Dec 16 Today was the day of the military funeral. It was a grey day, chilly and drizzling. I arrived at the band building in the morning to rehearse with MSG Teddy Arnold, bass trombonist in the Jazz Knights. This wasn’t a musical rehearsal. It was a rehearsal for the ceremonial duties we would perform, which included raising the United States flag from the casket, folding it, and presenting it to the next of kin. This would be part of the final resting place of a deceased soldier and a final farewell for his loved ones, and it was important that we give him a dignified ceremony. So we practiced folding the flag many times into the characteristic triangle, making sure it looked sharp. We also repeatedly ran through our military movements to ensure we knew where to stand and when to move.
We got in a motor pool van at 11:45am with MSG Butch Barnard, the funeral’s bugler. Thirty minutes later, we were at the cemetery. We found our positions at the burial site, wearing our blue Army Service Uniforms. About 30 family members were gathering next to the casket, a mass of black against the rain-soaked green of the grass. Some were visibly upset. The deceased’s wife was the next of kin. She stood looking at the casket plaintively while a young woman who I assume was her daughter clutched her arm. They seemed tired. I’m sure they had been through a lot. A man from the family came up and photographed us. “It’s an honor,” he said. A minute later the funeral director gave the signal, and MSG Barnard performed a flawless version of Taps. As the final note faded into the distance, there was a hushed stillness. A light wind rustled the air. MSG Arnold and I moved to the casket and raised the flag. I had the responsibility to do most of the folding. I could feel the collective gaze of the family on me as I methodically proceeded through each fold. I was acutely aware of my role and, truthfully, a little nervous. I wanted to do a good job. My heart was pounding. When I completed the folding, I gave the flag one final smoothing and handed it to MSG Arnold. Then I saluted and did an about face away from the burial site. MSG Arnold presented the flag to the deceased’s wife and expressed gratitude for her husband’s honorable service. A few minutes later we were in the van back to West Point.
I had just shared a profound experience with this family. I wanted to comfort them, mourn with them, learn about the man for whom I had just rendered final honors. But I could connect with them only as a stranger there to perform a solemn duty and depart silently. I remembered what the man who photographed us said, and all I could think was that the honor was all mine.
Back at West Point, I changed out of my uniform and into my “civvies.” Whew. I could exhale. As I reflected on the week’s events, it felt like that first rehearsal on Tuesday was ages ago. So much had happened. I should point out that not every week is like this one. With the holidays, our performance schedule can be particularly active. And with school, private gigs, and family commitments all coming to a head at once, life can get hectic. I remember waking up on Monday, December 10 and taking a metaphorical deep breath as I steeled myself for the coming week. At least I knew what the schedule would be, and I could plan accordingly. But even then, a few unscheduled things popped up, and I had to adjust, physically and psychologically. That happens sometimes, and as they say in the Army, you “adapt and overcome.”
One of the challenges for me is to balance a demanding job with my family. It is just by the skin of our teeth sometimes that my wife and I make it to scout meetings or ballet classes. We “divide and conquer”— I slip in on my lunch break to attend one child’s school event while my wife pulls another child out of school for a doctor’s appointment. This could be difficult if we didn’t live on post where everything is so close. So really, it’s a trade-off. It seems like life is a series of these trade-offs. I wish I could be there for everything, but I can’t. When I can, I imagine it as a thread in what I hope will be a beautiful tapestry of memories someday for my children. I try to savor each moment, because life has a habit of passing us by. I’m sure one day I’ll look back and wonder where the time went. I feel like I do that already.
Sometimes the scales are grossly imbalanced. Work pops up unexpectedly, and it can be my family that has to adapt and overcome. My wife is the one who often does it all, working longer and harder than I ever do to keep things running at home. She sacrificed a very successful career as an attorney and followed me into the Army to be a “homemaker.” With a crazy week like this one, when I’m gone way more than I’m home, I ask her, “Do you ever feel like a single mom?” She could complain but she doesn’t. She allows me to do my job well. I truly couldn’t do it without her. It’s the families behind the service members who are the real heroes. That might sound like a cliché, but when you live it, you realize how true it is. It is no wonder that at a military retirement ceremony they publicly acknowledge the spouse’s sacrifice with a service-to-the-nation award right alongside the retiree’s own service award. Both awards are equally earned. At the same time, it’s good to put things in perspective. While our personal crises are not to be devalued, they can seem insignificant when compared with the magnitude of suffering we hear about every night on the news. So, things could always be worse, and we recognize that. We truly count our blessings.
Thus is the arc of life. In one way, life in the West Point Band is like anyone else’s life. We grapple with the same joys, frustrations, hopes, and dreams that people anywhere have. In another way, a job in the West Point Band is like no other. The breadth of what we do feels enormous, and it can change rapidly and suddenly. The irony is that our work is to play. But play is really a misnomer, because if the past week proves anything, it’s that it takes a lot of work to do what we do flawlessly, a testament to how much goes on behind the scenes to make our job look as seamless and smooth as it does. You prepare thoroughly because you want to get it right and make it meaningful for your audience, whether that’s 4000 people at a holiday musical extravaganza or 30 family members at a private funeral. And you do your best to juggle work with everything else, having varying degrees of success. In the end, you just take it one day at time and have faith that you will achieve the balance you seek.
Words by Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli – Mark has been the guitarist in the West Point Band’s Jazz Knights since 2005.
Some might say that working directly with your spouse is difficult to deal with. I admit that in some situations, that could probably be true. I, as a West Point Band member (saxophonist in the Jazz Knights), can honestly say that I’m excited to work with my new wife, Carla Moebius Loy Song, who is a trumpet player and singer in the West Point Band.
We got engaged this past December and married on October 20th in front of a modest gathering of friends and family from 15 states! So…what usually follows a wedding? Yes, a honeymoon. For us, it was a honeymoon to Jamaica with a week stay at an all-inclusive resort. The wedding went near perfectly followed by a “rest” day in between before we made our way to a hotel in Jamaica (ironically), Queens just outside of JFK Airport. We landed in Jamaica (the country) on Monday morning and settled into our resort and all was well…tropical weather, the beach, and an abundance of great food and drinks.
Then, we got news that a hurricane was developing and due to come straight through Jamaica and make landfall by midday Wednesday. On Tuesday, the resort informed us that they would be opening the buffet for breakfast on Wednesday morning and shutting everything down at noon. Safety was their number one concern, and we were told to stay in our rooms from noon on and ride it out. Well, the storm completely missed us in the western most part of Jamaica; giving way to a little rain and wind resulting in some downed branches (Sandy hit Jamaica a lot harder to our east along with Cuba and the Bahamas).
Everyone wandered out of their rooms at dinnertime, as the facilities began to re-open much earlier than expected. Then, for the remainder of our vacation week, it was semi-business as usual at the resort, save for unusually high surf and tides resulting in no ocean swimming or water sports…Back to more eating and sampling tropical drinks at the pool bar with a little swimming and beach volleyball thrown in. As the week progressed, reports came in that Sandy was on a direct path for New York and New Jersey. What a crazy situation — We escaped getting pummeled by the storm in Jamaica only to fly right back into a stronger version of it a week later.
On Sunday morning, we checked our flight status online and it said “scheduled.” After some last minute cocktails, it was time to leave the resort behind, get in a taxi, and ride to the airport approximately an hour and fifteen minutes away. We wound our way along the coast of Jamaica, thinking ahead about our storm preparations, and finally arrived at the airport only to discover that the flight was cancelled with no known future flight to NY! The ticket agent’s best solution was to provide them with our new hotel contact information (when we acquired it) using the airline’s toll free number so they could let us know when new flight information became available. Yikes–stuck in Montego Bay with no hotel and no transportation.
In the U.S., this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in Jamaica, non-resort areas are not exactly safe places to get stranded. Our next logical step was to find an agent for the resort from which we just left and try to make arrangements to stay the night. Well, the distress rate for this resort was $400 per night and another hour and fifteen minute cab ride back. This seemed perhaps a little high. The agent, however, found a much closer resort with a distress rate of $215 per night, also all inclusive (room, drinks, food). This seemed to be our best option. We arrived at this new place with several goals in mind. Successfully get a room; Let our chain of command know what’s happening; Call the airline. Most of you might be thinking “Poor you. It’s terrible to have to miss out on a hurricane and get stuck in such a horrible place.” And yes, there are certainly worse places to get stuck; however, we found it very difficult to relax with so many unknowns, in addition to all the extra money that was suddenly going out. Their laundry service said it could take up to 48 hours to come back, so we didn’t want to risk leaving before our laundry was returned (Carla washed some of our clothes in the sink with some detergent that we luckily had with us). We also paid for 3 days of unlimited internet and bought Skype credits to avoid the $2 per minute “toll free” calls to get information from the airline (we were on hold for upwards of fifteen minutes at a time, which really adds up at that rate).
Our daily routine consisted of waking up, calling the airline only to find out there still wasn’t a flight scheduled, followed by a nice breakfast (no complaints about the food), and then a trip to the front desk to swipe the credit card for another night. This went on for three straight days as we watched CNN and the havoc that hurricane Sandy was wreaking on the coast less than 200 miles from our home. Finally, on the third day (Wednesday), we read that JFK was going to open on Thursday. With flight optimism in our minds, we called the airline without haste. Finally, a definitive answer…They could get us to NY on the following Tuesday…Tuesday??? Not happening…So the alternative was to fly to Ft. Lauderdale, FL the next morning (Thursday) where we found a flight from there into Albany on Friday for a really good price and made it home just in time to play with the band at the home football game on Saturday.
All in all, it was a honeymoon to remember. Although our trip wasn’t perfect, we definitely consider ourselves lucky to have missed the storm and still have our home in one piece, as compared to others who were really hit hard. We were certainly thankful to be together, safe, and married! And now, back to real life as married members of the West Point Band.
Words by Staff Sgt. David Loy Song, Jazz Knights, saxophonist
Images by Staff Sgt. Torin Olsen