Before Daniel Arute was born, his mom picked up a trumpet at a garage sale.
She stuck it under the bed — just in case.
Smart move, mom.
Today, Daniel Arute, who plays the trumpet, is the newest member of the highly regarded Navy Band Northwest.
The band is planning a stop in Oak Harbor, performing a production, “Home for the Holidays,” at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 at Oak Harbor High School.
The performance is free and open to the public.
Playing with the Navy band is no easy gig. Worldwide, fewer than 500 musicians perform with one of nine Navy fleet bands. It’s a coveted position, with musicians often choosing to stay as long as possible.
“It’s very competitive, especially since now spots are limited,” said Daniel Webber, a musician with the band who also serves as a spokesman.
And Arute is “one of the best,” Webber said. Technically, he’s precise and his tone quality is fantastic, Webber said.
Give Arute a new piece of music, and he can pick it up in a matter of minutes.
People don’t often realize the Navy band is comprised of full-time musicians who are, yes, sailors who get the same basic training at bootcamp, he added.
But these are sailors who aren’t deployed on any ship. They spend all their time practicing and performing at military and public events.
The 35 musicians in the Navy Northwest Band play more than 400 engagements a year, including parades, sporting events, retirements and change of command ceremonies. Arute is sometimes called on to play “Taps” at military funerals.
Arute, 28, grew up in Alabama singing along to the “Oldies” with his family in the car. He became more seriously interested in music in high school.
He majored in music education in college and attended graduate school. He played for Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. It was a difficult time trying to make a go as a professional musician.
“The goal is to get a full-time job performing but that’s hard to do,” he said. “I kept taking auditions, teaching studio … It can take years. It’s exhausting to sustain that type of lifestyle.”
Auditioning for the Navy wasn’t too far of a stretch. His father served on a submarine in Vietnam and his grandfathers both served in World War II in the Army.
This is no ordinary audition. Arute auditioned in Chicago in front of a panel. Unlike a typical audition that might last 10 minutes, this one lasted an hour. He had to memorize 48 different scales which they could ask him to play at random. They tested his ability to read music and play different styles of music.
He passed and then made a visit to the local recruiter. The musician position is so unusual, the Navy recruiters didn’t quite know what to do with him. Normally, someone walks in the door and takes a test that dictates what jobs they are qualified for.
Arute walked in qualified.
“They had never seen a musician before,” he said.
He waited for months until a position came open. He attended boot camp and was part of a “triple threat” division made up of musicians, the choir and the drill team. He had some time away from the drill instructors to practice, and he honed his skills at weekly graduations.
Afterward, he went to an A-school for musicians. There he filled out a “dream sheet” of duty stations. His father warned him “it’s really a dream.” Arute wanted to go to Italy, San Diego or Hawaii. When he got placed in the Northwest, at first he was disappointed.
The more he researched the area, the more excited he became. His duty station is in Silverdale.
He packed up his car and made the drive to Washington state last summer, his first time in the area.
“It blew my mind,” he said. “There’s something about the Pacific Northwest. It’s just so beautiful, so green and rich. It’s not like in the South and the weather is amazing. I don’t mind the rain.”
He spends his days practicing and performing. Although he was trained classically, he’s learning new styles of music. The band breaks down into smaller groups, including a rock band, a popular music group and a brass quartet.
He wants to keep this gig as long as he can.
“At one point I had three different jobs trying to make ends meet,” he said. “I love being able to come to work every day and do what I love. Making music is something I’ve tried to pursue since I was 18 and finally the hard work is paying off.
“And I’m serving my country.”