First formed in 1798, the Marine Corps’ military band is famous for having performed at the inauguration of every American president since Thomas Jefferson in 1801. Jefferson nicknamed the Marine Band “The President’s Own,” and since then, its main purpose has been to provide music for the commander in chief at state dinners, parades and other functions. The band is best known for its marches—“The Stars and Stripes Forever” composer John Philip Sousa was once its director—but it has also played classical and opera music according to the tastes of the president and his guests. It once even performed a Scott Joplin ragtime tune at the request of Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice.
The President’s Own” musicians are among the finest in the world.
Many Marine Band musicians serve for 20 years or more and most hold advanced degrees from the world’s top music schools, including:
- Curtis Institute of Music
- Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester
- Indiana University School of Music
- The Juilliard School
- Oberlin Conservatory of Music
- Peabody Conservatory at the Johns Hopkins University
- University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Musicians of “The President’s Own” are chosen at auditions like those of major symphony orchestras. Prospective members audition behind a screen to ensure anonymity and are selected for a final interview, by an audition committee from “The President’s Own,” based upon their performance.
Following selection and successful completion of a physical examination, musicians enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps under a four-year contract "for duty with the U.S. Marine Band only," guaranteeing exclusive assignment to "The President's Own." Members do not undergo recruit training but report directly to Marine Barracks Washington in Washington, D.C., to begin their duties. On-site training in necessary military subjects is provided in a structured program to help new members transition from civilian to active duty military life. Upon enlistment, members are immediately appointed to the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6), which allows the band to offer salaries commensurate with comparable civilian organizations.
Musicians within “The President’s Own” perform as a part of the Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., area, and across the nation during the band’s annual concert tour.
To learn more, watch our next segment.