Washington, DC --
Thank a Teacher
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
—Henry Brooks Adams
This month the members of “The President’s Own” are saying “Thank you” to all the great teachers out there have influenced so many lives. See and hear Marine Band members thanking their teachers here. #ThankATeacher
As I reflect on the incredible opportunities I have been afforded in my musical career, I remain eternally grateful to so many teachers who played such an essential role in helping me to be the best musician I could be. Chief among these amazing men and women is my talented and generous high school band director, Mr. David Bresnahan (or as we affectionately called him “B”). Mr. B entered my life at just the right time to show me, beyond any doubt, the inimitable power of music. His passion for enriching the lives of his students through music led directly to my choice to make it my career as well. Without his constant encouragement, his challenge to me to excel and his insistence that I pour everything I have into my performance, I would not have been prepared to walk a path that has led to the incomparable privilege of leading this amazing ensemble. Thanks, B!
Lieutenant Col. Jason K. Fettig, Director, U.S. Marine Band
Ms. Rosin came to my second grade class and gave a violin demonstration. I ran home after school and asked my dad if I could play the violin. I suppose you could say the rest is history. To this very day, I love, LOVE playing the violin and I’m so grateful to Ms. Rosin for introducing me to the violin and life of music!
Gunnery Sgt. Tam Tran, viola
Thank you, Mr. Fischer, for trusting me with so much responsibility as a student. It helped teach me the discipline I’ve needed for a career in music.
Staff Sgt. David Young, bassoon
To Mr. Thielen, my high school orchestra teacher: Thank you for telling us when it didn’t sound good enough, and for setting the bar high.
Staff Sgt. Caroline Bean Stute, cello
Mr. Maloon! Thanks for forcing me to play the tuba instead of the saxophone! I think it worked out okay...
Staff Sgt. Landres Bryant, tuba
I am grateful to Ms. Charbonneau for seeing through all of the hideously awkward outer mess of appearance and mannerisms of my pre-teen self and recognizing real potential in there both as a young person and emerging violinist. There was a lot going on; it was the late '80’s and I was painfully awkward with thick glasses, braces with rubber bands (sometimes headgear!), at one point not knowing exactly how to care for curly hair. During these years my father passed away and things were difficult at home. As a young girl I was having a rough time adjusting to life changes so I was afraid that if kids in my school knew I played violin, it would make me feel even more separated and isolated than I already did. Having Ms. Charbonneau’s support was an especially bright spot since she was our Physical Education teacher and not herself musically inclined. So even though music was not her strength, she still encouraged me to use this thing that made me different and see it as a strength by making it matter; putting me in talent shows at school, being willing to listen to any tape recordings I made, and carving out time to talk to me about my musical events and performances. I even performed in her wedding—it was my first wedding performance. It planted the seed. What I was doing was good and it should be pursued and would be viewed as worthy in any world I was moving through, whether it be in advancing in my musical life or navigating public school.
Though I lost touch with her, she checked in on me when I went to middle school. I remember seeing her after a youth orchestra concert when I was in high school. By then I had figured out my hair, my glasses and braces were gone, and I was looking ahead to attending college and majoring in music. She said she just knew I would grow out of all of it and be alright. She went on to become a counselor; given the level of patience, attention and care she showed for me, that seemed like the perfect calling for her. The qualities she showed as an educator—being honest, real and respectful with students, making them feel valued and heard, seeing their potential and helping them draw out and develop it—are ones I keep in mind when I teach now.
Gunnery Sgt. Erika Sato, violin
In 1987, my middle school band took a very memorable field trip to Washington D.C. on an overnight Amtrak train from South Florida. We took in all the sites and performed a concert on the National Mall. I still have a photo I took of the Marine Band performing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Fast forward 30 years and here I am down the street from the Capitol serving in the Marine Corps playing music for America. Thank you to my band directors, Matt James and Ken Johnson for believing in me!
Gunnery Sgt. Ellen Dooley, flute
When I was in the10th grade a private horn teacher named Walt Lewis approached me and asked if I already had a horn teacher. I didn’t and he offered to teach me. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have majored in music in college and I wouldn’t be in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band today. Thank you for everything, Mr. Lewis!
Staff Sgt. Cecilia Buettgen, French horn
The two piano teachers that had the biggest influence on my winning my Marine Band audition are Gail McDonald and Bob Boguslaw. My first piano teacher, Gail McDonald, taught my mother and my two older sisters before teaching me. I was in second grade when I began my lessons with her and continued them once a week until I graduated high school. She had many students and involved nearly all of them in competitions, guilds, recitals, theory tests, and piano duets. Not once in all those years did she ever yell or belittle me. Her critiques were always calm, reasonable, and honest.
One of my duet partners was the son of two military musicians who played violin and cello. I was in middle school when I met them and became fascinated with the idea that a musician could join the military. I made it my goal to do the same one day.
During my first year as a music major at the University of Maryland in College Park, I contacted the Marine Band Operations Office and asked, “What should I be doing right now to prepare for an audition?” They put me in contact with Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sergeant Robert Boguslaw, who was a Marine Band piano player—what I wanted to be one day. He answered, “Keep taking classical piano lessons. Accompany lots of other musicians for their recitals. Play in a jazz combo. Play in a big band. Memorize as many jazz songs as you can from a fake book. Get a job playing at a restaurant. Take jazz lessons. I can give you some lessons if you want.” I quickly accepted that offer and studied with him for one summer in between my freshman and sophomore years. He showed me chord progressions, scales, ideas, and a list of the best jazz pianists to listen to. At the end of the final lesson he said jokingly, “There. I’ve shown you everything I know about jazz. Now put it into practice.”
For two years, I followed his advice diligently, including setting up my keyboard for a regular gig at a restaurant in the student union for some spending money and a free lunch. At the end of my junior year, I saw a flier on a bulletin board in the school of music. It announced an opening in the keyboard section for the Marine Band. I thought, “I doubt I’m qualified for this, but I’ll audition anyway so I can see what it’s like. Then when I’m older and more experienced, I’ll audition again when there’s an opening.” This attitude took lots of pressure off me during my audition. I was not nervous at all.
At the audition I played music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Liszt from memory. I sight-read a Franz Schubert piece with violin and cello. I played solo background jazz standards, and after an interview, I played jazz with bass and drums. Then I waited backstage. Finally they told me, “You made the cut.” I was shocked and thrilled. Bob Boguslaw suddenly went from being my teacher to my section leader. I’m extremely grateful to him for the good advice and the practical jazz lessons. He and I worked together from the time I joined in 2002 until the time he retired in 2013. We're still friends, and I still contact him for lessons occasionally.
Gunnery Sgt. Russell Wilson