the United States Navy BandThe 7:30 p.m. performance on Monday, May 2 at Ashland High School will be something of a homecoming for head horn player Thomas Wheeler, a native of Millersburg.
Wheeler will be one of more than 50 members (including singers and announcers) of the U.S. Navy Concert Band, based in Washington, D.C.
The Navy Band has been performing in public concerts and performing at major events nationwide for over 95 years. He held about 600 funerals at Arlington National Cemetery each year, as well as played about 600 performances on the road. All Navy Band performances are free and open to the public.
The group performs a wide range of marches, patriotic pieces, orchestral transcriptions and modern wind ensemble repertoire.
How Wheeler joined the Navy Band
“In 2003, I saw an ad for the Navy Band holding an audition, and I was offered the job in May 2003,” Wheeler said. “I auditioned, was offered the job, and was sent to boot camp in August 2003. And that’s how I ended up in the Navy.”
Wheeler graduated from West Holmes in 1995 before heading to Indiana University.
“Music was a huge part of my family growing up,” Wheeler said. “My father was the director of the high school orchestra, my mother had her degree in music education and was the church organist. All the children played a musical instrument, played the piano and also sang in a choir. Music was part of our daily lives.
“As I got older, I wanted music to remain an important part of my life and sought to make it a profession,” he continued. “I was really thrilled that the Navy gave me this opportunity. The Navy Band at DC plays a lot. I grew up with a lot of music in my life, and the Navy allowed me to keep that. The Navy has been an amazing opportunity, and I appreciate everything the Navy has done for me.”
A great way to earn a living
He added that there are many ways to make a living, but he is pretty happy with what he does. He said the Navy is made up of really patriotic people and incredibly driven people who are really good at what they do.
“I am proud to represent the United States Navy across the country and around the world,” Wheler said.
Thomas’ father, Roger, said he looked forward to seeing the Navy Band perform every five years when they tour the area.
“I see my son once or twice a year, but it’s special when he plays in the group”,
said Roger Wheeler. “It’s his livelihood. He’s been with the band for 19 years, I think.”
CPO Wheeler said his father went to great lengths to see his son play.
All military bands divide the country into five different parts, and all roads lead to Washington, D.C.
“A few years ago we were playing the west coast tour, and one of our last shows was in Kentucky, down by the Ohio River, and dad drove over for the last show on that tour,” Wheeler said. “He drove for a few hours just to see the concert. He made a lot of effort to come see us play.”
About the US Navy Band
One of the primary responsibilities of the US Navy Band is to tour the country. All of the band’s major performing units embark on concert tours to specific parts of the country each year, allowing the band to reach audiences in parts of the country that do not have the opportunity to regularly see the best musical ensembles of the Navy. Concerts are family events, intended to entertain veterans, families, individuals, and those interested in joining the Navy.
The US Navy Band is the Navy’s flagship musical organization and one of 11 Navy bands located around the world. The US Navy Band is based at the Washington Navy Yard in DC
The 2022 Sea Chanters Tour will cover 13 cities and over 3,000 miles. The Navy Band has toured the country since 1925. There are six performing ensembles in the Navy Band: the Concert Band, the Ceremonial Band, the Sea Chanters Chorus, the Commodores Jazz Ensemble, the Country Current Country/Bluegrass Ensemble and the popular music group Cruisers.
Navy Band ensembles tour nationally for 12 to 15 weeks each year. The sailors in the band are full-time professional musicians. Almost all sailors in the Navy Band have undergraduate degrees in music, and most have graduate degrees.