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History of the Drum Majors

The early leadership of the Marine Band consisted of a Drum Major and a Fife Major. The Drum Major was considered the Leader of the Marine Band and the Fife Major’s responsibility was to train the fifers. In July 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress to reorganize the Marine Band, which created the positions of Leader (who was the principal musician), Drum Major, and 30 musicians. The title of Fife Major was abolished that year, and in 1881 the fife was removed from Marine Corps instrumentation.

Francis Scala, who was appointed Drum Major in 1855, became the first person to hold the official position of Leader/principal musician of the Marine Band. John Roach was selected as Drum Major. For a complete history of the Marine Band Director, click here.

Today, the Drum Major serves as the senior enlisted member of “The President’s Own” and is responsible for the band’s appearance, ceremonial drill, and military decorum. He is charged with directing the band in ceremonial commitments including the Inaugural Parade, and regularly leads the band in review for U.S. Presidents, Heads of State, and international dignitaries. The Drum Major’s uniform is unique. He wears a bearskin headpiece and carries a mace, used to signal commands to the musicians. The ornate sash worn across his chest is called a baldric, and is embroidered with the band’s crest and the Marine Corps’ battle honors.

The Drum Majors listed here served during/after the 1861 Act of Congress that separated the position of Drum Major from that of Leader.