Last month, we received a very touching letter and photo from Sergeant Natalie Washington, who enlisted as a bass player for the 133d Army National Guard Band nearly 12 years ago.
The military musicians are able to select an instrument of their choice, and for the last few years, Washington has been playing a Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition NOS 1964 Jazz Bass.
“Every time I play ‘God Bless the USA’ or the Armed Services songs, I get a lump in my throat as I see aged veterans stand and salute,” she shared in her note. “At the height of the conflict overseas, my unit was sent all over Washington to boost the community spirt; something no other unit could accomplish. That’s the power of music. Every mark on my bass has a story, and I put it there. The scrapes on the backside of my bass by the strap button lines up perfectly with the ribbons I wear when in my dress blues uniform. The dent by the control plate came from jumping off of the stage to catch a main speaker from falling on my buddy when he lost his grip during setup. There’s a small gouge in the headstock I recently got from snapping just a little too crisply to attention when the Major walked in to our rehearsal.
“When you connect with an instrument, it goes well beyond the sound you can make with it. It’s about the memories that have been created. The countless hours of practice, frustrations, triumphs and possibilities. It’s about keeping musical traditions alive and exposing old sounds to new generations. It’s about not reinventing the wheel just because there’s new technology available. Just as an Infantry Sniper must rely on his weapon to be serviceable and ready for him when that crucial moment comes, a military musician needs an instrument that is unfailing and solid when they hit the stage. That’s why I will now only play on a Fender Jazz bass.
“I want to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ with every ounce of my being to the people who made bass #R46213. Please know that I honor your work every time I pick her up. I wouldn’t be the soldier and musician I am today without you. I am so proud and honored to play an instrument that was crafted here in the USA, by individuals who take great care in putting their skill into each piece; from the pickups to the paint job.”