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‘As a musician, your audience determines what you play’

Allison Baine: Well, I will say music has been part of my life since I was born as both of my parents were band directors.…

Allison Baine: Well, I will say music has been part of my life since I was born as both of my parents were band directors. When I was little, I went to their rehearsals and concerts and I just grew up in it.

When I was about fifteen years old, I saw an army band play and I became fascinated by the job, and ever since then, the passion kept growing and I decided and realised music was what I wanted to do with my life because it was something that reached out to the public and also a way of expressing yourself.

I went up to the university, and from that point, I joined the Navy band, and ever since then, music has been my career.

What challenges have you faced having been in the U.S.-Navy band? Did you by any chance face any criticism from parents or friends as being part of the military leaves you with more restriction in the way you live your life?

I have really not had any troubles with my family or friends for that matter, they have all been very supportive from the very day I took the decision that I was going into the U.S. Navy band. When it comes to music, there are very few professional jobs, there are only a few major orchestras and only a few university spots where you can get a good salary and everybody else is trying to lay their hands on good jobs and not just one but more so that they can make enough money to survive. The military is one of those options that you have that you will really not have to have five jobs to make a living. And so they were actually very supportive of me joining the military.

As a female officer, how has being in the military worked for you?

Well, I am actually not an officer; I’m a petty officer. It’s an  enlisted rank, but being a female officer has its advantages and disadvantages as my guess is, in the world, there are always more men than women in the military, so definitely, there are struggles to prove you are worth your place in the military.

But it’s been pretty cool as I do not see myself different from the rest of the band members, either male or female.

Sometimes, in an organisation, you get looked down upon because you are a female. Have you ever been a victim of such?

To be honest, I have never experienced that. No, my male counterparts see me as one of them and give me the respect I deserve, but on some occasions, they will forget that I need a separate room (laughing). Apart from that, I do not think I have ever been looked down upon because of my gender.

In the U.S. military, we are focused and believe in equal opportunity and so we have several high-ranking enlisted women as well in the military. So we try as much as possible to promote women as we do men who deserve to be there. If you deserve a position, you get it; your gender does not count against you in the U.S. military.

Have you had any disappointments since you joined the band?

Well, I will not really call them disappointments because I’m doing this for a living, so most times, we do not really get to play everything that you want to play and sometimes you have to play what the audience wants to hear. Most times, the performer and the audience do not think alike.

In general, I have felt much fulfilled in this job when it comes to going to communities and playing for children, hospitals and retirement communities and going out and meeting with people and making them smile through the kind of music you play.

But on occasion, the music does get a little boring, that I would say is one of the really big problems, but even though it may not be so fulfilling to you and you see the way people smile and laugh when you play, it still reflects back on you, knowing that you make a difference in people’s lives no matter how little.

Is this your first time in Nigeria?

Yes, it is.

How has your stay in Nigeria been?

Ooh, it’s been absolutely wonderful. I and the other band members have had a wonderful time here. I cannot count the number of times that I have had people walk up to me and introduce themselves and say hi, how are you or hope you are enjoying your stay in Nigeria.

It’s really been wonderful as I have heard so much about Nigeria and when I got the news that we were coming to Nigeria, I was so excited and just could not wait to see myself in Nigeria. It is really a great place; the kids I have met have been truly and really wonderful, very inquisitive and curious minds.

Most times when they ask a question, you are forced to think and ask yourself if they were really their age. In my opinion, Nigerians are very intelligent people.

Given a second chance, would you come back to Nigeria?

Ooh yes! Definitely, if given the opportunity, I would come back because I think the country has some other wonderful sights and sounds that I’m yet to see. So if given the opportunity, I would come back, take my time and see things in reality for myself.

You have spent close to a week in Nigeria. What Nigerian dish have you eaten or tasted?

Jollof rice, fried rice and chicken and the mashed yam (pounded yam) was actually wonderful and delicious. I must tell you it was actually very good. I had the mashed yam the other night with the bitter leaf sauce, but the bitter leaf sauce (soup) did not work well for me (laughing), so I had to switch to tomato sauce and it was perfect.

I actually asked how I can have it made and was told I could get the powdered form and use instead of having to mash the yam with all strength. I really loved the mashed yam. Ever since I ate it, I have fallen in love with it. And I must say when it comes to dishes, Nigerians are very talented people. Oh, I must say the oranges here also taste wonderful, very tasty.

The United States is celebrating its National Day today. What message do you hope to pass out to Nigerians?

We in the United States are very, very proud of our country and we celebrate our Independence Day, because it is a big deal for us. We do anything for the sake and to defend our country and I believe Nigeria could also have that pride in them.

What other African countries have you visited before?

I have been to South Africa, Cameroun, Gabon, Cape Verde and Tunisia

What would you say about the weather in Nigeria compared to where you are coming from?

I schooled in the University of Florida and so the weather condition is not really a problem. But a couple of days ago, the weather was really hot and it was very, very difficult. But at the end of everything, you get a good breeze at night and enjoy the cool atmosphere.

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