Finding Guam’s power sound

Meteorologist music alumni and twins Landon and Brandon Aydlett play the world’s grandest stages with the Guam Territorial Band.

There’s something special about the bond between twins. For marching band alumni Landon and Brandon Aydlett, that bond includes a shared love of music, a shared career path, and a shared journey to the other side of the world.

“Music has always been a foundation for us,” said Landon. While the two were at NC State, they played the trumpet in several music ensembles, including marching band, pep band and the wind ensemble. Brandon even spent some time in the jazz ensemble. These experiences were preparing them for something they never could have predicted when they first picked up the trumpet in middle school in Elizabeth City, North Carolina—performing at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House with the Guam Territorial Band.

The brothers graduated with degrees in meteorology in 2005 and encountered some difficulty finding jobs in their field. Both of them considered going back to school to become science teachers. Then, in 2007, Brandon happened upon a meteorology job in Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands and took the leap. He thought he was saying goodbye-for-now to his parents, twin brother and baby sister. “The first time we as twins had been split up, that was really groundbreaking,” said Brandon. “I don’t know if it was harder on me being away from everybody, or harder on [Landon] because he was still in the familiar settings where he’s used to seeing me coming in, going out.” But they weren’t separated for long; another position with the company opened up and Landon soon joined his brother in the Marshall Islands.

They worked together in Kwajalein for two years before Landon transferred to the Oklahoma office. Brandon had taken a vacation to Guam a year earlier and fell in love with the island, so when a position with the National Weather Service on Guam opened up, he jumped at the opportunity. “There’s a lot of hiking, waterfalls, caves, just a beautiful place, and I decided that my next job would have to be out here so I could have a permanent vacation,” said Brandon. “And ten years later…it’s gone by really fast.”

As luck or incredible coincidence would have it, a second position opened up at the National Weather Service on Guam, and Landon got it. So the Aydlett brothers were reunited again, and have remained neighbors ever since. They both work in weather forecasting—Brandon as a senior forecaster and Landon as a junior forecaster and acting warning coordinator.

“When I got to Guam I knew I needed to do something music-related,” said Brandon. He had a coworker in the Guam Symphony and joined the group for a few seasons before ultimately landing in the Guam Territorial Band, which rehearsed and performed more frequently and provided the level of challenge he was seeking.

Landon also couldn’t resist the opportunity to perform with a band again. “I liked the dynamics of the group, the director—he was very animated, energetic and liked a lot of brass, so we were on good terms at that point.”

The Guam Territorial Band is a government-sponsored band of volunteer musicians that performs at state dinners, VIP visits and other political functions at the governor’s request. Their busiest times of year fall around Christmas and Guam’s Liberation Day on July 21, when US forces liberated the island from Japanese occupation during World War II.

The band also travels internationally, attending music festivals in New York or Australia, and friendship tours with their sister band, the Gamagori Junior Band in Japan. They’ve performed at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House several times.

“It was tremendous to get to walk into those performance venues and just step foot on those stages,” said Brandon, “to hear the sound and see the standing ovation once you’ve performed, and know that you did a fantastic job, worthy of such an experience.”

“It’s incredible, the gravity of it,” said Landon. “[2019] was my second time performing at the Sydney Opera House—the first time I did it five years ago, I was so petrified with nerves. But this last time I was like, what’s the point of being nervous? Let’s carpe diem and have fun with it, and that’s exactly what I did. So even when we went to Carnegie Hall in New York, I was no longer nervous…it was so much fun and I was like, there’s no reason to be nervous, you have nothing to lose. You gained it all just being here. So we went out and had a blast and wowed the crowd as usual. I mean, that’s what we do.”

The Guam Territorial Band is small but mighty, packing a huge sound with an average of 30 musicians who range in age from middle schoolers to senior citizens. “When you put everybody together, the sound is remarkable,” said Brandon. “It doesn’t sound like a small group. We’ve got this blend that it just sounds like a very mature group that knows how to play and perform together.”

Brandon stepped up as one of the directors of the band in 2014, a challenge that he has enjoyed immensely. “All through high school I had intended to major in music,” said Brandon. “So this was a good experience, one that was offered to me. I could have turned it down and just gone into the future wondering, what if I had done it? Would I have succeeded or failed? But my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, she helped encourage me and I decided to go through with it. And if I failed, so be it. But if I succeeded, maintained a high level of musicianship for the band, what an awesome opportunity.”

The Aydletts share their love for music with their hometown of Elizabeth City every time they bring the band stateside. They schedule opportunities to perform in local schools, and always put on a concert in partnership with their high school band. “That’s probably my favorite part about being in this band is taking this organization to our home town so they can see what we do, and put on a good show for where we grew up,” said Landon. “Honestly, that’s more rewarding than even playing in Carnegie Hall for me, just taking it to our home town.

“I really like to work with people, meet people and help people,” he added. “That’s the nature of my work—to protect life and property—but at the same time, I like to educate. So if I can take these experiences that I’ve had and share them with schools, not only on Guam but even in my home town, that’s all the better.”

They both credit their time in the music department at NC State with helping them get through college and preparing them to continue making music throughout their lives. “The band program, the music entities and presence at NC State, was what really got me through my stressful times in college,” said Landon. “Holy cow, Meteorological Thermodynamics, those were some rough days. But it was the music, it was getting out on the field and just going through some marching routines and plotting those pitches on the field, going and getting my mind off of the studying and the stress to focus on the music and working together as a large group; I think that’s what really got me through college. Otherwise I probably would have flunked. But the music program, that was the glue that kept things together for me.”

Brandon agrees. “Boy, [music is] one of the most memorable things from my years at NC State,” he said. “Meteorology was a big part of it, studying. But music was a stress reliever. You get overwhelmed with the hard studies, with the tests, the reports that you’re always kind of struggling under. But even though music was a demanding schedule consumer, I found music a great relief. To get to go to the games, the rehearsals; I really miss our trumpet sectionals when we had 40-some trumpets in one of the band rooms. That was just deafening but exciting. The personalities of the people in the group, goofing off but making music, and just taking pride in being the Power Sound of the South. I took pride in that. Absolutely.”