Sept. 23, 2013 -- He played the piano for four commanders in chief, six commandants of the Marine Corps, more than 50 state dinners, and innumerable official White House functions. And after 22 years in the Marine Band, pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boguslaw has retired from “The President’s Own.”
Boguslaw joined the Marine Band in 1991 and was often the organization’s sole representative during official functions at the White House. Four presidents knew him by name. He was at home behind the keyboard, whether he was sitting at the piano bench in the John Philip Sousa Band Hall, the 1938 Steinway in the Grand Foyer of the White House, or the Yamaha MOTIF he played in the Commandant’s garden.
Friends and family members gathered to honor Boguslaw at his retirement ceremony held Friday, Sept. 13, in the John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Bonnie Amos, first lady of the Marine Corps, and Angela Reid, White House Chief Usher, were among those who came to celebrate Boguslaw’s illustrious Marine Band career.
On his career, Boguslaw said “I got to be present as history was made. I was at the White House when Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan signed a peace accord, something that was unthinkable when I was a child. I played for President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. And I got to play at the White House on the evening of President Obama’s inauguration and greet our new president when he arrived following the inaugural balls, knowing that there were literally millions of Americans who would have given anything to have been in my position that evening.”
Boguslaw has had some amazing experiences as a Marine Band member, playing at the White House with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, shaking hands with John Glenn at the Presidential Medal of Freedom reception, and countless other once-in-a-lifetime encounters. Several legendary artists have sat with him at the piano such as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and Renee Fleming, and when Annie Lenox heard him playing her song “Hush, Hush, Hush,” she rushed to the piano and broke into an impromptu concert for those in the Grand Foyer.
Assistant principal percussionist Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Rose has served as a member of the Marine Jazz Combo with Boguslaw for many years. He spoke at the ceremony recognizing Boguslaw’s ability to find just the right song at just the right time to make anyone at the White House feel at ease. “I’ve heard Bob play Chopin preludes and Beethoven sonatas that made Van Cliburn rush over and sit down on the piano bench to say ‘thank you.’ And upon seeing Sting enter the room … [Bob] immediately played ‘Fields of Gold’ and a wry smile came over Sting’s face with a nod of acknowledgement.”
Rose said that while Boguslaw is a man of few words, at the end of each performance as he said goodbye to the members of the jazz combo, he left them with these words: “It’s been a pleasure.”
To conclude the retirement ceremony, Boguslaw stood at attention while “The President’s Own” played “The Marines’ Hymn.” But just prior, Rose, guitarist Gunnery Sgt. Alan Prather, and double bassist Master Sgt. Aaron Clay joined Boguslaw to play Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home.”
“It’s been a great 22 years … but now it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter,” the retiree said in his closing remarks.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Boguslaw, it’s been a pleasure.