Conjure the traits of the fighting man: confident, strong, aggressive, disciplined, action-oriented and brave.
Without these characteristics, a man of arms fails himself and his comrades. But might there also be an artistic side to those drawn to combat? Could it be central to their success as a warrior?
Consider Jay Glaspy before drawing any premature conclusions between warfare and art, especially musical art. In his case, the machine gun and the bass guitar may well be linked, sparking success in both endeavors.
Glaspy, 41, married with two children, is a five-year resident of Gainesville.
“I’ve had an interest in music since I was 9 years old and taking guitar lessons. But I also was drawn to military service,” said the former Special Forces Green Beret.
Glaspy’s West Coast youth centered on sports and music, with an emphasis more strongly linked to athletics. When he graduated from high school, he was a valued member of his school’s football team, playing first team and all-league as a defensive back.
He also had an interest in law enforcement and an encounter with a police officer deepened his interest. “He influenced me greatly. He looked out for me and gave me a lot of good advice. He was later killed in a motorcycle accident.”
The advice and counseling led to a visit to an U.S. Army recruiting office, where a Green Beret officer spurred his decision to enlist and pursue a Special Forces career.
“When I made the rank of E4 I was eligible to apply for the Green Berets. But there were a lot of respected soldiers I was serving with who tried out for it and didn’t make it. They came back limping and physically broken.
“I said, ‘I know I can do this’ and in 1998 was selected to serve.”
There are multiple disciplines in the Special Forces and Glaspy was trained as a medic, based on his high academic scores. Medics are also fighters in the Special Forces but with a prized combat skill.
His first deployment was to Ghana in the summer of 2001. Shortly afterward he was positioned to take up arms in Afghanistan after the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.
Glaspy ended up serving five tours in Afghanistan seeing combat from his earliest days of deployment and experiencing the loss of more than a dozen of his band of brothers.
During his extended tour of duty, he regularly practiced his bass guitar. “Especially in the winter when there wasn’t much fighting going on.”
The most intense combat he experienced occurred in 2013. “I was in an eight-hour firefight with the Taliban. It was a very large force and the enemy had gotten progressively better over the years.
“They were more violent and tactically better fighters. I had never seen the enemy fight so hard.”
At one point an Afghan soldier was shot in the leg and his fellow Afghan panicked and left his machine gun exposed.
“When you’re in battle you must have your most casualty-producing weapon in operation. I ran out and manned the machine gun and started shooting. I thought I was going to die.
“I emptied 200 rounds, reloaded and then got behind cover.”
It was a bone-chilling experience for which Glaspy was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery.
His certificate reads in part, “For exceptionally valorous actions while serving as operations sergeant. Glaspy distinguished himself by repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire. His calm under fire directly inspired the men to resist persistent enemy contact.”
After achieving the rank of master sergeant and assuming control of his company’s entire training effort, Glaspy made the decision to leave the military. “I was in Seattle and I called my wife and said, ‘I’m done.’”
As a civilian, he worked for a cybersecurity firm in Chantilly as project manager for a year.
Then he met musician John Schreiner at the New Life Church in Gainesville shortly after moving there in 2014. “My wife and I attended our first service there during the Christmas season to meet people since we were new to the area. John was the worship leader at the time and he played in the church group,” said Glaspy.
“After seeing the band play, I wondered if they needed a bass player and they did. After a couple of years of playing together, we formed the Schreiner band. Attending that church service was probably the most important thing that happened in my life.”
Glaspy makes an insightful comparison between a high-caliber musician and a warrior. “Working with an elite musician like John I saw the same traits as being a member of the Special Forces. What makes both successful are a strong work ethic and a relentless pursuit in mastering their craft.
“And it never ends. Always seeking to improve and get better is the goal in both disciplines,” he said. “I took those principles and applied them to my music. Like the military, you find a good teacher and put in the hours to become successful.”
Today he pursues his musical career in concert with owning and operating Xen Live, an entertainment, production and event planning company. He holds a degree in psychology and is also as an audio engineer providing bands and DJs for a host of special events, especially weddings, through his company services.
He is currently enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College seeking a degree in music technology and performance.
With respect to playing in the Schreiner band, he said, “I am always going to have my own business. I do not want just one line of income. As a businessman, I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.”
And the link between the warrior and the artist is still strong. “To be a good shooter you have to shoot a lot and understand the principles of marksmanship. The same principle applies to music.”
Understanding the basics and executing them are critical to both disciplines. “How you handle the bass strings, how you hit the notes, how much pressure is applied to the stings is similar to firing a weapon.
“The proper trigger squeeze and proper plucking a bass string brings the best out of both gun and guitar. I approach my instrument the same way I approached learning to shoot. I know how to get the best out of both of them,” he said.
For information on an array of entertainment services available through Xen Live visit www.xenlive.net/jayglaspy. To learn more about his full range of services as a professional bassist drop by www.xeonesbass.com.
And to follow his band performances including videos, and show schedules go to www.schreinermusic.com.