NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach native and Petty Officer First Class Ross Hartig’s drumming skills afforded him a ticket around the globe as a Naval musician.
From Hawaii to Italy to San Diego, and now, back home in Hampton Roads, he’s kept the rhythm going for Navy ensembles that play momentous performances, with each memory more impressive than the last.
“Being stationed in Naples, Italy is very high on the list,” Hartig said. “Performing in Africa. I was in Russia on Red Square for the 65th anniversary for victory in Europe.”
Now that he’s in the U.S. Fleet Forces band, the Kellam High School grad is playing for his own community, and his family is right there with him.
Hartig grinned from ear-to-ear describing his children taking in a performance at a Fourth of July celebration.
“Your kids come up and sit behind the drum set after the show and they’ve been dancing and having a great time,” he said, “and they see all the other members of general public dancing and having a wonderful time too, it’s a really neat position to be in and I cherish that.”
The U.S. Fleet Forces band is comprised of 45 Navy musicians and is one of nine fleet bands stationed around the globe. Hartig’s spot is one of less than two dozen percussionist positions in the Navy. To join the band, musicians audition, and, if they’re accepted, they go to boot camp to become Navy sailors.
“It’s highly competitive,” he said. “The job security and consistent performances are unusual, if not unheard of, outside of the military.”
After graduating from Kellam, he studied music at East Carolina University. From there, he went on to teach band, but it wasn’t long until the Navy band caught his eye. As with everything in the Navy, performance is all about preparation.
“Many, many hundreds of hours of practice that is all coming together in a band,” he said. “To be part of a band is the coolest thing. It’s just incredible when we go out and do those things, particularly in a rock band.”
His advice for young musicians following a similar path is to seek guidance from seasoned experts. For him, that mentor was his band instructor at Kellam, Mike Statina.
“Find a great mentor, a great teacher. Study, practice, practice daily. Open your ears, listen, listen both to the music and the private instructors you’re taking from. And listen to be the best musician you can play with as many people as possible,” he said.
Currently, the band is preparing to perform at Virginia International Tattoo at Scope Arena April 20-23.
Regardless of the performance, Hartig said it’s an honor to represent the remarkable men and women in the Navy.
“It’s been a privilege on both ends, to hone my musical craft, to lend that to the mission of the United States Navy, and represent the talent and meet those sailors in person,” he said. “When you look them in the eye and you see the talent level running the submarines, running the flight decks, it’s immense.”
To learn more about U.S. Fleet Forces Band, visit https://www.usff.navy.mil/Community-Outreach/US-Fleet-Forces-Band/Upcoming-Events/