Darwin strikes a chord with Navy musician

Published on ABIS Kayla Hayes (author and photographer)

Location(s): Darwin, Northern Territory

Royal Australian Navy Band - Melbourne, Band Commander Lieutenant Andrew Stokes conducts the band during a ceremonial sunset for the public at Palmerston City Council for Navy Week in the Northern Territory. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Royal Australian Navy Band - Melbourne, Band Commander Lieutenant Andrew Stokes conducts the band during a ceremonial sunset for the public at Palmerston City Council for Navy Week in the Northern Territory.

Lieutenant Andrew Stokes has played music in all corners of the world since he left Darwin to join the Royal Australian Navy Band 26 years ago, but no matter where Lieutenant Stokes goes, he says there is no place like home.

“Working for Defence means living in different cities, but Darwin is the one town that still feels like home,” he says. 

Lieutenant Stokes was back in the Top End with the Royal Australian Navy Band recently to celebrate Navy Week.

The highly talented and trained group of musicians played at nine venues in five days, including Larrakeyah Primary School, Palmerston Markets, Mindil Beach Markets and Raintree Park.

Despite a hectic tour schedule, Lieutenant Stokes managed to visit a few his favourite haunts.

“Mindil Beach Markets was a must, I also managed to eat seafood on Stokes Hill Wharf and pay a visit to Darwin Sailing Club,” he says. 

Lieutenant Stokes lived in Darwin from age nine to 17 during which he attended Jingili Primary School, Nightcliff High School and Casuarina Secondary College. 

His father worked for the Australian Broadcasting Commision, and his mother worked in the office at Karama Primary School.

A gifted percussionist, Lieutenant Stokes played in the Darwin Youth Orchestra, Darwin Symphony Orchestra, Darwin Concert Band and Darwin Youth Jazz Big Band.

He says a visit to Darwin by the band while he was still in high school convinced him to join the service.

Lieutenant Stokes is the current Music Director of the Royal Australian Navy Band - Melbourne. 

He has performed with the band in eight countries, including Greece, Brunei, the Solomon Islands, Turkey, Afghanistan, China and France.

He says he would recommend a career in the Navy to anyone.

“It is a fantastic life, particularly for a musician. 

“Good money, benefits and travel and you get to play music for a living,” said Lieutenant Stokes.

Royal Australian Navy musicians play an important role in Navy life, from entertaining and motivating personnel to supporting the public persona of the service. 

Entry into the band is by audition, but applicants must also pass the normal entry requirements placed on all sailors.

Navy Week occurred from 5 September and provided an opportunity for the Royal Australian Navy to thank local communities for their support and showcase Navy people and assets to the people of Darwin and the Northern Territory.