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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Tour to the West Coast: Thrill to Martial Music

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | October 1, 2019

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In 1891, after receiving permission from President Benjamin Harrison to take the Marine Band outside of Washington, D.C., John Philip Sousa led the band through 32 cities and towns in New England and the Midwest. Sousa launched the band’s second concert tour in 1892, this time through 37 cities to the Pacific Coast and back. Marine Band tours were suspended during the Depression and World War II and resumed in 1946. This year the Marine Band will travel more than 3,000 miles on its 101st tour, performing 28 concerts in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada. The concerts are free but tickets are required. View the full itinerary at http://marineband.ticketleap.com.

 

The band’s first concert will take place in Seattle, kicking off tour with Sousa’s march, “The Directorate.” This marks the band’s 21st concert in the Emerald City since 1891, when Sousa himself conducted a matinee and evening performance. Just a few days prior to the band’s Oct. 11, 1959, performance in the Seattle Civic Auditorium, a reporter for the Seattle Post Intelligencer said, “The U.S. Marine Corps Band is to the world of military symphonic bands what the Leathernecks are to the Armed Services—the foremost and the best. … For this will be a great occasion—a mighty organ whose vibrant music is the essence of our history.” 

 

Since the very first tour in 1891, Sousa’s programming style always included a wide variety of music that appealed to audiences nationwide. In the March 1891 issue of “The Metronome,” Sousa was praised; “the programmes arranged for the tour are most excellent and exhibit a wisdom of selection that is sure to be appreciated as all tastes are provided for.” In the Spokane Daily Chronicle, Oct. 10, 1959, a reporter wrote that the Marine Band “presented a program of stirring marches, overtures, symphonic interpretations and novelty numbers of sufficient variety to appeal to young and old alike.”

 

In the style of Sousa, Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig has chosen a diverse mix of programs¾from marches and traditional band repertoire to instrumental solos and a musical salute to the Armed Forces. And just as Sousa highlighted instrumental and vocal soloists, the tour programs this year will represent a diverse cross section in the band, featuring saxophone, oboe, tuba, and baritone vocalist. This year’s soloists include seasoned tour soloist baritone vocalist Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Bennear and first-time tour soloists saxophone player Master Sgt. Steven Temme, oboe player Gunnery Sgt. Tessa Vinson, and tuba player Staff Sgt. Simon Wildman. Bennear also serves as the concert moderator, introducing soloists and providing the titles and background information on each selection and composer.

 

MEET THE SOLOISTS

 

“I’ve tried to build programs for this tour that would be entertaining and emotionally moving for our audiences as well as challenging for the band’s musicians,” Fettig said. “As is the case with all of our tours, there will be music on every concert that appeals to someone and that showcases the incredible talents of our Marine musicians. I have included music by several composers who are native to the states we are visiting, and some music that represents the cultural and artistic traditions of those states. Since one of those American traditions has been the contributions of Hollywood throughout the last century, this year’s tour programs will include a heathy dose of symphonic music from legendary film composers like the incomparable John Williams, who the Marine Band has been so fortunate to count as a friend and supporter of the organization for many years.”

 

In addition to music by John Williams and marches by John Philip Sousa, the band will perform (on select programs) Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Gustav Holst’s Prelude and Scherzo, Hammersmith, Opus 52; Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Selections from South Pacific; Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission, and more. The programs will also include the military service songs as well as Sousa favorites “Semper Fidelis,” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

 

After more than two decades in the Marine Band, this will be Col. Fettig’s first tour to the West Coast with the band. “In all my years in the band as both a clarinet player, Assistant Director and now Director, I have visited many states multiple times, but I have actually never been assigned to a tour that visited this part of the country,” Fettig said. “Needless to say, I am very excited to finally have the opportunity to share the talents of the Marine Band with so many people on the West Coast and throughout Arizona and Nevada.”

 

“One of the best things about a Marine Band tour is our tradition of visiting communities both big and small,” he continued. “I am thrilled to be performing in wonderful arts venues and Universities in great cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, and also presenting concerts in small towns and at high schools all along the way in Oregon, northern California and across our Southern border. This is an incredibly picturesque part of our country, and regions that represent many different aspects of American culture.”

 

This will also be Assistant Director Capt. Sherlock’s first tour with the Marine Band to the West Coast. He will conduct two pieces on each concert and also serve in a management capacity, assisting with travel logistics and musician needs. While he is on the road, he is looking forward to conducting Darius Milhaud’s Suite francaise on several programs as well as Igor Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird, which has long been one of his favorites.

 

In addition to the tour concerts, Marine Band musicians will also provide dozens of master classes and clinics in local schools along the tour route. In 2018, the Marine Band reached 4,500 students through 72 master classes and clinics, and this year more than 50 are currently booked.

 

“One of the most important and enjoyable opportunities we have each year while traveling is to interact with thousands of students at all levels of education, from elementary through college,” Fettig explained. “In addition to having the privilege to perform concerts for so many communities across the nation, these more personal moments of mentorship and connection with the next generations of musicians and music-lovers has added a rich dimension to our mission to share the Marine Band with as many of our fellow citizens as possible.”

 

On Dec. 1, 1959, one of those fellow citizens—Mr. H.L. Boyer—shared what he thought of a Marine Band tour concert, by writing a letter to the President of the United States:

 

“What I am trying to say is, that I appreciate the permission you have given this year for the U.S. Marine Band to be on tour. It was my privilege to enjoy the last concert of the tour at a nearby high school. I hope these tours will always be permissible … May we, all over the country, always have the opportunity to thrill to martial music—a heart quickening emotion.”

 

“Tour with the Marine Band is always a special event for me,” Fettig said. “It’s one of the things I appreciate most about serving in this organization—to be able to take this historical institution and share it with people across the nation.”

 

The Marine Band’s 2019 National Concert Tour will take place Oct. 2-31. The performances are free but tickets are required. Times, dates, and location information may be found at https://marineband.ticketleap.com.


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