My senior year of high school I knew where I wanted to go to college and applied for early admission. Of course, to be sure I had a place to attend school, I applied to and auditioned for several schools. I was going to college to become a professional musician and get a teaching credential (because the performance market for musicians is competitive and doesn’t always pay). If I hadn’t already shared, I played bassoon for many years. By December, I was offered a full music and academic scholarship to my top choice school, The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Life was on track.
Flashback: The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school my family took a vacation to Washington DC. While there, we visited Annapolis and the Naval Academy. I actually fell in love with the school immediately, but I couldn’t major in music. For me, that was a deal breaker so I never planned to apply. I did, however, decide to request information about NROTC. (I swear this is coming to a point).
Fast forward: It was January of my senior year and I receive a phone call from a Naval ROTC recruiter while my boyfriend is over. I told him I was not interested so that I could get back to hanging out with my boyfriend, but this Marine Captain was a salesman. He kept pushing. I told him that I wouldn’t have time for NROTC because I had scholarships and soccer to keep up with. Being the salesman he was, he pushed to find out what types of scholarships. When I explained I had music and academic scholarships, his role changed from pushy salesman to excited, desperate salesman . He asked what the music scholarship was for. When I told him bassoon, I believe he put me on mute, did a cartwheel, and broke out the champagne bottle (I'll never really know, but I'm pretty sure that's how that went down). When he turned off mute he asked if I had ever thought about joining the Marine Band. My favorite band to see perform was the President’s Own, but I was not at that professional level yet. So the conversations went like this:
Me: “Like the President’s Own?”
Capt: “The President’s Own is a little different, but the Marine Corps actually has 13 fleet bands you can join.”
Me: “I didn’t know that. But I am not interested. Like I said I have a full scholarship to my top choice school.”
Capt: “You could just take an audition.”
Me: “I’m really not interested.” (Bubble thought, “Will this guy just go away already?!”)
Capt: “Why aren’t you interested in even taking an audition?”
Me: “I am happy with where I am going to school. It was my top choice.”
Capt: “Did you know that if you join the Marine Corps, you can get free money for school?”
Capt: “How about I contact your local musicians’ recruiter, and you take an audition. She will come to your school or home for the audition. Once you audition, she can let you know if you qualify to apply for the program.”
Me: (Bubble thought, “I will do anything to get this guy off the phone and hang out with my boyfriend. Plus, I can audition in my sleep.”) “OK.”
After that, he got my information and the other recruiter called, we set up a date and I was back to doing really important stuff like hanging out with my boyfriend.
Just a few days later was the audition; I rocked it. I played everything they asked and then some. The recruiter offered for me to enlist with the musician’s contract. I told them I would think about it and contact them later in the week.
I vividly remember going home that night and my mom was making dinner. She asked how it went. I told her that they want me to join. And my mom said, “I think you would be nuts to not join!” I was caught off guard a little. I knew she supported the military (my sister had just joined the Navy), but I didn’t think she would support it over college. She told me that I could still get those scholarships in 4 years, PLUS, I would have the Montgomery GI Bill to help me get through my daily living expenses. She also said. “You are 18 years old, you will get paid to play your bassoon, and get to travel the world. I would go for it if I was you.” So I decided to do it.
Now would begin a true struggle with my weight. The Marine Corps has tight height weight standards and I was “big-boned” or “athletic”. It was an uphill battle I did not anticipate. I will post all of that journey next week. Until then, keep moving!