When the bus wheels slowed to a halt on Nov. 1, the Marine Band musicians gathered their belongings and stepped onto the pavement back in Washington, D.C. There was a notable difference in the air after a 2,800 mile journey throughout the Northeast.
A month earlier, there was excitement, anticipation and uneasiness about how the band’s first tour in three years would unfold. For some musicians who joined “The President’s Own” in 2019, this was their first opportunity to go on tour. They might no longer be new to the band, but there were things about the band that were still new to them. More seasoned musicians looked forward to things getting back to “normal.”
After the fact, there was a different excitement of new memories to be shared, a sense of accomplishment for a job well-done, and a tinge of homesickness after 29 days on the road.
Few times since the Marine Band began touring annually in 1920 has the tour been suspended. During the Great Depression, the band stayed put 1932-34. During World War II, America’s attention was on the front lines, and the band didn’t tour 1942-45. In 2013, Sequestration prevented tour. In 2020 and 2021, it was out of public health concern that the Marine Band could not travel and bring audiences together in person.
Despite the different reasons for gaps in this American tradition, there is one commonality – a successful return to stages across the country, bringing music to communities far and wide.
In 2022, not only did the Marine Band come back on tour in full force, but so did audiences. Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, New Jerseyans, Connecticuters, Rhode Islanders, Massachusettsans, Mainers, New Hampshirites, Vermonters and Delawareans – all showed up in support of the band, their country, veterans and music.
Music venues from a high school auditorium in Lancaster, Pa., to Carnegie Hall in New York buzzed with excitement to see the band for the first time not only in three years, but in the half-decade since the band last toured the Northeast. Countless others came to see “The President’s Own” for the very first time.
Many friends, family members and teachers of Marine Band musicians, as well as band alumni, were familiar faces and special company at the performances.
City after city – 27 to be exact – the band was welcomed on stage with warm enthusiasm, and the band fed off of that energy, and poured it into its performance.
Over the course of October, concerts rotated through three distinct programs, each offering a variety of musical experiences, while still allowing room for all-time favorites like “America, the Beautiful” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Depending on the day, audiences may have heard one of three soloists – Clarinetist Staff Sgt. Kristin Bowers’ dynamic rendition of George Gershwin’s Three Preludes; Staff Sgt. Rachel Perry wailing on Claude T. Smith’s Fantasia for Alto Saxophone; or the brilliant euphonium-horn tag-team between Master Gunnery Sergeants Mark Jenkins and Hillary Harding for Anthony DiLorenzo’s “Gemini” from Zodiac Concerto. Read more about the tour soloists.
In Boston, the Middlesex County Volunteers Fife and Drums, dressed in full Revolutionary War-era garb and wigs, took the stage midway through the concert for a memorable joint-performance of “Ruffles and Choons” with the Marine Band.
In New York, Jessica Meyer’s Press On and Jennifer Higdon’s Aspire – both of which the Marine Band premièred in 2022 – were pulled together into one program for the band’s first performance in Carnegie Hall in nearly 30 years.
In all cities, veterans were honored with their service’s song, played at the end of the concert. Proudly standing as they were able, the crowds cheered them on in support. Even Richard Stammer, a World War II Army veteran who served in Saipan, was present for the band’s performance in Erie, Pa., on his 102nd birthday. You have never heard a more thunderous applause.
The Armed Forces Medley also included the newly adopted song for the Space Force. Necks anxiously turned in vain to see if any Guardians were present in the audience, and confused whispers regularly followed. The novelty of a new branch in the U.S. military hasn’t worn off yet, but soon enough veterans of the Space Force will take their stand when the Marine Band plays.
By night, the Marine Band performed concerts, but by day the musicians worked with students in local school and university music programs. Saxophonist Staff Sgt. Connor Mikula worked with about 30 high school students in Weare, N.H., about tone production and breath support. At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Director Col. Jason K. Fettig returned to his alma mater to work with the school’s wind ensemble on pieces by Paul Hindemith and Percy Grainger.
From friendly Q&As with school groups after concerts, to topic-specific clinics, members of “The President’s Own” shared their skills and expertise in 98 clinics, reaching an astounding 4,500 students.
To those who enjoyed a concert during the Marine Band’s 2022 Northeast tour, thank you for your support and for making each performance memorable. We are glad to once again share our music in person with audiences across the country and look forward to doing so next year in the Midwest.
For details on how to sponsor a Marine Band concert near you, please read more here.