Have horn, will travel
“Have horn, will travel” is Charles Almeida’s motto. During his long musical career, Almeida played throughout the United States.
Most soldiers choose a particular branch of the Armed Forces. Charles Almeida opted for two.
In 1951, the Rhode Island native joined the United States Air Force Band and for three years played the saxophone for the Band’s Airmen of Note, the Air Force’s premier jazz ensemble.
In 1962, Almeida enlisted in the United States Army, which assigned him the duty of woodwind instructor at the Army Element of the U.S. Naval School of Music, in the process connecting Almeida to a third branch of the military.
He is one of those lucky fellows who easily found his true career path. Right out of the gate, he became a professional musician.
“At the time I graduated from high school in ’44, all the hotels had 14-piece bands and every country club hired a band on Saturday nights,” the Melbourne resident said.
Alas, the enviable life of the freewheeling musician came to an abrupt end when Uncle Sam called Almeida.
“The draft caught up with me and I went kicking and screaming,” he said, although he now realizes it was one of the best career moves he could have made.
“I tell young people who want to pursue music to go into one of the service branches.”
Proficient in oboe, saxophone, clarinet and flute, Almeida studied music at several schools, including Catholic University and the University of Arizona, but he never bothered to graduate.
During his service years, Almeida served as warrant officer bandmaster with the Army and was conductor of the 36th Army Band. He served as bandmaster of the Eighth U.S. Army Band in Seoul, Korea in 1965 and in 1966 was reassigned back to the states as commanding officer of the Army Element, NORAD Band in Colorado Springs. From that job, Almeida hopped to the U.S. Army Field Band in 1968. While with the Field Band, Almeida organized the 25-piece jazz/rock group Studio Band, which he took on several national tours.
“I’ve played in most states,” he said.
When military retirement arrived in 1972, Almeida headed to the Kennedy Center, among other places.
In addition to the legendary Washington, D.C., performing venue, as a freelance musician Almeida has played at Wolf Trap, at the National Theater, with touring companies of Broadway shows and with the bands of Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Artie Shaw and many others.
Although his three daughters played in their high school bands, Almeida did not encourage them to take their musical instruments with them to college.
“I knew that if they got in the band, they would end up marrying a musician,” he joked.
He must have had the right idea, for two of his daughters are physicians and the third one is a business executive.
When not playing music, Almeida would chill out as a competitive water skier and as a spear fisherman. The replacement of both hips has made pursuing those passions difficult, although he takes consolation by living riverside just south of the Pineda Causeway.
Now 87, Almeida keeps the music going, with gigs such as providing the musical accompaniment for the Henegar Center’s production of “The Wiz” and with the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, the Community Band of Brevard and Melbourne Municipal Band’s Swingtime Ensemble.
“My motto is 'have horn, will travel,' ” Almeida said.