Living in New York City and playing Latin music with Puerto Rican and Dominican bands, Sub-Lieutenant Marcus Salone knows how music speaks, regardless of language or culture.
CAPTION: Leading Seaman Marcus Salone plays the Last Post during a memorial service at the Bathurst War Memorial in 2016. Story by Corporal Michael Rogers. Photo by Able Seaman Nicolas Gonzalez.
“They couldn’t tell I was Australian. When I spoke English they just assumed I was American, but it didn’t matter, they welcomed me in and appreciated what I brought,” he said.
He performed on stage at the Puerto Rican Day Parade with Grammy award-winning Latin musicians, and played with some big names in the Latin music scene, singers Ray De La Paz, Miss Yaya and Alex Matos. On return to Australia he performed with R’n’B group TLC.
If it wasn’t so hard to get a visa working as a freelance musician, Sub-Lieutenant Salone probably would have stayed.
Though the seven months spent in the US were amazing, coming back to his role as a trumpeter/bugler in Navy made him appreciate the stability.
“When you’re freelance, you’re always playing for your next meal or your next gig, so you can’t have off days. You are always pushing yourself knowing you have to put your best foot forward,” he said.
“I came back to Navy even more appreciative of the lifestyle it affords me. I was able to play with that same work ethic, but I had stability and peace of mind.”
Sub-Lieutenant Salone started playing music in fifth grade when he was handed the cornet after reluctantly joining the school brass band, and, despite initially disliking music, he stuck with it.
After leaving high school, he was exposed to new ideas and made connections at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music which furthered his professional career, including working in the Sydney Opera House.
Following a few years teaching music, Sub-Lieutenant Salone joined the Navy in 2003, after receiving an offer to audition in the Sydney Navy band.
“I didn’t really know the Navy band existed at the time. I don’t know how they got my number,” he said.
“I was in two minds about it, but after spending a day with the band I decided that’s what I wanted to do. They were really easy going, so I did an audition and got the job.”
He auditioned for the Air Force band at the same time and the person who won the position ended up not taking it, so it was offered to Sub-Lieutenant Salone instead.
“I chose the Navy because I had more fun with them, and I thought if I’m going to spend a long time with these people, it was important to have a laugh, work hard and play hard,” he said.
Sub-Lieutenant Salone performed with Navy around the world, playing the Last Post at Lone Pine and at an international sailing festival in Baltimore, alongside the Washington Military Band.
“It really lets you see the world differently. You jump on a ship and when you step off you’re in a different country,” he said.
In November 2021, then Petty Officer Salone commissioned to become a band officer, and said conducting feels like a completely different career.
“I’ve been doing music for almost 30 years but now I’m a first-year conductor. I’ve got a good ear but getting the best out of a large ensemble is a challenge and will come with experience,” he said.
As the assistant director for music in Navy, Sub-Lieutenant Salone oversees governance and finance for all Navy bands. While no longer playing in Navy bands regularly, he said having a musical outlet is important.
Since 2019 he has played with Sydney City Brass band with other professionals who love to play music but can’t commit to rehearsing full time.
In their first year they won the Australian National Band Championships as an A-grade brass band.
This year, over the Easter long weekend, the band won for the second time, the previous three competitions being cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Sub-Lieutenant Salone played the soprano cornet in the band’s near perfect interpretation of the test piece, Melbourne composer Jared Mccunnie’s Siege, written in response to the 2014 Lindt café siege in Sydney.
“It opens with a part of the Christmas carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing because it happened in December, and the music goes through a lot of different emotions, from the sorrowful to the mayhem of the panic and the urgency of the time,” Sub-Lieutenant Salone said.
He also plays casually for Opera Australia in the Sydney Opera House and other projects in the Latin music and brass band scenes.
Sub-Lieutenant Salone said he is encouraged to pursue these outlets because they help to grow experience and improve his performance.
Being a musician in the Navy has its advantages, aside from the travel and professional development.
“The biggest thing is income stability. But being a Navy musician, as opposed to other non-military bands, you have earned that uniform,” he said.
“You’ve done recruit school and are held to the same high standards the rest of the Defence Force is, so it’s not a fancy-dress outfit, and that’s important to me.”