March 26, 2022
By Alaina Uricheck ’24
Teacher, interpreter, guide. These are careers you would expect from a music graduate. However, several students at Susquehanna University chose another path and joined the ranks of military bands.
Aviator 1st To classify Benton Felty ’17 specializing in corporate communication and theatrical performance with a minor in business administration. He had a successful career in entertainment until the Covid-19 pandemic ended his “forward momentum”. A tip from another SU music alumnus led to Felty becoming a proud member of the US Air Force Heritage of America Band, in which his core ensemble is Full Spectrum, a modern rock/pop band focused primarily on music. community outreach and recruitment.
Felty said his service encompasses “integrity first, service before self, and excellence in everything we do.
“It means pursuing my dream of a stable career in music and entertainment fused with my love of the United States of America,” Felty said. “And that means the stability of having a family, which I’ve only dreamed of in the entertainment industry.”
Musicians serve in all branches of the military, but you don’t have to be a member of the armed forces to audition for a military band. If your audition is successful, you will sign your enrollment contract and receive a provisional starting date for basic training.
Unlike his former music colleagues, retired Master Sgt. Aaron Fast ’18 came to SU after his career as a musician in the Marine Corps from 1995 to 2006, followed by his service in the Army from 2007 to 2016. After not being in a classroom in over 20 years, Fast didn’t know what to expect. But he was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the SU community was, and he graduated with many new friends and colleagues. He then obtained a master’s degree in music theory and composition and currently works as a composer and researcher.
Working as a military musician allowed Fast to see the world. He visited Korea twice, spending two weeks in Seoul for a 50th anniversary celebration of the Incheon landings and visited the DMZ where he spent time in North Korea. While in Okinawa, Fast visited Iwo Jima, considered a sacred site for the Marine Corps. He also had the chance to participate in high-profile events, including the 2004 American Football Conference championship game in Pittsburgh.
“I had a unique experience as a military musician. I was able to spend a year in Okinawa, and there I played on the Japanese mainland,” Fast said. “But the most meaningful and important musical mission I accomplished was during my deployment to Afghanistan in 2013 with the 101st Airborne Division.”
Staff Sgt. Julia Amadee ’10 majored in musical performance and French and played as a piccolo player in several orchestras in Montana while also working as a youth hostel counselor before auditioning for the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
“Seeing the Corps’ exhilarating performance at the 2015 National Flute Convention in Washington, D.C., and speaking with [my former piccolo teacher] her positive experience with the band inspired me to apply,” said Amadee.
“Becoming a member of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps has been a dream come true,” she said. “It allowed me to combine my love of music with a profession of service to my country in such a unique unit.”
Amadee considers herself a “musical ambassador” for the US Armed Forces.
“When interacting with audience members after a performance, I try to remember that this may be the first time they have personally met someone in the military and aim to leave a positive impression” , she said. “I can’t imagine a more meaningful musical career, and I’m extremely proud to be part of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.”