The President’s own Marine Band at CWU

Reese Burke, Staff Reporter

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The President’s Own Marine band has been a beloved American tradition for 221 years, making it the nation’s oldest military band. Congress passed an act in 1798 in hopes to provide music for the president and the Marine Corps. Members of The President’s Own Marine Band have no combat duties, their duty is to provide music for the president and the Marine Troop as well as provide music on tours of the United States.

For the first time in its history, The President’s Own Marine Band, played in Ellensburg last Thursday, Oct. 3. The band is on their annual tour of western America. Their show at CWU was the second on their 28 show run.

According to the concert’s program The President’s Own Marine Band was invited by President John Adams to play in what was then the incomplete Executive Mansion to ring in the new year: 1801. The band played for Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration, a performance that would begin the tradition of The President’s Own Marine Band playing at every presidential inauguration that followed Jefferson’s. 

The band began in 1799 under the direction of  William Farr who led the band until 1804. Since then the band has many different directors, most famously: John Phillip Sousa who directed the band from 1880 to 1892. Sousa composed many of the marches The President’s Own Marine Band plays to this day, Sousa was even dubbed “The March King”. The current President’s Own Marine Band is under the direction of Colonel Jason K. Fetting.

 Colonel Jason K. Fettig directs 160 members. Of those 160 members, the majority of them are musicians. 130 musicians belong to the President’s Own Marine band, as well as 5 officers, 22 full-time professionals who work “in administration, library, music production, operations, communications, recording, stage managing, and supply”. The 160 members also include 13 members of the Fleet Marine force who help with administration, supply and work as stage managers.

To audition for the President’s Own Marine Band a person simply has to be 18 and eligible to enlist in the Marines. A person interested will audition before they enlist. The auditions are a vigorous two day process. Prior to auditions hopeful musicians are sent home with music to practice and be read to play at auditions. There are around 100 people who audition for each spot.

Trumpet player, Gunnery Sergeant James McClarty said the love the opportunity to bring music to the people. “[The President’s Own Marine band] greatly enjoys being able to meet the people who come out to their shows, the people who show support to both the band and the troops,” said McClarty. 

 

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