Staff Sergeant Karen Johnson
Concertmaster Staff Sergeant Karen Johnson joined “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra in March 2011 and was appointed Concertmaster in October 2015. Staff Sgt. Johnson began her musical training at age 4. After graduating in 1996 from Highland High School, she earned a bachelor of arts from The Juilliard School in New York in 2000 and a master’s degree in music from the University of Maryland in College Park in 2002. Her notable instructors include Dr. William Magers of Arizona State University, Joel Smirnoff of the Juilliard String Quartet, and William Preucil, concertmaster of The Cleveland Orchestra.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Johnson served as concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony and guest concertmaster of the Phoenix Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and the Oregon Symphony in Portland. In addition, she has worked with a variety of renowned conductors and musicians, such as James DePriest, Sergiu Commissiona, Yuri Temirkanov, Victor Yampolsky, Gerard Schwarz, and Joseph Silverstein.
Watch Staff Sgt. Johnson's performance of Eugène Ysaÿe's Sonata in D minor, Opus 27, No. 3, "Ballade."
Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Wilson
Violinist Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Wilson joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Chamber Orchestra in September 1990. He was appointed principal second violin in 1991 and string section commander in 2007. He also serves as "Voice of the Marine Barracks," serving as official ceremonial narrator of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Wilson began his musical training at age 2. After graduating in 1986 from Morgantown High School, he earned a bachelor of music degree in violin performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1990. He earned a master of music in 1995 and a doctorate in 2007 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His violin instructors included Linda Cerone, Robert Gerle, Blair Milton, and Donald Portnoy. His conducting instructors were Victor Yampolsky and John P. Paynter.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Master Gunnery Sgt. Wilson was concertmaster of the Walt Disney World All-American Orchestra in Orlando, Fla.
Master Sergeant Janet Bailey
Violinist Master Sergeant Janet Bailey joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Chamber Orchestra in October 1996. Master Sgt. Bailey began her musical instruction at age 4. Upon graduating from McLean High School in 1990, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Boston University where she studied with Yuri Mazurkevich.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Master Sgt. Bailey was a freelance musician in the Washington, D.C., area. She has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, National Chamber Orchestra, National Gallery Orchestra, all in Washington, D.C, and was concertmaster and soloist with the Loudon Symphony in Leesburg, Va.
Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Franke
Violinist Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Franke joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in January 2007. Gunnery Sgt. Franke began his musical instruction on violin at age 5. After graduating in 2002 from West Springfield High School, he earned his bachelor of music degree in violin performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio in 2006. He also has pursued graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. His notable instructors include Cyrus Forough from Carnegie Mellon, David Updegraff from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Lisa-Beth Lambert of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Gunnery Sgt. Franke was a freelance musician in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. Gunnery Sgt. Franke, the son of Master Gunnery Sgt. Philip Franke, USMC (ret.), a Marine Band euphonium player, and Master Sgt. Susan Franke, USMC (ret.), a former Marine Band violist. In addition, Gunnery Sgt. Franke’s grandfather, the late Master Gunnery Sgt. David Johnson, USMC (ret.) was a retired Marine Band trumpet/cornet player. The Frankes are the first family to span three generations within “The President’s Own.”
Watch Gunnery Sgt. Franke perform Stringapalooza!, Ludwig van Beethoven's Grosse Fuge in B-flat, Soulima Stravinsky's String Quartet No. 3, and Maurice Ravel's Violin Sonata No. 2: Perpetuum mobile.
Gunnery Sergeant Erika Sato
Violinist Gunnery Sergeant Erika Sato joined “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra in August 2003. Gunnery Sgt. Sato began her musical training at age 3. After graduating in 1994 from Beaverton High School in Beaverton, Ore., she attended The Juilliard School in New York, where she earned a bachelor of music degree in 1998 and a master of music degree in 2000. She studied with Kathryn Gray of the Oregon Symphony in Portland and Masao Kawasaki at Juilliard.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Gunnery Sgt. Sato was a titled and tenured member of the Colorado Symphony in Denver, a frequent performer with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opera house orchestra in Washington, D.C., and performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in Newark. She has given recitals and made solo appearances across the country with such groups as the Colorado Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, and the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colo. Gunnery Sgt. Sato has participated in music festivals in Aspen, Colo.; Banff, Alberta, Canada; Norfolk, Conn.; Spoleto in Charleston, S.C., and Italy; and at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass. She has also appeared as a guest artist with the Strings in the Mountains in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Gunnery Sgt. Sato is a frequently featured soloist with the Marine Chamber Orchestra and has performed J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050 and Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060; Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19; and Igor Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Gunnery Sgt. Sato and fellow violinist Master Sgt. Regino Madrid are featured on the Marine Band’s YouTube channel in a performance of Bruce Dukov’s arrangement of John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” She has also participated in the Marine Band’s Music in the Schools initiative and has given master classes and clinics at local area schools and universities such as Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Watch Gunnery Sgt. Sato perform Johann Sebastian Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor for Violin, BWV 1004,
Watch Master Sgt. Madrid and Gunnery Sgt. Erika Sato perform Bruce Dukov's arrangement of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
Watch Gunnery Sgt. Sato and Gunnery Sgt. Russell Wilson perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Allegro from Sonata No. 5, Opus 24 "Spring Sonata."
Staff Sergeant Chaerim Smith
Violinist Staff Sergeant Chaerim Smith joined “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra in November 2007. Staff Sgt. Smith began her musical training on piano at age 3 and violin at age 6. After graduating in 1998 from Memorial High School, she earned a bachelor of music degree in violin performance from the Manhattan School of Music in 2003. Her notable instructors include Lucie Robert of the Manhattan School of Music and Kenneth Goldsmith of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Smith performed with the Harrisburg Symphony in Pennsylvania, and taught violin and piano and freelanced in the New York tri-state area.
Staff Sergeant Foster Wang
Violinist Staff Sergeant Foster Wang joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Chamber Orchestra in August 2016. Staff Sgt. Wang began his musical instruction at age 4. Upon graduating in 2006 from Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, N.Y., he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 2010 from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where he studied privately with Lynn Chang. He earned his master’s degree in violin performance in 2012 at The Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with David Chan, concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Staff Sgt. Wang has also studied with Rafail Sobolevsky and Naoko Tanaka.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Wang performed as a fellow with the New World Symphony in Miami from 2012-16. In addition he took part in the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra in Germany and the Breckenridge Music Festival in Colorado.
Staff Sergeant Sheng-Tsung Wang
Violinist Staff Sergeant Sheng-Tsung Wang joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Chamber Orchestra in June 2007. Staff Sgt. Wang began his musical instruction at age 8, after emigrating to the United States from Taiwan. Upon graduating in 1993 from Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Md., he earned bachelor’s (1997) and master’s (1999) degrees in violin performance from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he studied with Victor Danchenko. He earned his doctor of musical arts degree in 2007 at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied with Gerald Fischbach. His notable instructors include Eugene Drucker of the Emerson String Quartet, Elaine Mishkind, and the late Mark Ulrich.
Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Wang founded the Gemini Piano Trio and has been heard as part of the Arts Club of Washington concert series and on National Public Radio. He has performed at the following festivals: the Quartet Program at the State University of New York in Fredonia; Yellow Barn Music Festival in Putney, Vt.; La Jolla SummerFest in La Jolla, Ca.; and Taos School of Music, in Taos, N.M. In addition, he has taught at the Peabody Preparatory in Baltimore, Howard Community College in Columbia, Md., and the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C.
Watch SSgt Wang perform Stringapalooza!, Ludwig van Beethoven's Grosse Fuge in B-flat, Kurt Weill's Concerto for Violin and Winds, Soulima Stravinsky's String Quartet No. 3, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K. 216: Allegro.
Watch his interview spoken in his native Chinese about the 2013 Inauguration.