NORFOLK, VA - A U.S. Navy Sailor from Waxahachie, Texas, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Band in Norfolk, VA was recently selected as the band's Sailor of the Year for fiscal year 2014.
Musician 1st Class Audra Ratliff, a Waxahachie, Texas native and graduate of Appalachian State University with a Bachelor's degree in Music Business, joined the Navy as a trumpet instrumentalist in November of 2005. In addition to playing trumpet in the band's Wind Ensemble and Ceremonial Band, MU1 Ratliff is the Outreach Coordinator, vocalist, and Leading Petty Officer of the Wind Ensemble.
One of U.S. Fleet Forces Band's primary responsibilities involves providing community outreach performances within the band's 9 state area of responsibility. Several of the band's primary performing units embark each year on concert tours throughout the mid-Atlantic region, allowing the band to reach out to audiences that do not have opportunities to see Sailors on a regular basis. The concerts are free to the public and family-friendly, meant to be entertaining to audiences of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, various groups like the brass band and popular music group are geared toward attracting individuals interested in joining the Navy and can provide educational musical clinics while at schools.
"The entire Navy Music Program has always striven to show the world the absolute best face of the United States Navy. It is a responsibility we take very seriously, whether on an educational outreach mission in a rural Kentucky high school or a humanitarian mission in South America. Every day, the members of the Fleet Forces Band represent the professionalism and pride of all U.S. Sailors, and MU1 Audra Ratliff sets the mark for this truly outstanding group of Sailor Musicians," stated Lieutenant Commander Mark Corbliss, Director of U.S. Fleet Forces Band.
Ratliff has been extremely busy balancing her musical performances and coordinating the three-member Outreach team to book upcoming tours. She plays trumpet with the Ceremonial Band and Wind Ensemble throughout the region for approximately 200 engagements last year. She shares responsibility with the other trumpet players as Duty Bugler, and plays Taps at memorial services for our fallen veterans. Additionally, she performs with the Wind Ensemble where her hidden talent is jazz singing, from Diana Krall to Ella Fitzgerald.
Ratliff has an interesting story behind her enlistment in the Navy. "In 2002, while I was working as a middle school and high school music teacher, a college friend reached out to me. That friend happened to be the first photojournalist on the scene at the attacks on the Pentagon on 9/11. She was in the Army as a photojournalist and enlisted because her husband was an Army musician. I made the connection," Ratliff says. "I loved teaching, but I wanted to feel like my life could have a bigger purpose and could impact more people. My favorite part about the job is honoring our veterans and supporting my shipmates. In fact, one of the most important things about being a Navy musician is reminding the general public about our men and women in uniform who are deployed away from their families protecting our way of life."
To be selected for the Navy Music Program, Ratliff played a live audition that highlighted her technique, musicality, and versatility.
"Joining the Navy has been extremely rewarding. I've learned a lot through my experiences in the Navy. In recruiting, we were taught how to communicate effectively across different barriers and I've been able to use that skill throughout my career, especially being in the public eye as a musician. This past year has been filled with opportunities and lots of hard work," continues Ratliff.
Before reporting to Norfolk, VA in July 2013, Ratliff was stationed at Navy Band Northeast in Newport, Rhode Island; and NRD New England in Boston Massachusetts where she was meritoriously promoted to Musician First Class through the RCAP program, which recognizes individuals who go above and beyond the call of duty and who have maintained superb, superior performance as a top Recruiter.