WASHINGTON, D.C. --
With seat belts fastened and instruments secured in overhead bins, on Oct. 1, 2019, the Marine Band took off from one Washington, only to land in another a few hours later.
After 10 years, “The President’s Own” returned to the western reaches of our country to play its 101st tour – one, that as a matter of chance, followed the general direction of iconic U.S. Highway 101. Starting in the Emerald City of Seattle, the Marine Band meandered through 28 communities in Washington State, Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada, with a final stop in Sin City itself: Las Vegas.
There is always a diverse group of individuals at tour concerts, and it is fun to imagine this unique mix of people who aren’t often found together in one place. Together, the audience is a testament to the wide-reaching influence and draw of music no matter who they are or where they are from.
A few seats over from an 11-year-old who recently started learning saxophone is a college student who is about to complete a master’s degree in flute performance. Seated next to young families witnessing their first Marine Band concert might be an older couple who saw the band for the first time decades ago. Behind them is an entire high school band who came from a few towns over.
Interspersed throughout each crowd are veterans from every branch of the military and nearly all major conflicts from the past century. Some are easy to pick out – their hats and shirts announce their service in Vietnam or on a now-decommissioned battleship. Bright red headwear and jackets indicate involvement in the local Marine Corps League.
Others blend in until the concert’s closing musical selection, which pays tribute to each service in the armed forces. These individuals, camouflaged in civilian attire, rise out of the crowd to stand for their respective branch’s song.
Friends and family of the Marine Band were present for the concert, too. This included mothers, fathers and siblings of musicians, as well as former Marine Band members and individuals who have a lasting relationship with the band. Reuniting with these longtime friends of the band made for some special moments while on the road:
In Los Angeles, the audience erupted into cheers when Maestro John Williams took the stage to conduct his March from 1941 and Imperial March from Star Wars. This surprise appearance marks the fourth time the Marine Band has collaborated with the composer, and truly made a memorable night for those packed inside UCLA’s Royce Hall that night – including the band members!
That same night, former Marine Band trumpet players Thomas Hooten, Jennifer Marotta and Jeffrey Strong, all of whom perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, joined the us on stage once more as guests soloists for Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday.”
Former Marine Band arranger Sammy Nestico was able to join for a concert in Escondido, California. In honor of his presence that night, and his significant contributions to the band in the 1960’s, the Marine Band deviated from the program to include his piece The Marines’ Hymn Apotheosis. After the unexpected performance of his arrangement, the 95-year-old received a standing ovation from the crowd and band.
A former Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks Washington was also instrumental in bringing the Marine Band to his small hometown nestled in the hills of Northern California. With many thanks to Maj. Gen. O.K. Steele and his local Marine Corps League, Gold Country Detachment #885, the band performed for yet another packed house at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, California.
By the end of the last concert, almost 37,000 had joined the Marine Band for an unforgettable musical and patriotic experience – one normally found more than 2,300 miles away in the White House.
The tour was more than just 28 concerts, however. When the band is not performing or en route to the next city, many Marine Band musicians are paying visits to local school music programs, broadening the tour’s educational impact.
In universities and schools K-12, the Marine Band provided 57 clinics and master classes to over 3,400 students. These in-classroom visits make Marine Band musicians accessible to students, and give them an opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals.
The classes can take a variety of different forms. A few examples from this year include a woodwind quartet that performed for 150 grade school students in Tucson, Arizona; the high school band in Medford, Oregon, which Assistant Director Capt. Bryan Sherlock took over for a class period; and four oboe students at the University of Washington who had the opportunity to work with a pair of Marine Band oboists.
It is in these intimate environments that Marine Band musicians connect with students in the far corners of our vast country and pass on tips and encouragement to help them grow in their love or understanding of music.
For those who joined us on the Marine Band’s 2019 West Coast Tour, thank you for your support! If you have an experience you would like to share, please let us know via social media or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 433-5809. We would love to hear from you!
If you are wondering how you can bring the Marine Band to your town on our 2020 Tour to the South and Southwest, more information can be found at https://www.marineband.marines.mil/National-Concert-Tour/.