Washington, D.C. --
“The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band will return to the Filene Center at Wolf Trap for its annual Summer Blast Off performance with fireworks at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27 in Vienna, Va. The gates open at 6:30 p.m. for lawn and in-house seating and free parking is available.
Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig will conduct the concert, as he has many times over his more than 20 years in the band. “I have always loved our annual performance at Wolf Trap on Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “Not only is it a very special holiday both for those who serve and those who are proud to honor our nation’s heroes, but this concert opens the entire season for Wolf Trap and as such, it is also an important celebration of the arts in our country. Because this concert attracts one of the largest crowds we enjoy each and every year, it is always a very special event for us. Both as a performer early in my career and now as conductor, I have rarely felt a more intense and enthusiastic connection with an audience than we do at this unique music tribute to our country, its heroes, and the very special music of America.”
Fettig chose to open the concert with the winner of this year’s Sousa’s March Mania. “After an incredible run during the 2018 edition of Sousa’s March Mania, Samuel Barber’s wonderful Commando March proved victorious, beating several of the best marches ever composed,” Fettig said. “It is very deserving of the honor however, because not only is Samuel Barber one of the most significant composers in American history, he composed this march while serving his country in the Army Air Corps. In recognition of the grand champion of March Mania 2018, I am delighted to open our concert program with Commando March.”
In addition to popular selections by John Philip Sousa, John Williams, and Louis Armstrong, the program will also highlight some special anniversaries. Vocalists mezzo-soprano Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield and baritone Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear will perform selections from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. 2018 is also the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth so Fettig has included Selections from Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, a medley of the beloved songs from the groundbreaking musical.
Another lesser-known centennial celebration is taking place this year: the 100th anniversary of women’s service in the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard. On Aug. 13, 1918 in Washington, D.C., 40 year old Opha May Johnson was the first of about 300 women who initially enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve for service during World War I. Before these women had the right to vote they served in clerical and administrative positions, as well as, marched in parades. “After the armistice the women were released from active duty by mid-1919 and transferred to the in-active Reserve for the duration of their enlistment. One platoon of women Marines was called back to active duty for one day on Nov. 11, 1921 to escort the Body of the Unknown Soldier to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery,” according to Nancy Wilt, the national historian of the Women Marines Association and Director/Curator of the Women of the Corps Collection. Wilt wrote a letter to Fettig asking the Marine Band to honor the centennial with a march since the nearly 24,000 women Marines of World War II marched to Louis Saverino and Emil Grasser’s “March of the Women Marines” and the 1970s women Marines danced to Saverino’s “Women Marine Waltz.” Assistant Director Capt. Ryan Nowlin was pleased to musically mark the occasion. “I spent an hour and a half on the phone with her to get my musical ideas—all of which are inspired by the story of these first women Marines, answering the nation’s call, in 1918. It is truly an honor to write the march in recognition of the century of service of women in the United States Marine Corps,” Nowlin said.
The fireworks viewing area opens following the performance at approximately 9:30 p.m. and the fireworks begin at approximately 9:45 p.m.
Directions and parking