Do I need a college degree?
Although most Air Force band musicians have earned undergraduate degrees, a college degree is not required to qualify. Candidates are offered positions solely on the basis of a successful audition.
Are there physical requirements?
To be considered for a position with an Air Force band you must be between the ages of 18 and 39. Additionally, you must not have a medical condition that would prevent you from enlisting in the United States Air Force. Waivers for medical conditions may be applied for if you do not meet these requirements, but are decided on a case by case basis and no guarantee can be made that they will be granted.
As a member of the Air Force, you must maintain high standards of personal appearance and physical fitness. You will be required to pass bi-annual physical fitness evaluations and will be subject to random drug urinalysis testing at any time during your enlistment. Prior to your audition, you will be asked to demonstrate that you fall within the Air Force maximum allowable weight standards.
JOINING THE AIR FORCE
Where do I start?
When you accept a position with an Air Force band, you will be given an Air Force Form 485, Application for Enlistment in an Air Force Band, which allows you to begin the enlistment process and join the Air Force. Simply take the form to your local recruiter who will guide you through the enlistment process. You must take and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (a skills assessment test) and complete a physical exam. The enlistment process is completed at your local Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) where you will sign an enlistment contract. After enlisting, you will go to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to complete Basic Military Training.
Does every Air Force band musician have to go through basic training?
Yes, basic training is a requirement for every Air Force musician.
What is Basic Training like and how long is it?
Basic training is an initial 7 1/2 week course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. While in basic training, you'll learn standard military drill and ceremonies, Air Force history, customs and courtesies, and will participate in daily physical fitness exercises. For more details, go to: http://www.basictraining.af.mil/.
Do Air Force musicians attend a technical school after basic training?
No. While in basic training, all enlisted musicians are assigned to the 737th Training Group Drum and Bugle Corps flight for initial skills qualification. After basic training, Airman musicians report directly to their assigned unit.
Assuming I'm going into the Air Force in another career field, can I audition for an Air Force band while in basic training?
No. However, you can apply to audition for the band career field when a vacancy becomes available and your service requirements have been met. As with other applicants, you must submit required audition materials and pass a live audition. Once qualified for entrance into the band career field, you would apply for retraining status. Normal military service requirements apply: A first-term Airman (four-year enlistment contact) assigned to a stateside base is eligible to apply for retraining after he or she has completed 35 months (no more than 43 months) of military service. Six-year enlistees may apply to re-train after completing 59 months of military service.
How and when will I know which band I'm assigned to?
You will be assigned to the Air Force Band with the greatest need for your particular instrument. You will usually know your assignment information prior to basic training but it will not be finalized until you receive official orders towards the end of your training.
After Basic Training, what happens?
When you graduate from Basic Military Training, you will be immediately assigned to an Air Force band unit. You are allotted a specific number of travel days to move from your home of record to your new duty station.
Where can I find information about joining the Air Force?
The Air Force has a comprehensive Website - www.AirForce.com - that provides a great deal of information about joining the Air Force. Additionally, your local Air Force recruiter will answer all of your questions about the benefits of joining the Air Force. To find your local recruiter, call (800) 423-USAF.
What is a normal day like for an Air Force Musician?
Each band is unique in its scheduling and has different rehearsal/performance requirements that change on a weekly basis according to the mission. Band units frequently perform on evenings and weekends, and compensatory days off are often given on weekdays. For example, if a performance tour goes over a weekend, days off may be scheduled on weekdays following the return. The band schedule typically includes the same number of days off enjoyed by the rest of the Air Force.
As military bands are a traditional part of American patriotic celebrations, you should expect to work on major holidays such as Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day.
A typical non-performance day consists of rehearsals and administrative duties.
Am I allowed to take a day off other than those scheduled?
Active-duty members of the Air Force earn 30 days of leave (vacation) each year. Bands take their leave at the same time during a "blanket leave" period. Requests for leave outside of the blanket leave period are considered on a case-by-case basis and may be approved depending on the performing/rehearsal schedule and mission needs of each ensemble. Special consideration is given to emergency situations and significant family events.
Will I have any non-musical duties?
Air Force bands are organized into five administrative functional areas. Each of these broad areas encompass various administrative duties required to sustain and operate the unit. These areas include operations, readiness, resources, administrative support, and publicity.
Is the band career field a full-time job? Is it secondary to being an Airman?
Working as an Air Force band musician is a full-time profession, not a side activity. You will be an active duty member of the United States Air Force. In wartime or peacetime, your primary duty is to perform as a musician. However, in emergency situations such as hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, you might be used in the base manpower pool to assist with clean up efforts around your base.
Will I deploy?
All Air Force bands deploy. The most commonly deployed ensembles are our Rock/Popular Music Ensembles. Deployments generally last about 90 days. During that time, Airman musicians bolster troop morale, build partnerships, and strengthen relationships with host nation communities through musical performances. While deployed, Air Force bands are not assigned non-musical tasks. Air Force bands deploy up to 10 members at a time on a rotational schedule.
What kind of musical ensembles will I typically perform with?
Most musicians usually perform in two or more ensembles
Flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon: Woodwind quintet and/or clarinet quartet along with concert band and ceremonial band.
Saxophone: Jazz band or a pop music combo along with concert band and ceremonial/marching band.
French horn: Concert band and woodwind quintet or brass quintet as well as ceremonial/marching band.
Tuba and euphonium: Brass quintet or low brass ensemble, concert band, and ceremonial/marching band.
Trumpet and trombone: Jazz band, pop music combo or brass quintet along with concert band and ceremonial/marching band.
Rhythm section: (percussionists, pianists, guitarists, bassists) Rock/pop music ensemble or jazz band as well as protocol combos and/or concert band. Percussionists are essential in the ceremonial/marching band and along with pianists, may assist in chamber ensembles, brass, or woodwind quintets.
Vocalist: Rock/pop music ensemble or jazz band as well as protocol combos and/or concert band. They may also perform solo anthems and augment protocol combos, chamber winds, and ceremonial bands.
Audio engineers: May augment a group occasionally, depending on their skill, but are not typically tasked to play an instrument.
Where does the band perform?
Each Air Force Band is assigned a geographical area of responsibility or "region" for performing. For instance, the USAF Band of the West performs in a region that includes Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Bands typically perform within their geographic area of responsibility but occasionally travel outside this area to meet special Air Force priorities or community relations requirements.
What are the performance venues like?
Performances take place in a wide variety of settings to include concert halls, public school or civic auditoriums, gymnasiums, field houses, outdoor concert venues, stadiums, and festivals.
What type of audience does the band play for?
Air Force Bands perform for military and civilian audiences around the world in support of official military, recruiting, and community outreach events. In a ceremonial capacity, bands perform for military functions, funeral honors, ceremonies, and troop support events. Outreach events may include public concerts, school assemblies, master classes, recitals, and special youth programs.
How many performances do bands give per year?
On average, each Air Force band performs over 400 programs annually for military, recruiting, and outreach events. This number includes the total of all unit performances, from soloists to massed ensembles.
PAY AND BENEFITS
How much is the salary and other allowances?
Basic Pay: Regional band members who have satisfactorily completed at least 45 semester hours or 67 quarter hours of college credit are awarded the rank of Airmen First Class (E-3 pay grade) after graduating from basic training. Pay and allotments increase as tenure and cost-of-living increases. For specific rates, click on the following link: http://militarypay.defense.gov/Pay/. In addition to basic pay, members earn a non-taxable basic allowance for housing and basic allowance for sustenance.
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH): The Air Force ensures the basic needs of every Airman are taken care of. Off-base residents receive a monthly tax-free housing allowance to help defray living expenses. On-base residents have their living expenses paid in full, to include utility bills and maintenance. BAH is calculated based on the location to which you are assigned. To calculate your BAH, go to the following website: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bah.cfm.
Subsistence (Food) Allowance (BAS): Airmen also receive tax free food allowances called Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS). Rates adjust annually according to cost of living averages.
Uniform Allowance: Airmen receive an annual tax-free clothing allowance to replace uniform items.
Travel Expenses: When traveling for job-related reasons (otherwise known as temporary duty [TDY] away from your home base), you'll receive additional tax-free money to cover your meals, lodging, and other incidental expenses.
Are Health care and life insurance available?
All members of the U.S. Armed Forces are automatically enrolled in TRICARE - the Department of Defense's health care program for active duty personnel, retirees, and their families. Through TRICARE, military members receive FREE, comprehensive medical and dental care. Family members may also be enrolled in TRICARE and receive medical care at military or civilian facilities through various options for little or no cost. Inexpensive dental care programs may be purchased for family members as well.
Service Member's Group Life Insurance, or SGLI, is a low cost group life insurance plan for service members. SGLI coverage is available in increments of $50,000 to a maximum of $400,000. For example, for only $29 per month, members may purchase life insurance coverage of $400,000.
Is there a pension or retirement program?
Service members who enter the military on or after January 1, 2018 will be enrolled in the Blended Retirement System. Service members who enter prior to January 1, 2018 will have the option between the Blended Retirement System and a traditional pension program. Visit the following website to learn more: http://militarypay.defense.gov/BlendedRetirement/.
The federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) allows participants to place a portion of their monthly pay into an account similar to a 401(k) investment plan. The contributions are considered pretax dollars and therefore reduce the amount of income subject to tax, and the accounts grow tax-free. Enrollment is available when members first join the military and anytime thereafter. Unlike traditional military retirement, which requires a commitment of at least 20 years of active duty, money invested in the TSP belongs to individual members, no matter how many years they serve. Income contributed to the TSP is not taxed until withdrawn from the account. Withdrawal before age 59-1/2 may be subject to penalty; however, the TSP account can be rolled over into an IRA or another employer's retirement account.
Can I shop at the base commissary and exchange?
Members and their families are permitted to shop at military commissaries (grocery stores), base exchanges (department stores) and service stations. These facilities offer tax-free shopping and a savings of about 30% over similar off-base stores. Additionally, recreational facilities and skills shops are available at a significant cost savings.
Are there opportunities for continued education?
Yes. The Air Force encourages its members to seek continued development in their area of expertise. For the first few years, band members undergo extensive on-the-job training (OJT) to develop their performance and administrative skills. Part of this training may include private instruction and participation in professional workshops or conferences. In addition, members can take advantage of the following education incentives:
Tuition Assistance: The Air Force Tuition Assistance (TA) program is designed to help active-duty personnel pursue voluntary, off-duty educational opportunities. Currently, the program pays 100% (up to $250 per semester hour or equivalent) of the cost of college tuition with a limit of $4500 per fiscal year. Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on base, off base or by correspondence.
Post-9/11 GI Bill: Post-9/11 GI Bill offers increased education benefits to veterans who served on or after 11 Sep 01. Benefits are based on aggregate, honorable service, and include college tuition (up to a certain amount), a monthly housing stipend and an annual books/supplies stipend. Active duty and distance learning students may receive a pro-rated benefit. Eligible active duty service members and Selected Reserve may choose to transfer benefits to DEERS-registered dependents, but stipulations apply and require eligibility determination by Service component.
Everyone with at least 90 aggregate, active duty days of honorable service on or after 11 Sep 01 is eligible for benefits under the new GI Bill. For full benefits, a member must have served at least 36 months active duty on or after 11 Sep 01. Reserve and National Guard members with 3 years of aggregate, active duty service on or after 11 Sep 01 can also qualify for full GI Bill benefits. Eligibility stipulations and benefit details are available at base education offices and at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/.