By Al Kamen
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The sequester seems to be taking its toll.
As we noted Monday, the Air Force has announced that it’s halting flyovers at football games and air shows, at least through the end of the fiscal year in September. The Thunderbirds, the aerial demonstration team known for its dizzying tricks, will be grounded, too.
Now we find that the country’s great military bands are taking a hit.
The famed U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” canceled its anniversary concert last weekend at the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, Md. and is preparing to cancel other concerts as a result of federal budget uncertainties.
Strathmore, with 2,000 seats, “was going to cost $35,000 in rental and related costs,” said Col. Thomas Palmatier, the band’s leader and commander. So the band canceled, citing “limitations on government funds” on its website, and instead scheduled four concerts at the 350-seat hall at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va. (All the band’s concerts are free to the public.)
Most other performances in the Washington area, either outdoors at the Capitol or on the National Mall or wherever the venue is free, will continue, Palmatier said, and additional concerts — at places such as the World War II Memorial — will be added.
All the military bands in the country and around the world are “in the same boat,” Palmatier said. “We are all looking at reality” and “trying to make lemonade out of lemons,” cutting travel costs and such, he said. “They are all doing the same thing.”
“We’re doing everything we can to find every possible way to continue to provide service to Americans,” he added, including webcasting concerts. Cutting hall rentals, some travel and other expenses would yield about $100,000 in savings, he said.
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, along with many National Guard units, maintain 148 bands, with an estimated total cost of about $388 million a year.