From the Desk Of: Eugene Marlow
Is There a Relationship Between Personal Finance Literacy and the Financial Administration of Arts Organizations?

 Marlowsphere (Blog #148)

Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE)


The following blog was delivered by Dr. Eugene Marlow on May 1, 2020 to members of the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) via Zoom for their annual conference.

Alberta Hunter, Blues SingerAccording to a lyric sung by the late blues singer Alberta Hunter “You cain’t have romance without finance.” The same is true in terms of longevity and survival of profit and non-for-profit organizations. More specifically, arts organizations do not exist for very long without effective financial management and financial support from various external sources.

In the United States government organizations at the national and local level are increasingly withdrawing from the role of funding arts institutions. And applicants for funding are finding it increasingly competitive for whatever funding remains available. Yes, the National Endowment for the Arts budget was increased this year and more foundations are getting into the funding role, but no longer can arts organizations take it for granted that monies will be there.

Turtle Bay Music School CLOSEDA case in point: In November 2019 The ​Turtle Bay Music School, held its final artist series concert, the last hurrah of a nearly century old New York City arts institution. A nonprofit on the East Side that partnered with public schools, the school announced in November 2019 it would be forced to close due to a lack of funding.

But there is a deeper issue that is pertinent to the training of arts administrators at the graduate level and it is this: if finances and financial administration is the bedrock foundation of an arts organization, how pertinent is the personal financial literacy of those in charge of the organization? My answer is: very pertinent.

Do You Know Your Net Worth?

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’m willing to bet 80% of the folks in this audience don’t know what their net worth is. You have little idea what your debt-to-income ratio is or how much you’ll need for retirement if you can afford to retire.

My contention is: if you don’t have a handle on your own personal finances, your long-term debt, or how you’re going to finance your retirement, how can you deal effectively and efficiently with the finances of the arts organization you work for or are connected with, or teach students about arts organization financial matters?

It’s Personal

Why am I so keen on this? The answer is simple and personal. My father, Michael Marlow (nee Spivakowsky) , was an excellent Michael (Spivakowsky) Marlow, Violinist/Violistmusician: a child prodigy on the violin; Taught himself the viola and the mandolin.; Composed music.; Wrote the world’s first concerto for harmonica and symphony orchestra. It’s still being performed today worldwide.; He had his own radio program on the BBC.; Was a Broadway show conductor.; Performed as a member of the orchestra with many notables, including  and Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. But he was lousy when it came to business and finances. He attempted to build his own music publishing company. It failed. He once dreamed of owning a restaurant. It never happened. When he died at the age of 63 of a second heart attack my sister and I learned he didn’t have any life insurance because he didn’t “believe” in life insurance.

I earned an MBA in part because I didn’t want to put myself in the same financial position my father ended up in. I wanted the vocabulary of business as a means of leveling the playing field professionally.

I’ve been involved in the fine and performing arts in various artistic and management capacities since I was born. At Baruch College (City University of New York) I teach and have taught a panoply of courses in media and culture, and business. At every turn I have experienced and observed that where there is a lack of focus on finances, regardless of the quality of the creativity, the enterprise falters. Further, this failure often, if not always, has roots in a key individual’s lack of understanding or appreciation of personal finances.

Personal Finance vs. Organizational Finance

Aye, there’s the rub. There’s no escaping the connection between personal finances and organizational finances.

What is the difference between personal finance and organizational finances? There are, of course, differences in terms of scale and function, but there is at least one major commonality: assets and liabilities.

In the personal finance context an asset could be liquid assets, et al. In the corporate context an asset could be liquid assets, etc. In the personal finance context a liability could be a long-term debt. In the corporate context a liability could also be long-term debt.

In other words, the difference between the personal finance context and the corporate context is scale and function.

Financial Literacy

This all relates to a much larger context and that is global financial literacy. According to a 2014 Financial Literacy Around the World: Insights From The Standard & Poor’s Financial Literacy NotebookRatings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey:

Worldwide, just 1-in-3 adults show an understanding of basic financial concepts. Although financial literacy is higher among the wealthy, well educated, and those who use financial services, it is clear that billions of people are unprepared to deal with rapid changes in the financial landscape. Credit products, many of which carry high interest rates and complex terms, are becoming more readily available. Governments are pushing to increase financial inclusion by boosting access to bank accounts and other financial services but, unless people have the necessary financial skills, these opportunities can easily lead to high debt, mortgage defaults, or insolvency. This is especially true for women, the poor, and the less educated—all of whom suffer from low financial literacy and are frequently the target of government programs to expand financial inclusion.

Further, in the United States, according to this same survey, the financial literacy rate is only 57%. Denmark and Sweden have the highest financial literacy rates at 71%.

In 2019, Investment News reports on an updated Standard & Poor’s survey, as follows:

World Map % of Adults Who Are Not Financially LiterateAlthough the U.S. is the world’s largest economy, the Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey ranks it No. 14 (tied with Switzerland) when measuring the proportion of adults in the country who are financially literate. To put that into perspective: the U.S. adult financial literacy level, at 57%, is only slightly higher than that of Botswana, whose economy is 1,127% smaller.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Treasury entitled Best Practices of Financial Literacy and Education at Institutions of Higher Learning:

With the cost of college rising faster than incomes and a staggering 44 million Americans owing more than $1.5 trillion in student loans, there has been growing concern that students and their families are taking on debt without truly understanding the long-term impact.

Indeed, there is a lot of research exploring this national problem: Nine out of 10 parents and students failed a 2018 quiz about student loan debt. Meanwhile, MarketWatch reported that half of college students taking an AIG survey on personal finance basics got two or fewer questions correct. And in a recent survey from the Brookings Institution, less than 30% of student respondents could correctly answer three questions on inflation, interest and risk diversification.

We must conclude then that to insure student success in arts administration programs as educators we must be certain that these same students are financially literate on a personal level, particularly so because as arts administrators the finances of an arts institution is a vital aspect of the institution’s credibility, viability, and longevity.

The Financial Literacy of the Arts Administrator

To put this another way, if an arts administrator isn’t paying attention to his/her personal finances and doesn’t have a firm grip on his/her net worth assets and liabilities, it Financial Literacywould follow that this same arts administrator is not paying enough attention to the institution’s assets and liabilities?

Now, perhaps this parallelism is not valid. Perhaps the arts administrator is fluent in the institution’s finances and knows the institution’s balance sheet, cash flow, assets and liabilities in great detail. But let’s say this same arts administrator accrues excessive credit card debt, or purchases real estate at the height of a market with a net income to long-term debt ratio that is out of balance and disproportionate. What does this say about this arts administrator’s expertise and skill to manage the institution’s finances? It does not speak well.

The importance of financial issues to arts administrators is nowhere more articulately stated than in the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) Standards for Arts Administration Graduate Program Curricula of November 2014. The opening paragraphs of the “Financial Management” section of the document states:

Financial management is a core function within the management of cultural organizations, and is the framework through which resources–human, physical and financial—are maintained and monitored. In the not-for-profit sector, the balance between mission and money is a key factor in maintaining a sustainable, vibrant and successful organization, and needs to be clearly understood by arts administration students. We recognize that some programs include the teaching of commercial enterprise in the arts; this version of the standards has not yet incorporated standards for those areas of practice.

The document goes on to describe what arts administration students should be able to do with regard to financial matters at the foundational and best practices levels.

The Financial Literacy of Arts Administration Students

The question is: even though students at the undergraduate and graduate level might be adept at dealing with financial matters in the corporate context in the classroom, might not their understanding and appreciation of fiduciary functions have deeper meaning if their own personal finances are in order?

How many students come into an arts administration program with a foundation in either personal or corporate finance? Textbook learning is not as valuable and purposeful as real life learning. It’s one thing to require students to take a course in corporate finance, but it is quite another if students have no real-life background in finance, personal or otherwise. Students might take a corporate finance course and achieve a high grade, but what is this grade based on? An ability to read and abstract financial content from a textbook and feedback on a test, or is the good grade based on a student’s deeper understanding of finances based on “personal” financial experience?

Possible Prescriptions

A possible prescription for this “in the closet issue” is to provide students with a one credit course in personal finance. It does not have to be complex. But its main objective would be to sensitize students to personal financial matters as part of the process and preparation for dealing with institutional financial matters.

Finance Class for Arts AdministratorsAnother solution is to infuse non-financial courses with references to financial matters wherever possible. By doing so, students can begin to relate “personal financial” issues to non-financial course content. Over time, perhaps, students will begin to integrate the “personal” with the “organizational” to everyone’s mutual benefit.

In other words, to borrow and skew a well-worn phrase, charity begins at home. I’m willing to bet that if an arts administrator has a firm handle on his or her own personal finances, the chances are high this same arts administrator is well informed and in control of the institution’s finances. One context informs the other.

It makes sense to me that the more informed an arts administrator is about their own personal finances, the more sensitized this same arts administrator will be to the institution’s finances. You can attempt to bifurcate the two contexts, but if one bar is lower than the other, ultimately one will suffer. Attempting to parse these contexts can lead to problems. Is it not a better idea to prepare an arts administrator student with a solid foundation how to deal with personal finances so that this same student can approach the institution’s finances with the same kind of rigor?

© Eugene Marlow, PhD, MBA 2020

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52 Things Musicians Can Do Now In the Time of Coronavirus

Corona VirusMarlowsphere (Blog #147)

There are no immediate or forecasted statistics, but just from the anecdotal evidence, it’s apparent a goodly portion of freelance musicians of various stripes are going to have a rough time financially for the next few months: paying monthly bills, buying food, and taking care of their health. Why? Because the coronavirus has caused gig cancellations, postponements, closures, shut downs, and travel restrictions—all in the name of slowing down the spread of the virus, a so-called “flattening of the curve.”

The truism “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything” was never more real than now.

Of course, it’s not just musicians. Artists of all kinds, freelancers, and hourly workers are caught in this pandemic whirlpool. Part of the problem, and perhaps the major part of the problem, is that many are not financially prepared for a three, six, or nine month income gap, even with unemployment insurance, which is meagre at best.

Is the current pandemic the end of the world? No, it isn’t. It’s not the first global health crisis (remember the influenza epidemic of 1918, only 102 years ago) and it’s not the last. To put this another way, with many people on temporary work hiatus, quarantined, or sheltered at home, this is also an opportunity: an opportunity to use this “down time” to “up-scale” your personal and professional life.

Following are 52 recommendations you can apply today:


1. Per the CDC, Stay home if you are sick. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

2. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.

3. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

4. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hand washing is not possible.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Ward off isolation. Contact friends and relatives, whether locally, in the state, out of state, or internationally. They will want to hear from you. And you will want to hear from them. Contact, even at a distance, is still a human need.

7. Keep a regular, daily routine to ward off depression: get up the same time, take a shower, get dressed, and keep up with activities you can do at home.

8. Maintain good nutrition: eat healthy, eat light so you don’t get weighted down or gain weight. Resist the urge to binge out of depression.

9. Look online for healthy but satisfying recipes.

10. Buy food and sundries in bulk as much as you can. If you have a large enough freezer, stock up on frozen foods. Buy as much can goods as possible.

11. Shop around. Walmart, Amazon, Fresh Direct, Pea Pod, among others, have on-line grocery and sundry stores that deliver to your door. Check them out to see which have the best prices for what you need. Perhaps you’ll need to order from more than one place to get the best prices.

12. Cut back on take-out. If you eat take-out, the food is going to be more expensive than if you make it at home. Moreover, food from a restaurant probably contains more salt than you should ingest. Less salt is better for your health.

13. Physical activity is good for one’s mental and emotional health. Exercise at home. When working outside the home you’re moving, using your whole body. The Cleveland Clinic recommends 10,000 steps a day. If you’re working from home, you risk become more sedentary. Find a place in your living room to do some stretches, push-ups, and sit-ups. Have free-weights? Work with those as well. Live in an apartment building? Go into the hallway and walk for about 10-15 minutes. Climb a few flights of stairs.

14. Equally important, take a few minutes every day to meditate, to be calm, and quiet your mind.

15. Do you smoke? Apply to an online “Stop Smoking” program. Just think of all the money you’re going to save when you don’t smoke anymore.

16. If in psychotherapy, use phone, Skype or FaceTime to continue the sessions. The consistency will help with anxiety and provide a bit of normally in these unusual times.

17. Take an aromatherapy, Epson salts, or bubble bath to relax.

18. Limit media intake to maintain your sanity.


Financial-Business1. Pay your bills on time, especially your credit card bill. Don’t wait until the last minute. Paying your credit card bill sooner rather than later should reduce the amount of interest you pay.

2. Pay more than the minimum amount on your credit card. Paying the minimum keeps you in debt.

3. Make sure you do your taxes and submit them on time. The IRS has extended the deadline to July 14, but you need to file an extension by April 15.

4. Develop a quarterly net worth statement. You may discover you’re in better shape than you think—your instrument is part of your net worth. Or perhaps you’ll discover you have some systemic financial issues, like too much long-term debt.

5. Having a net worth statement gives you more control over your finances. If you don’t know what a net worth statement is, search the Internet for examples.

6. If you foresee you’ll have a problem paying next month’s rent, contact your landlord now. Better to talk with your landlord before there’s a problem than after. You’ll be in a stronger position before there’s a problem than after.

7. If you foresee you’ll have a problem paying your next month’s mortgage, contact your mortgager now, for the same reasons as above. This will also help protect your credit score from being affected.

8. Create and analyze your monthly expense budget.

9. Identify some way to spend less on something. Everybody has a bad spending habit someplace. Discover yours and start saving.

10. Search your home for loose change. Even if you find $10-$20 of loose change, that’s money to buy food with today.

Professional Development:

Professional Development1. Networking is important. Maintain your network via phone, email, or text to keep up-to-date and top-of mind.

2. Stay in touch with those decision makers who shut down, postponed, canceled, closed, put on hold, or travel restricted you from a gig. Use the phone, Face Time, Skype, email, or text to stay in touch with these people.

3. Make a list of potential contacts for a gig in an area you hadn’t explored. Decision- makers are also planning what to do when the pandemic lifts. This performance hiatus is also an opportunity to open some doors.

4. Read those articles in the trade publications you’ve been wanting to get to now that you have the time.

5. Practice that piece you’ve always wanted to work on.

6. Practice exercises to keep up or improve your technique.

7. Work on sight-reading.

8. Expand your repertoire. Work on a piece that’s outside your comfort zone.

9. Compose that piece that’s been rattling around in your head for the last few months.

10. Listen to albums that you haven’t been able to get to because you’ve been too busy before this health crisis.

11. Organize your music library. What do you need? What don’t you need anymore?

12. Seek out a professional organization you’ve wanting to investigate and perhaps join.

13. Review the professional organizations you do belong to and decide which one you don’t need to belong to anymore.

14. Write an article about a subject close to your artistic heart and send it to a professional journal or trade publication. Perhaps there’ll run it!

15. so far. What is your unique selling proposition? In other words, use this time to define yourself or even re-define yourself. Perhaps you’ll uncover things about yourself that can be useful in expanding your career.

16. Reach out to artists in other diAnalyze your career sciplines (e.g., if you’re a musician, reach out to someone in the fine arts) and explore the possibility of a collaboration.

17. Update your web site (if you have one). Make sure it’s devoid of spelling errors and has all your most recent accomplishments.

18. Update your email contacts.

19. Update your social media accounts.

Personal Organization:

Personal Organization1. Go through that closet or the papers on your desk at home you’ve been wanting to get to but hadn’t had the time.

2. It’s spring. Spring clean and de-clutter your home. If you’ve already started, accelerate the pace.

3. Go through all those emails you’ve been meaning to get to and delete those that don’t matter and respond to those that do. Perhaps one of those emails will lead to a future gig.

4. Go through your physical things and find items to donate or get rid of: clothes, furniture items, books, even CDs (yes CDs). Donations to the right 501c3 organization are a tax deduction. This way you can save some on your Federal, state, and city taxes, and perhaps get a larger refund.

5. Add actionable ideas to the above list.

Don’t wait until tomorrow or next week. This time is an opportunity. Take action now!

© Eugene Marlow, PhD, MBA 2020

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International Exhibitors at APAP: “You Have to Show Up to Be Credible!”

APAP 2020 LogoMarlowsphere (Blog #146)

The saying “Eighty per cent of success in life is showing up” has long been attributed to actor, comedian, writer, director, and filmmaker Woody Allen. Whether the number is 75% or 90% or some number in between, the fact remains that if you want to have success in your life—personal or professional, whatever the endeavor—you have to show up and be present in the milieu and community you’re interested in.

This has never been more true than at the recent Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference at the Hilton Hotel (53rd Street/Avenue of the Americas, New York City) held January 10-14, 2020. The EXPO Hall at the APAP|NYC conference is the largest global performing arts marketplace of its kind with more than 370 booths, serving more than 3,600 attendees and 1,600 performing arts organizations.

According to Mario Garcia Durham, APAP president: “It pulsates with energy, making it an essential stop for building your business. Our dynamic ability to convene a global performing arts marketplace to APAP President Mario Garcia Durham talking with a Shanghai Opera House representative APAP 2020 Photo Adam Kissickdrive critical business decisions for every segment of our field makes APAP|NYC an extraordinary way to start the year.”

In other words, it’s a place to be seen, to network, to make and do business.

Durham’s emphasis on “a global performing arts marketplace to drive critical business decisions” is no exaggeration. Clearly, the vast majority of exhibitors are from all over the United States. However, a modest cadre of exhibitors hail from beyond America’s borders, from such countries as: New Zealand, Mainland China, Taiwan, Poland, Ireland, Canada, and France. Moreover, several American-based exhibitors are also in the “international” presenters camp, so to speak, because they mainly represent artists from other countries.

Exhibiting at APAP is no inexpensive investment, especially for the international exhibitors. But without exception, when asked “Why do you exhibit at APAP?” the consistent refrain expressed in one way or another was “You have to show up to be credible. And you have to show up year after year.”

One international exhibitor, Heidi Fleming, CEO of the Montréal (Quebec, Canada) based FAM Group pointed out she had been exhibiting at APAP for over 25 years. When asked “Is there a return on the investment?” she mentioned that sometimes she is able to book one of her clients while walking from her hotel to the Hilton location by bumping into a presenter she had met several times at previous APAP conferences. “If I hadn’t known that person for some time because of the APAP connection and hadn’t met that person while walking to APAP my client wouldn’t have gotten that gig!”

She added: “Every year you meet someone new who can add something extra to one of our artists, bring them to another level. It’s kind of slow and steady. You just have to keep showing up.”

APAP 2020 Photo Adam KissickShona McCullagh is the Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the New Zealand Dance Company, a full time contemporary dance company founded in 2012 located in Auckland. They had their North American debut in October 2019 in Toronto, but they have never been to the United States. Ms. McCullagh mentioned this was her second APAP. She has two main goals: “To learn. The Professional Development Sessions are enriching, inspiring, and provocative. The whole conference is very well planned and thought through. All of us in the arts work incredibly hard. The opportunity to be here nourishes our hearts and minds. And being in this space we can share experiences with others. And, of course, we’re here to market our work.”

Other exhibitors from the so-called Pacific Rim included several from Mainland China, including C-Musicals, the China Arts and Entertainment Group, the Shanghai Grand Theatre, and the Shanghai Opera House. Carol Cai is part of the Foreign Affairs General Office of the Shanghai Opera House. 2020 was the third year in a row that the Shanghai Opera House has exhibited at APAP. She observed: “Being here is a chance to get to know people. It’s also important for us to get to know what’s going on in America and the global market. We would like to present to the world our excellent performances. It’s also helpful for us to know what is trending now in this global market. This information will be very useful to us when we plan our next tour.”

Ms. Haley Yang works as part of the “C-Musicals” (Shanghai, China) Marketing and Public Relations function. She pointed out: “The C-Musicals organization presents original musicals in Mandarin, a departure from classical Chinese music presentations, such as those from the China National Peking Opera Company.” They exhibited at APAP for the first time in 2020. They decided to exhibit in order to show the United States what they’re capable of.

The Junta de Andalucia from Sevilla, Spain, also a first time exhibitor at APAP in 2020, perceived there is a market for the various flamenco dance companies in their roster, including the Anabel Veloso Flamenco Company, the Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez Duo, the Flamencos Por El Mundo, the Fundacion Cristina Heeren de Arte Flamenco, and the Marcat Dance Company. Their message is “Discover the Dance and Music from Spain.” They also exhibited at APAP to present their wares, so to speak, to prospective presenters and to get to know the market.

The Japan Foundation takes a broad approach. In addition to a headquarters office in Tokyo, and affiliated offices in Urawa, Kansai, and Kyoto, it has offices in two dozen countries in The Americas (New APAP 2020 Photo Christy KissickYork, Los Angeles, Toronto, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo), Asia and Oceania, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Founded in 1972, its mission is “. . . to promote international cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries.” With respect to APAP, Koji Nozaki, Program Director of the Arts and Cultural Exchange in its New York office: “We’re here at APAP to talk about various aspects. But we’re also here to network.”

Barbara Nowak, International Relations Manager for the Polish “Slask” Song and Dance Ensemble, echoed the double sentiment of most if not all the international exhibitors: “We’re here to present our performances, and, you have to show up to be credible.” The company was established 66 years ago to promote Polish Culture worldwide. The company has not only performed in Poland, but also in the whole world to show Polish culture.

Nowak added: “In our minds APAP is one of the most important places where people in the performing arts industry meet. It’s a serious conference where you can meet serious people and have serious discussions. And this is why we appreciate coming here all the way from Poland spending a lot of money. This is our 10th year coming to APAP. Over the years the benefit to us is establishing contacts. It is not possible to do business or become one of the real members accepted by the community by exhibiting here for one year. This conference gives us an opportunity to show the group our company’s abilities. We’re also looking for reliable partners. We have to be here to verify our credibility.”

While the international exhibitors consistently voiced the need “to be at APAP to be credible” theme, Olga Romanova of Peganov Entertainment, a German theatrical company, expressed the need to expand: “The producer and founder of our company, Alexey Peganov, decided to go outside of Germany and go international and tour in the United States also. He decided to start with APAP and the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) which is also a conference for theatre professionals to move things forward. ISPA [it meets right after APAP in New York City], however, has no exhibit possibilities, just a lot of meetings, so APAP was the only choice. Here we’re trying to find agents. We want to expand more. Our shows are mainly for children.” The company was founded 12 APAP 2020 Photo Christy Kissickyears ago. They have seven productions including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Treasure Island.” 2020 is the second year Peganov Entertainment has exhibited at APAP.

Oisin Mac Diarmada of Ceol Productions out of Coolaney, County Sligo, Ireland, has been coming to APAP for 10 years. He offered a slightly difference perspective: “We’ve been coming here for some time and the central reason is you have to be here to do business. You can’t do it long distance. But I can also tell you that things have improved over time. Just looking at the graphics at each exhibit, they have improved. Visually the booths are more interesting and professional. Also, because of technology you don’t have to bring so many materials anymore. It’s all electronic, digital. But the overall purpose is still simply meeting people, nurturing relationships, doing business. And you have to be here to do that.”

© Eugene Marlow 2020

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Veterans Day in Music

veterans-day-poster-2019-The Marlowsphere Blog (#145)

Monday, November 11, 2019 is Veterans Day. While Veterans Day is usually associated with those who have fallen in battle and those who have served their country, of men and women in uniform, weapons of land, sea, and air, and “the art of war,” the United States military is more than that. The various branches of the military—Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard—also guard America’s walls through music.
This 2019 Veterans Day blog is dedicated to the men and women who not only serve in uniform, but also serve, not with a weapon in their hands, but with musical instruments. I have chosen this perspective this year because I am also a musician and a military veteran. I served as an Air Force historian for most of my four-year hitch during the Vietnam War era. I also got a lot more involved with music while serving my adopted country. (See Marlowsphere Blogs: Under the Influence of. . . Frank and Butch and Sonny and Rudy: Part I  and  Under the Influence of. . . Frank and Butch and Sonny and Rudy: Part II”.)

Each branch of the United States military has several bands—traditional military, ceremonial, classical, jazz, and in one instance, rock. Each musician is required to go through basic training and, if called upon, to carry a weapon. Even though it could be perceived that performing in a military band would not require as much training or discipline as in a civilian band, quite the opposite is true. Military musicians are held to a high standard. You just need to go listen to the many albums and performances these bands collectively have recorded and you realize very quickly the high quality of the performance.

What follows, then, are descriptions of the military bands by branch. Most of the material has been drawn directly from each military branch’s “band” website:

The Marine Bands

Established by an Act of Congress in 1798, the Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. Its mission is unique—to provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Because of the demands of this unique mission, “The President’s Own” is known to have included strings when performing for major White House events as far back as 1878 and during the directorship of John Philip Sousa, composer of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” An orchestra taken from within the Marine Band also gave regular concerts at the Marine Barracks music hall in Washington, D.C., as early as 1893.

On April 14, 2019, the Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Assistant Director Capt. Ryan J. Nowlin, performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 4 in D, BWV 1069; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat, K. 417; and Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 103, Drum Roll. The concert took place at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Master Sgt. Kristin duBois/released)

The U.S. Marine Symphony Orchestra officially emerged as a concert ensemble under the leadership of William H. Santelmann, Marine Band Director from 1898-1927, composed of band musicians who doubled on a string instrument. The doubling requirement ended in 1955, and a chamber orchestra staffed by full-time string players was formed. That model has continued to the present and the musicians of today’s Marine Chamber Orchestra musicians hail from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities and conservatories. More than 60 percent hold advanced degrees in music. Musicians are selected at auditions much like those of major symphony orchestras, and they enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps for permanent duty with the Marine Band.

(Above photo: The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Assistant Director Capt. Ryan J. Nowlin. Photo by: Master Sgt. Kristin duBois/released)

Marine Chamber Orchestra musicians appear at the White House an average of 200 times each year, performing for State Dinners, ceremonies, receptions and other events of national significance. These performances range from small ensembles such as a solo pianist or string quartet to events that feature the full chamber orchestra, making versatility an important requirement for members.

In addition to its regular appearances at the White House, the Marine Chamber Orchestra performs concerts during both an annual showcase series and summer series. Performing a wide variety of music from the staples of the orchestral repertoire to modern works, Broadway and light classical selections, these concerts give patrons a virtual glimpse inside the Executive Mansion. The musicians of the Marine Chamber Orchestra are frequently highlighted in solo performances and also participate in chamber ensemble recitals and educational outreach programs that feature a variety of smaller instrumental groups.

The Marine Band performs a varied repertoire including new works for wind ensemble, traditional concert band literature, challenging orchestral transcriptions, and the patriotic marches that made it famous. The band frequently features its members in solo performances that highlight their virtuosity and artistry.

The Marine Band performs at the White House, at the Presidential Inauguration, State Funerals, full honors funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Marine Barracks Washington, Friday Evening Parades. A 42-piece Marine Band is used for all Pentagon and formal military arrivals and patriotic openers for large events. Patriotic openers consist of 15 minutes of patriotic music, the presentation and retirement of the colors, and performances of the National Anthem and The Marines Hymn. Patriotic openers are performed throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area at a variety of events for military organizations, federal agencies, and associations.


The United States Army Bands

United States Army bands provide music throughout the entire spectrum of operations to instill in American forces the will to fight and win, foster the support of our citizens, and promote America’s interests at home and abroad. The Army has 21 Regional Bands stationed around the country and the world. The mission of each band varies, but they often tour regionally and nationally to perform for the public during parades, concerts and other events.

399th Army Band Ft. Leonard Wood, MissouriThe United States Army has bands in various categories: Active Bands, Army Reserve Bands, and National Guard Bands. It even has its own music school, the United States Army School of Music located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where musicians are put through a 10-week training course.

There are 15 Active Army Bands: 1st Armored Division Band (Fort Bliss, Texas), 1st Cavalry Division Band (For Hood, Texas), 1st Infantry Division Band (Fort Riley, Kansas), 3rd Infantry Division Band (Fort Stewart, Georgia), 4th Infantry Division Band (Fort Carson, Colorado), 9th Army Band (Anchorage, Alaska), 10th Mountain Division Band (Fort Drum, New York), 25th Infantry Division Band (Wahiawa, Hawaii), 56th Army Band (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington), 77th Army Band (Fort Sill, Oklahoma), 82nd Airborne Division Band (Fort Bragg, North Carolina), 101st Airborne Division Band (Fort Campbell, Kentucky), 282nd Army Band (Fort Jackson, South Carolina), 282nd Army Band, Detachment I (Fort Gordon, Georgia), and the 323nd Army Band “Fort Sam’s Own” (Fort Sam Houston, Texas).


The United States Navy Band

Its mission is to provide musical support to the President of the United States, the Department of the Navy (DON), and other senior military and government officials. Through ceremonies, national and regional tours, public concerts, and recordings, the U.S. Navy Band inspires patriotism, elevates esprit de corps, enhances Navy awareness and public relations, supports recruiting and retention efforts, preserves the Nation’s musical heritage, and projects a positive image at home and abroad.

U.S. Navy BandThe United States Navy Band is the premier musical organization of the U.S. Navy. Comprised of six primary performing groups as well as a host of smaller ensembles, “The World’s Finest” is capable of playing any style of music in any setting.

Since its inception in 1925, the Navy Band has been entertaining audiences and supporting the Navy with some of the best musicians in the country. From national concert tours to presidential inaugurals to memorial services at Arlington National Cemetery, the Navy Band proudly represents the men and women of the largest, most versatile, most capable naval force on the planet today: America’s Navy.

One hundred seventy enlisted musicians, recruited from the finest music schools and professional musical organizations, perform over 270 public concerts and 1,300 ceremonies each year. In addition to their demanding performance and rehearsal schedules, band members are responsible for the daily administration of the organization, including operations, public affairs, a large music library, information systems and supply. As the Navy’s musical ambassadors, band members maintain the highest standards of appearance, military bearing and physical fitness.

The United States Navy Band, nationally and internationally, stands for musical and military excellence. Whether performing at Carnegie Hall, the White House or a rural civic auditorium; sharing the stage with Ernest Borgnine, Itzhak Perlman, Branford Marsalis or Vince Gill; or appearing on television programs like “Today,” “Meet the Press” and “Good Morning America” and in films like “Clear and Present Danger.”


United States Air Force Bands

Air Force Strings: The Air Force Strings is the official string ensemble of The United States Air Force. Stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., it is one of six musical ensembles that comprise The U.S. Air Force Band. The Air Force Strings consists of 20 active duty Airmen musicians performing a wide range of musical styles, from classical symphonic selections and Broadway show tunes to classic rock, bluegrass and patriotic compositions. The ensemble often entertains audiences at high-level military and government events in a formation known as the Strolling Strings. Providing a multi-dimensional experience, the instrumentalists surround the audience performing from memory without the aid of a conductor.

The Airmen of Note is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force. Created in 1950 to continue the tradition of Major Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps dance band, the current band consists of 18 active duty Airmen musicians including one vocalist.

The Ceremonial Brass is the official ceremonial ensemble of The United States Air Force. Featuring 38 active duty Airmen musicians, the Ceremonial Brass includes brass and percussion instrumentalists, a bagpiper and a drum major. The ensemble provides musical support for funerals at Arlington National Cemetery in various configurations to include 16-member ensembles for full-honor funerals and individual buglers to render taps. Additionally, the Ceremonial Brass supports state arrivals at the White House, full-honor arrivals for foreign dignitaries at the Pentagon, patriotic programs, and change of command, retirement and awards ceremonies.

The United States Air Force Concert Band is the premier symphonic wind ensemble of the United States Air Force. It is the largest of Air Force’s six musical ensembles. Air-Force-Band-Collegiate-SymposiumFeaturing 53 active duty Airmen musicians, the Concert Band performs throughout the United States via biannual tours, live radio, television and Internet broadcasts, as well as at local concerts across metropolitan Washington, D.C. Additionally, Concert Band members perform in smaller chamber ensembles at official military and civilian functions, education outreach events and local concert venues.

Max Impact is the premier rock band of the United States Air Force. This six-piece band performs classic and current rock and country hits, as well as patriotic favorites and original music. Through national tours, local performances and digital audio and video recordings, Max Impact showcases Air Force excellence to millions each year. Back at home, they support events for the White House, State Department, Department of Defense and numerous other high-level military and civilian functions, using music to advance international diplomacy with America’s allies and strategic partners.

The Singing Sergeants is the official chorus of the United States Air Force. Featuring 23 active duty Airmen musicians, the Singing Sergeants presents more than 200 performances annually performing a wide range of musical styles, from traditional Americana, opera, and choral standards to modern Broadway and jazz. The Singing Sergeants regularly perform with their instrumental combo and in smaller configurations, such as duets, Barbershop quartets and specialized musical ensembles, at military and civilian ceremonial and diplomatic functions, education outreach events and local concerts throughout metropolitan Washington, D.C.


The United States Coast Guard Band

The United States Coast Guard Band is a military band maintained by the United States Coast Guard. Established in 1925 and classified as a “premier ensemble”, the Coast Guard Band is stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut and is responsible for providing musical support to the Coast Guard Academy’s corps of cadets, as well as other official Coast Guard events and ceremonies. During the summer months it undertakes national and international tours to promote the Coast Guard.

As of 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard Band is the Coast Guard’s only professional musical ensemble (a second branch band, the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band, is an auxiliary-staffed organization).

In 1989 the Coast Guard Band became the first U.S. military band to perform in the Soviet Union and, in 2016 the Coast Guard Band performed at the debut of “The Finest Hours” at Mann’s Chinese Theater, the first time the band had performed at the debut of major motion picture.

In late 2015 the Coast Guard began another study about the feasibility of relocating the band from its traditional station in New London, Connecticut to Washington, DC. The proposal to relocate the band has been opposed by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Almost all personnel of the Coast Guard Band are assigned to the ceremonial and concert bands, the group’s primary performance units. The band, however, maintains several chamber music groups to provide specialized performance capabilities to which some personnel are co-assigned. This includes a woodwind quintet, a brass quintet, and a jazz band.

According to the Coast Guard, competition for its limited vacancies is fierce, and many new Coast Guardsmen enlisting as musicians are conservatory-trained with degrees from elite institutions including the Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, and the New England Conservatory. A number of its members also perform with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony, and the New Haven Symphony.

Operationally located at Leamy Hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (New London, Connecticut), the band has billets for 54 instrumentalists and command staff, and one vocalist.

Eugene Marlow, Ph.D. teaches courses in media and culture at Baruch College (City University of New York). He is a four-year United States Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War.  He co-founded the Annual Veterans Day Luncheon at Baruch College, CUNY in 1998. He is a composer/arranger of approximately 300 pieces of music, 32 albums and single tracks, and founder/leader of the Eugene Marlow Heritage Ensemble.

© Eugene Marlow 2019

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What Is Jewish Music?

CantorMarlowsphere Blog (#144)

What is Jewish music? At its essence, Jewish music, like music of any identified culture, reflects Jewish values and experiences.

For example, an obvious, partial answer to the question “What is Jewish music?” is music of the synagogue, the schul: cantorial music, liturgical music, and cantillation. Melodies such as “Halleluyah,” “Heine Ma Tov,” “V’Taher Lebeinu,” “Yis Ma Chu,” “L’Cha Dodi,” “Avinu Malkeinu,” and “Kol Nidre.”

Then there are melodies sung and played at various Jewish celebrations—Chanukah, Passover, and Purim—in the synagogue and in Jewish homes, such as “Moaz Tsur,” “Chanukah, O, Chanukah,” “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” “Sevivon,” “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim Be-Simecha,” “Layehudim Haitah Orah Ve-Simechah, Ve-Sasson, Ve-Yakar,” “Adon Olam,” “Mah Nishtanah Halaylah Haze,” and “Eliyahu Hanavi.”

And there are countless folk melodies, for example “Ata Hu Hashem,” “Lahadam,” and “Erev Shel Shoshanim.” This catalog of Jewish music must also include Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” and the most covered Jewish melody of all “Hava Nagila.”

There is also Klezmer: a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe. Played by professional musicians called klezmorim in ensembles known as kapelye, the Klezmer Musicgenre originally consisted largely of dance tunes and instrumental display pieces for weddings and other celebrations. In the United States the genre evolved considerably as Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who arrived between 1880 and 1924, came into contact with American jazz.

And there is nigunim: A nigun (singular of nigunim) (Hebrew: meaning “tune” or “melody”) is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive sounds such as “Bim-Bim-Bam”, “Lai-Lai-Lai”, “Yai-Yai-Yai” or “” Ai-Ai-Ai” instead of formal lyrics. Nigunim are especially central to worship in Hasidic Judaism.

In the 20th and 21st centuries the advent of Jewish music and music based on Jewish culture and themes extended beyond the synagogue and Jewish home, as in Broadway musicals, such as:

Fiddler on the RoofAmerike—The Golden Land (1982), Cabaret (1966), Falsettos (1992), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962), Milk and Honey (1961), Ragtime (1998), The Immigrant (2004), The People in the Picture (2011), The Zulu and the Zayda (1965), and War Paint (2017).

Films with Jewish “sounding” music and Jewish culture and themes are just as numerous, and include most famously “The Jazz Singer” (1927), “The 10 Commandments” (1956), “Ben Hur” (1959),  “Exodus” (1960), “Funny Girl” (1968), “Oliver” (1968), “Fiddler on the Roof” (1968), “Yentl” (1983), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “Eight Crazy Nights” (2002), “Munich” (2005), and “Defiance” (2008).

In the genre of jazz, the inventory of “jazz Jews” inspired British author and radio show host Mike Gerber to pen a 656-page volume titled Jazz Jews (published in 2009). Some of these Jews wrote a treasure trove of Yiddish music that found its way into the popular culture, such as Sholem Secunda’s “Bay mir bistu sheyn”

The list of Jewish composers and performers who contributed to the “Great American Songbook” is very long and includes such notables as Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Neil Sedaka, Carole King, and Bob Dylan. Berlin, who wrote close to 2,000 Neil Sedakatunes, famously wrote the most popular Christmas song ever, “I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas.” And Neil Sedaka, who wrote, among many others songs, “Stairway to Heaven” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” is aptly named. In Hebrew Sedaka means “righteousness” or more popularly “charity.”

Clearly, while Jewish music has its origins in religious observance in the schul and in the Jewish home and is a significant cultural glue that bounds the Jewish community in the diaspora, Jewish music as a reflection of Jewish culture and themes has spread globally thanks to information, communications, and transportation technologies in the 20th and 21st centuries..

So, what then is Jewish music in contemporaneous terms? Is it strictly the music of the synagogue, Jewish melodies sung in the home, or Israeli folksongs, et al? In the context of globalism these definitions, while correct, are too constrained. Can we not define Jewish music as music based on Jewish sounds, culture, and themes?

A.Z. Idelsohn We must now also define Jewish music in the current cultural context, which is: no culture is pure; all cultures are a mixture. And it has been this way for thousands of years. Cultures are influenced by other cultures. No less than the father of Jewish musicology A.Z. Idelsohn in his seminal work Jewish Music in Its Historical Development (1929) in the very first sentence of Chapter I “The Song of the Synagogue,” states: “In surveying the development of music in ancient Israel it is essential to consider the music of Israel’s ancient neighbors.” In other words, no culture, let alone musical culture stands alone. Outside influences have an impact.

For the Jews in the diaspora and even now in Israel, outside musical cultures must be taken into account. And the cultural flow goes both ways. Earlier I referenced “Hava Nagila,” the most covered Jewish melody ever. Quite apart from Harry Belafonte’s rendition, Machito, one of the progenitors of Latin-jazz in New York City, also covered this same melody. On a 1951 recording he called the tune “Mambo Holiday.” My own Heritage Ensemble Quintet has taken two dozen Hebraic melodies and morphed them into arrangements using various jazz, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, and classical genres.

All in all, Jewish music—while born in religious observance—has clearly evolved and incorporated the cultural diaspora into its musical catalog.

© Eugene Marlow 2019

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