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“The President’s Own”

United States Marine Band

Lieutenant Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Our History

JULY 11, 1798
In the nation's capital of Philadelphia, President John Adams signed an Act of Congress establishing the United States Marine Band. The original "32 drummers and fifers" were deployed on ships, sent to other Marine Corps posts, and some were retained in Philadelphia to provide music for the leaders of the government.

AUGUST 21, 1800
The Marine Band presented its first public concert in the new capital city of Washington "on a hill overlooking the Potomac" near the future site of the Lincoln Memorial. Early citizens thronged to hear the "Marines’ band of music."

JANUARY 1, 1801
The band made its White House debut in the unfinished Executive Mansion at a New Year’s Day reception hosted by President and Mrs. John Adams.

MARCH 4, 1801
The Marine Band performed for Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural. Jefferson, an avid music lover and amateur violinist, is credited with giving the Marine Band the title "The President’s Own." Since that time, the band has played for every presidential inaugural.

MARCH 4, 1809
The Marine Band performed for James Madison’s Presidential inaugural ball, the first ever held. The President, First Lady Dolley Madison, and their guests were serenaded with popular songs and dances of the period.

JULY 4, 1828
The Marine Band performed for the groundbreaking of the C & O Canal with President John Quincy Adams in attendance. Newspapers reported, "Airs from the Marine Band lightened the toil."

MAY 29, 1829

As President Andrew Jackson departed a ceremony celebrating the laying of the cornerstone of the first lock on the C&O Canal, the Marine Band played "Hail to the Chief." This was the first documented use of "Hail to the Chief" by the Marine Band to honor a President of the United States.

JULY 4, 1848

The Marine Band participated in ceremonies celebrating the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument.

1850s-early 1900s

The following excerpts are from David M. Sullivan’s "The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War—The Second Year":

"The Marine Corps, in order to ensure a steady supply of field musicians, was a practitioner of the apprenticeship system. Boys enlisting to become fifers and drummers were bound by a contract of indenture until they were twenty-one years old. They learned their skills under the strict supervision of the drum major, who, by the terms of the contract, took the role of 'master.' Their classroom was the parade ground at Marine Barracks, Washington. After a training period of anywhere from a few months up to a year, they were rated 'drummer' or 'fifer,' and assigned to duty at one of the posts of the Corps or shipped out with a guard of Marines going to sea.

When hostilities began, the School for Music Boys at the Washington Barracks consisted of twelve fledgling drummers and fifers. … Once the boys were taught the basics of the fife and drum, training in the calls that would be required once they were posted to duty began. Among the many calls that Musics were expected to become proficient in were: reveille, guard, muster, mess, liberty, general quarters, morning and evening colors, retreat, and tattoo.

In addition to their musical training, the boys received formal classroom schooling."

The School for Music Boys lasted from the early to mid-1850s to the early 1900s. Many of the apprentices joined the Marine Band upon completion of their contract. Several graduates include 15th Drum Major John Roach, 22nd Drum Major James Culleton, and 17th Director John Philip Sousa.

NOVEMBER 19, 1863
The band accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg for the dedication of the National Cemetery and his immortal Gettysburg Address. During the Civil War, the Marine Band lifted spirits with concerts on the South Lawn and in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

OCTOBER 1, 1880
Twenty-five-year-old John Philip Sousa was appointed 17th Leader, a post he held for 12 years. During this time, the band made its first concert tour, premiered many of Sousa’s most famous marches, and produced some of the first phonograph recordings ever made.

OCTOBER 28, 1886

John Philip Sousa and the U.S. Marine Band led President Grover Cleveland and more than 20,000 marchers down 5th Avenue and Broadway on the way to New York Harbor for the unveiling ceremony of the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Enlightening the World.

MAY 17, 1922
Music of "The President’s Own" reached homes across the nation when the first Marine Band radio program was broadcast. Other broadcasts continued, including "The Dream Hour," which began in 1931, running for 24 years, ending in 1954. At that time it was the longest running program on radio.

MAY 20, 1943
The band performed a special wartime concert on the White House South Lawn for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Despite a steady rain, Roosevelt and Churchill stayed throughout and sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" with the band at the conclusion.

NOVEMBER 25, 1963
As the nation mourned and the world watched, the Marine Band, at the request of Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, led the funeral procession of President John F. Kennedy.

MAY 16, 1973
The Marine Band enlisted its first female member, a French horn player from Saginaw, Mich.

NOVEMBER 26-27, 1985

The Marine Band performed its first ever concert overseas at De Doelen Concert Hall in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

JULY 4-5, 1986
Amid fireworks and celebration, the Marine Band performed in New York City for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, recreating the band’s performance under John Philip Sousa for the original unveiling ceremonies 100 years earlier.

FEBRUARY 6-23, 1990
Combining music of Sousa with images of Lenin, the Marine Band toured five cities in the former Soviet Union, becoming the only American military band to tour the USSR before its transformation into independent states.

JUNE 8-10, 1991

"The President's Own" performed for approximately 200,000 people attending the June 8 National Victory Parade in Washington, D.C. It also participated in the June 10 Operation Welcome Home Parade in New York. The celebrations honored the men and women who served in Operation Desert Storm.

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 1991

"The President's Own" marked the centennial of its annual concert tour, initiated by 17th Marine Band Director John Philip Sousa in 1891.

JANUARY 20, 1997

The Marine Band participated in its 50th Presidential Inauguration. From President Jefferson to today, "The President's Own" has participated in inaugural events for more than 200 years.

APRIL 24, 1997

Dr. Frederick Fennell conducted a full concert by the Marine Band at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphoniy Hall in Baltimore. The event marked the first time a guest conductor led an entire performance of "The President's Own."

JANUARY 26, 1998

National Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Slatkin guest conducted "The President's Own" in concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., kicking off a series of events marking the 200th anniversary of the band.

MAY 24, 1998

"The President's Own" was the first musical institution inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. Events included a gala performance by "The President's Own" at the Music Hall in Cincinnati.

JULY 11, 1998

The Marine Band celebrated its 200th anniversary with a command performance at the White House and gala concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., attended by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Also in 1998, the Marine Band produced its special 10-disc Bicentennial Collection.

APRIL-MAY 1999

The Marine Band welcomed guest conductors James Sinclair and Gunther Schuller to the podium.

JUNE 8, 1999

President Bill Clinton promoted Marine Band Director Timothy W. Foley to the rank of colonel in an Oval Office ceremony, marking the first promotion of a Marine Band director by the President of the United States.

APRIL 16, 2000

Guest conductor Frank Battisti led "The President's Own" in concert at George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax, Va.

AUGUST 21, 2000

The Marine Band celebrated 200 years of Washington, D.C., performances. The band moved to Washington in 1800, when the nation's capital was relocated from Philadelphia.

NOVEMBER 9, 2000
The Marine Chamber Orchestra performed for the White House bicentennial celebration which was attended by all the living Presidents.

JANUARY 20, 2001

The Marine Band marked its 200th year of participating in the Presidential Inauguration, performing for the Inaugural of President George W. Bush.

JULY 12-14, 2001

"The President's Own" performed at the Luzern Culture and Convention Center in Luzern, Switzerland, in conjunction with the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles conference. The Marine Band premièred composer David Rakowski's Pulitzer Prize nominated work, Ten of a Kind, which the band had commissioned in 2000.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2002

The Marine Band performed at Ground Zero in New York for the one year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

JULY 12, 2003

Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams conducted "The President's Own" for its 205th Anniversary Concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

MARCH 20, 2004

Minnesota Orchestra Director Osmo Vänskä guest conducted "The President's Own" United States Marine Band at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center of the University of Maryland in College Park.

APRIL 17, 2004

Former Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Conductor and renowned Duke Ellington scholar David Berger guest conducted the Marine Jazz Orchestra at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C.

JUNE 9-11, 2004

The U.S. Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra participated in the state funeral of President Ronald Reagan. The band marched in the funeral procession on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., on June 9, and the chamber orchestra performed at the funeral service held in Washington National Cathedral on June 11.

JULY 17, 2004

First Lieutenant Michelle A. Rakers was appointed as the first female Assistant Director in the history of "The President's Own."

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2004

"The President's Own" moved from its historic home at Marine Barracks Washington, 8th and I Streets, in southeast Washington, D.C., to the new Marine Barracks Annex, located just around the corner at 7th Street and Virginia Avenue, southeast.

NOVEMBER 6, 2004

"The President's Own" celebrated the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the birth of its most famous member, John Philip Sousa, and Commandant of the Marine Corps General Michael W. Hagee dedicated the band's new rehearsal facility the "John Philip Sousa Band Hall."

DECEMBER 5, 2004

At the request of 2004 honoree Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams, "The President's Own" performed for the 2004 Kennedy Center Honors. National Symphony Orchestra Director Leonard Slatkin conducted the band for the event, held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

MAY 1, 2005

"The President's Own" performed with the Washington Choral Arts Society at the new Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md.

NOVEMBER 5, 2005

The Marine Band concluded a year-long celebration of the sesquicentennial of John Philip Sousa's birth with the unveiling of an eight-foot bronze statue of "The March King" in front of the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, D.C.

MARCH 19, 2006

National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin guest conducted the Marine Band in a gala performance at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md. The concert included the Washington, D.C., première of John Corigliano’s Circus Maximus.

APRIL 2, 2006
Assistant Director Capt Jason K. Fettig conducted the first Young Peoples Concert titled “American Time Machine.” The concert continues annually with an original concept, program, and script by Capt Fettig.

JANUARY 2, 2007

The Marine Chamber Orchestra participated in the State Funeral for President Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

APRIL 23, 2007

Guest conductor and composer José Serebrier led the Marine Band in a gala concert at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md., featuring the première of Serebrier's "Night Cry," as well as his arrangement of Georges Bizet's Carmen Symphony.

May 1, 2007
Colonel Michael J. Colburn launched  the annual Marine Band Concerto Competition for High School Students in conjuction with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. The winner receives $2,500 and the opportunity to perform a solo with the Marine Band. The first co-winners were named on Feb. 16, 2008.

JUNE 14, 2007

The Marine Band, along with the Oak Ridge Boys, participated in the grand finale of the National Association for Music Education's (MENC) National Anthem Project on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event was broadcast to schools nationwide and thousands of students joined in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

JULY 3, 2007

President George W. Bush promoted Marine Band Director, Michael J. Colburn, to the rank of colonel in an Oval Office ceremony, making Col. Colburn only the second Director in the Marine Band's history to be promoted by a Commander in Chief.

JULY 20, 2007

The Marine Band performed as the featured ensemble for the Texas Bandmasters Association convention in San Antonio.

APRIL 26, 2008

President George W. Bush became the first President of the United States to conduct the U.S. Marine Band when he led the band in John Philip Sousa's march, "The Stars and Stripes Forever," during the White House Correspondents Dinner.

JULY 20, 2008

Conductor and composer John Williams returned to guest conduct the Marine Band for the band's 210th anniversay concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

NOVEMBER 2008

Colonel Michael J. Colburn and several principal musicians from the Marine Band traveled to Singapore as guest artists for the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band's 50th anniversary. The event marked the first Marine Band sojourn to Asia.

JANUARY 20, 2009

The Marine Band participated in both the inaugural ceremony and parade for 44th President of the United States Barack Obama before an estimated crowd of 1.4 million.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2009

The Marine Band supported CBS News as it honored legendary newsman Walter Cronkite at a special tribute in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, attended by President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

OCTOBER 26 2009
Legendary composer and conductor John Williams was a surprise guest conductor on his March from 1941 during the Marine Band tour performance in Los Angeles.

NOVEMBER 19, 2009
In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s Bicentennial year, the Marine Band participated in an observation of the 146th anniversary President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

JUNE 2, 2010
Solo Cornet MSgt Matthew Harding performed "Penny Lane" with Elvis Costello at the White House as a tribute to Sir Paul McCartney, the winner of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The event was broadcast on PBS's "In Performance at the White House."

JUNE 6, 2010
The National Museum of the Marine Corps unveiled an exhibit dedicated to Marine Band history, to include a life-size replica of Drum Major MGySgt William Browne. It also includes a button panel that gives visitors the opportunity to listen and watch the Marine Band play "Washington Post," "Semper Fidelis," "The Liberty Bell," and "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

DECEMBER 15-16 2010
The Marine Band performed for the 64th annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago. The concert featured guest soloist former Marine Band principal trumpet and current member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra John Hagstrom and the world premiere of Scott Lindroth's Passage.

FEBRUARY 23, 2011
The Marine Band paid tribute to World War II and the 66th anniversary of the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima with a concert titled “Quiet Heroes: A Symphonic Salute to the Warriors of Iwo Jima.” The program included SSgt Ryan Nowlin’s arrangement Sentimental Journey: A World War II Hit Parade, music from the Band of Brothers TV series, and Chris Brubeck’s Quiet Heroes (A Symphonic Salute to the Warriors of Iwo Jima).

MARCH 4, 2011
The Marine Band performed for the 77th annual convention of the American Bandmasters Association in Norfolk, Va., and gave the world premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s Flourishes and Meditations on a Renaissance Theme.

MARCH 12, 2012
Celebrated conductor Gerard Schwarz guest conducted the Marine Band in a program that included his new composition Above and Beyond.

APRIL 3, 2012
Marine Band Director Colonel Michael J. Colburn guest conducted the Slovenian Armed Forces Band in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

JUNE 23, 2012
The Marine Band performed for the National Association for Music Education’s Music Education Week in Baltimore.

JULY 20-21, 2012
The Marine Band performed for the Texas Bandmasters Association’s 65th annual convention in San Antonio.

JANUARY 6, 2013
“The President’s Own” kicked off the beginning of its 215th anniversary year with the annual Sousa Season Opener and the season continued with a series of Living History concerts.

JANUARY 21, 2013
The Marine Band performed for the ceremony and parade for the second inauguration of Barack Obama.

JULY 11, 2013
The Marine Band celebrated its 215th anniversary with a concert at Yards Park in Washington, D.C., which included the performance of John Williams’ “For ‘The President’s Own’”—a birthday gift from the composer himself.

AUGUST 23, 2013
MGySgt Michael Ressler retired after 39 years with the Marine Band, serving as a euphonium player, librarian, Chief Librarian, Support Staff Section Commander, and, since 2008, the band’s first-ever historian. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service and achievement while performing duties in a key position of responsibility.

NOVEMBER 22, 2013
Trumpet/cornet player MSgt John Abbracciamento performed Taps at John F. Kennedy’s grave during a remembrance wreath laying ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.

NOVEMBER 24, 2013
“The President’s Own” celebrated the 40th anniversary of women joining the band with a special recital in the John Philip Sousa Band Hall.

MARCH 31, 2014
Music director of the Nashville Symphony Giancarlo Guerrero guest conducted the Marine Band in a program of music Michael Daugherty, Kurt Weill, and Igor Stravinsky.

JUNE 13, 2014
The Marine Band performed at Arlington National Cemetery’s 150th anniversary observance program.