America’s oldest continuously active professional music organization is celebrating its Quasquibicentennial anniversary – that’s 225 years of the Marine Band, for those who are keeping track.
"The Marine Band has enjoyed unparalleled success as a musical institution over its long history, and has proven time and again that music matters; in the military, in government, and to our country," Director Col. Jason Fettig said. "The band has evolved alongside the country itself, and will no doubt continue to play a central role in defining and celebrating our identity as Americans for centuries to come."
Back on July 11, 1798, President John Adams signed an Act of Congress which called into service “32 drummers and fifers” for the Marine Corps. Little did they know back then that they eventually would transform into the Marine Corps’ premiere ensemble of brass, woodwind, percussion and string musicians.
Between then and now, the Marine Band has found itself gradually etched into the American story. The group of musicians that originally played in support recruiting efforts and to entertain locals evolved as its relationship with the White House solidified during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.
By proximity to the nation’s elite, the Marine Band’s trajectory quickly necessitated musical excellence, causing it to bloom into the force of more than 150 of the finest musicians it is today, and allowing it to play an influential role in defining America’s national musical identity.
On its parallel path with American history, the Marine Band has borne witness to countless pivotal moments for the country, setting a score of pomp and circumstance for presidential inaugurations and speeches, providing a soundtrack of peace and celebration for the signing of bills and treatises, and offering a somber tone in honor of heroes, dignitaries and everyday people lost.
Read more on the Marine Band’s history here.
Through the years, the Marine Band has been fortunate enough to work with a multitude of distinguished musicians who, in their own rite, have also shaped America’s sound.
One such notable artist, Maestro John Williams, has enthusiastically worked with the band on a number of occasions over the past two decades.
Williams first conducted the Marine Band in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2003, commemorating the band’s 205th birthday. That historic occasion marked the beginning of a long friendship between Williams and “The President’s Own,” which has included subsequent guest appearances on the podium in 2008, 2009 and 2019, a Marine Band performance of Williams’ work for the 2004 Kennedy Center Honors, an original composition by Williams entitled “For ‘The President’s Own,’” and the 2021 release of the Marine Band’s album “John Williams and ‘The President’s Own.’”
“Performing with ‘The President’s Own,’ our renowned United States Marine Band, has been one of the highest honors of my working life in music, and their invitation to conduct concerts at the Kennedy Center in 2003 and 2008 constituted a very rare privilege for me,” Williams said in a note about the album.
For the celebration of the Marine Band’s 225th anniversary, Williams has once again graciously accepted an invitation to conduct the band in concert at the Kennedy Center.
"Twenty years ago, the legendary John Williams first conducted the Marine Band, and in this, our special anniversary year, he has decided to come back to be central to our celebration," Fettig said. "Of all of the great artists that we have been so privileged to work with over the years, none have been more generous, more humble, and more enthusiastic about what this band represents to our nation. To have the honor of working with this true American icon and his brilliant music—and to call Maestro Williams a great personal friend of the band-- has been one of the absolute highlights of our careers."
In this anniversary concert, the Marine Band will pull out all the stops, enthusiastic to perform an exciting lineup of Williams’ work, once again under the direction of the famed composer himself.
Williams is one of the most popular and successful American composers, and winner of five Academy Awards, twenty-five GRAMMYs, four Golden Globes and three Emmys. He is best known for his instantly-recognizable movie scores, like those for the Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, and many others.
Selections from these and other films will be included on the concert. View the program here.
“The U.S. Marine Band is a miracle shaped and formed by dedication and pride,” Williams said. “This ensemble truly is a national treasure of which all Americans should be justly proud. May they continue their inspiring work for decades, and even centuries, to come.”
All tickets for this free concert have been distributed, but a standby line for those without reservations will begin seating around 2:45 p.m. The standby line does not guarantee entry, is on a first-come, first-served basis, and is only ticketed if any reservations have not been claimed.
For those unable to attend, selections from this concert will be made available to listen and view at a future date.
This performance is an external rental presented in coordination with the Kennedy Center Campus Rentals Office and is not produced by the Kennedy Center.
Listen to the album "John Williams and 'The President's Own'":