Marine Barracks Annex, Washington, DC --
Music Production Chief and Arranger Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson joined the Marine Band in 1991 and has been an integral part of the band’s sound for the past three decades. In honor of his incredible tenure, the band recently performed a concert which highlighted several works which he arranged and transcribed over the course of his career, including pieces by Modest Mussorgsky, Giuseppe Verdi, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Philip Sousa, and more.
Patterson’s accomplishments and contributions as a musician have left an indelible mark on the Marine Band. He joined the organization as a trombonist in August 1991 but was also a talented transcriber. In 1999 he was asked to do a transcription for the band and not long after that, former Director Col. Timothy Foley began requesting Patterson produce new transcriptions of various works. When a position became available on the production staff, he became a music copyist but continued doing transcriptions.
For 12 years, Patterson was a tremendously successful member of the Marine Band trombone section, performing hundreds of concerts and ceremonial commitments, inauguration ceremonies, more than 200 Friday Evening Parades at Marine Barracks Washinton, and more than 500 Full Honors Funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. As transcriber and music production chief, he had a profound impact on the iconic sound of the Marine Band, having completed an astounding 130 full-scale arrangements and transcriptions for band, as well as innumerable musical arrangements for smaller ensembles. His musical contributions have continued the lasting legacy of “The President’s Own.”
When asked about his philosophy on arranging and transcribing, Patterson said: “My basic philosophy of transcribing orchestral music for band is this: Stop trying to make a band sound like an orchestra. It can’t be done. Instead, listen and take in the general musical texture, atmosphere, color, and then try to recreate that same texture and color and the composer’s original musical intent as closely as possibly using the instruments of the band. When arranging, I try to be true to the composer’s intent, so I don’t want my style to be heard at all. I’m guided purely by the composer’s original scoring. If I’m successful, I maintain that color and musicality. The very color and sonority and style—the way the band plays—that has always been in my ears as I rescore the orchestral music for the band.”
Patterson worked on a myriad of projects throughout his career and when asked what his favorite memories are from his time with the band, he said, “The day Col. Colburn called me to his office to offer me the position on the production staff. And also, my audition day. It got me here.”
Congratulations to Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson on his retirement and a 30-year career in the Marine Corps!
Watch the concert featuring Patterson’s arrangements and transcriptions, originally broadcast on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021