When most people think of music and the U.S. Navy, the first tune that pops into their heads is almost certainly “Anchors Aweigh,” the fight song of the U.S. Naval Academy and the unofficial anthem of the Navy itself. Composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmerman, the bandmaster of the United States Naval Academy Band, the rousing number was debuted at the Army-Navy that same year and became so popular that a 1945 movie of the same name was released featuring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
But today’s Sailors serving in the Musician (MU) rating are acquainted with much more than martial tunes or marching-band fare. Because the goals and purposes of the Navy’s 13 bands range from inspiring patriotrism and promoting esprit de corps to promoting reenlistement and engaging potential recruits, the breadth of their musical styles runs the gamut from orchestral symphonies and wildly popular Broadway melodies to toe-tapping bluegrass and VH1-style fare.
Of course, playing that foot-stomping rock before potential recruits doesn’t mean that MU Sailors have license to smash up their hotel rooms following a performance. Exemplary behavior befitting the highest standard of Naval conduct—as well as a high level of musical competency—are prerequisite for becoming a member of one of the Navy’s most elite ratings.
Sailors who qualify for a career in the Musician rating will attend the Armed Forces School of Music in Little Creek, Virginia for over five months in traditional musical performance groups (i.e., Concert Band, Marching Band, Stage Band, etc.). Completing the school successfully leads to assignment either the U.S. Navy Band (based in Washington, D.C.), the Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, or one of eleven fleet bands that call the Italy, Japan, Hawaii, or the continental U.S. home. And while MU Sailors will most assuredly play some version of the classic “Anchors Aweigh” on more than one occasion, there will most certainly be just as many (or more) opportunities for them to enjoy playing other types of music they love.