June 3, 2014 -- style="line-height: 150%;">After 27 years in “The President’s Own,” Colonel Michael J. Colburn will soon be stepping down from the band’s podium and putting away his Marine Corps uniform. This week, Col. Colburn will conduct his final two Marine Band summer concerts at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on the National Mall; In August 2014, he will join the faculty at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind., as Director of Bands.
For these summer concerts, Col. Colburn has programmed works that feature several members’ virtuosity while tipping the hat to the band’s legendary 17th Director John Philip Sousa. The concerts will begin with John Philip Sousa’s march, “On the Campus,” which was dedicated to all college students past, present, and future. Col. Colburn typically programs the march at this time of year and he thought it was especially appropriate since he is about to go ‘on the campus’ himself.
The concert will continue with Bedrich Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride, transcribed by Marine Band music production chief Master Sgt. Donald Patterson. “I’ve always thought very highly of our fantastic clarinet section and this piece will highlight their skills,” Col. Colburn said. “The last time I programmed this piece was for a Midwest Clinic Convention and it was a real jaw-dropper."
But Col. Colburn has always thought highly of all of the musicians of the band. It’s that mutual respect and regard for musicianship that allows the band’s Director and members to collaborate when bringing the music to life. Two Marine Band members requested the opportunity to work as soloists with the Director before he retired: bass clarinetist Master Gunnery Sgt. Jay Niepoetter and euphonium player Staff Sgt. Hiram Diaz.
“Jay came into the Marine Band shortly after I did back in the late 80s, and he was one of the first soloists I worked with as a Director,” Col. Colburn explained. “He asked me if he could perform on my final concert, and he had a piece commissioned for the occasion: Rob Deemer’s Home."
“And since I started my Marine Band career as a euphonium player, of course I thought it would be neat to feature a euphonium soloist on my final concerts,” Col. Colburn added. Staff Sgt. Hiram Diaz will perform Edwin Franko Goldman’s Scherzo.
Col. Colburn is also looking forward to working with baritone vocalist Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear one last time; he has programmed an Irish song set arranged by former music production chief Master Sgt. Stephen Bulla, USMC (Ret). “I have such fond members of Kevin singing Irish Songs locally and throughout the country on our national tour.”
Other works on the program have been so much fun for Col. Colburn that he simply “just wanted to come back to them.”
But the final piece on the June 4 and 5 concerts is a march which Col. Colburn has conducted at Sousa’s gravesite, on the Marine Barracks parade deck, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, at President Obama’s 2009 and 2013 inaugurals, on the National Mall, and countless times as he led the band on tour throughout the country.
“Of course I wanted to end with Sousa’s ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever’—it’s my last chance to conduct ‘The President’s Own’ in our national march!”
Program and program notes
The performances will take place at 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 4 and Thursday, June 5, on the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol. The summer concerts are Col. Colburn’s final outdoor band concerts; however, he will also conduct the United States Marine Band in a Change of Command concert prior to his retirement ceremony. The concert and ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 12, at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia College in Alexandria, Va. The concert is free, but tickets are required. Ticket information is on the Marine Band website: www.marineband.marines.mil.