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"The President's Own"


"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
A Look Back: 1918 and the Santelmann Orchestra

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | February 28, 2018


At 2 p.m., Sunday, March 4, the Marine Chamber Orchestra will present a Living History concert titled “A Look Back: 1918 and the Santelmann Orchestra.” During this program, the Marine Chamber Orchestra will take the audience back to 1918 when William H. Santelmann served as Director of the Marine Band. Conducted by Capt. Ryan J. Nowlin, the concert will take place in Warner Auditorium at the Marine Corps University on Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va.


Under Santelmann’s leadership, a symphony orchestra was formed within “The President’s Own” and was composed of band musicians who doubled on string instruments. In programming the concert, Capt. Nowlin scoured through Santelmann’s 1918 program collection to attempt to find a way to piece together an exciting program from what the early Marine Chamber Orchestra performed in the early 20th century.


“The concert will be presented in signature Santelmann style with selections chosen from or inspired by his actual 1918 concert programs,” Nowlin said. “These concerts frequently included marches, overtures, virtuosic soloists, opera medleys, and fiery finales. The first piece that jumped out at me was Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1. Santelmann’s orchestra performed it so frequently in 1918, and I knew it would be a great way to close the first half of our program. I looked for an exciting opener and he always programmed overtures, which we still do in the Marine Band today, so­­­ I found one that would be familiar to our patrons and that was played in 1918: Franz von Suppe’s Overture to Light Cavalry.”


The second half of the concert includes Jules Massenet’s Dimanche Soir from Suite No.7, Scènes alsaciennes, which according to Nowlin will feel like a party: It’s a great exciting closer which includes an offstage trumpet and percussion French retreat.”


The concert will also highlight former Marine Band Director Capt. Taylor Branson’s march “The Marines of Belleau Wood,” in honor of the centennial of the battle that established the Marine Corps as an indispensable fighting force.


“This concert unveils a lot of our history,” Nowlin said. “But we are living history, so the audience will be able to see how we got to where we are today.”


Santelmann was a strong leader and talented musician who ably led the band into the 20th century. Concerts took place almost every day of the week with regular performances at the White House on Saturday afternoons. Additionally, the band began a series of weekly radio broadcasts in 1922 known as the Dream Hour. Before Santelmann brought his career to a close, he hired his son William F. Santelmann to perform violin and euphonium in the Marine Band. William H. retired from “The President’s Own” on May 1, 1927; he was formally commissioned a captain in the Marine Corps, then passed the baton to Taylor Branson. His son succeeded Branson, serving as director from 1940-55. All told, the 220-year history of the United States Marine Band was in the capable hands of the Santelmann family for nearly 45 years.


“The Santelmann family is a significant part of who we are,” he continued. “Innovations came to our organization through the Santelmanns, so it’s important that we remember this connection and pay tribute to that.”


The performance will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 4 at the Warner Auditorium at the Marine Corps University on Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va. The concert is free, open to the public, and no tickets are required. Patrons should be prepared to present a valid government issued ID to the guard at the base gate. Free parking is available in the garage located at 2050 Broadway St.; there is no drop off or pick up at the entrance.


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