Band of the Leader

Last week at church I was pleasantly surprised to see a brass quintet accompanying the organist.  Trumpets, tubas and French horns are typically reserved for the Christmas season services but there they were – a small group of our members – playing along with the hymns of the day.  It somehow made the service more meaningful.

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At President Trump’s inauguration I was pleasantly surprised to see a small band accompanying young Jackie Evancho as she performed America’s national anthem.  It was the first time I’d heard Jackie sing, and I thought her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was flawless.  Perhaps some of you know Jackie as the singer from “America’s Got Talent”.  For me, her most recent performance lent credence to her status as “the youngest solo artist ever to go platinum”.  Jackie also performed for former President Obama at the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree, suggesting a refreshing lack of political persuasion in her decision to sing.

But back to the band – the “band of the leader” as it turns out.  Shortly after Jackie finished America’s anthem one of the inauguration commentators labeled the accompanying musicians “The President’s Own”.  That phrase stuck with me the rest of the day.  Thanks to my curiosity and an in-depth article on Wikipedia I now know more about this talented group.  In brief:

  • “The President’s Own” is formally called the “United States Marine Band” (USMB).  It is the oldest of the United States Military Bands, established in 1798.
  • The USMB became “The President’s Own” in 1801, after a performance for then president John Adams.  Later that year Thomas Jefferson requested a performance at his own presidential inauguration, and the USMB has performed at every inauguration since.  Counting President Trump’s that’s a total of fifty-three inaugurations.
  • The USMB has 130 members but typically performs with only 42.
  • The USMB performs about five hundred times a year, including state funerals and dinners, and arrival ceremonies for visiting heads of state.
  • The USMB’s most common performance is fifteen-minute “patriotic openers” for large events, including the playing of “Marine’s Hymn” (official hymn), “Semper Fidelis (official march), and “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
  • The USMB’s most famous director – back in the late 1800’s – was John Phillip Sousa, who composed “Semper Fidelis”, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, and other famous march music.
  • USMB members serve a four-year contract as active duty enlisted Marines.  They are not required to complete the training of a typical Marine and are therefore never involved in combat missions.
  • Without a musical instrument in his/her hands, you could still recognize a USMB member by the lyre on their uniform rank insignia (replacing the normal crossed rifles).

I love the historical significance of “The President’s Own”, one of many uniquely American elements linking our current leaders to our Founding Fathers.  I also love the pomp and circumstance – bands, parades, fireworks and other “fuss” designed to accentuate our country’s most important moments.

Speaking of President Trump’s inauguration and the unquestionable divide of the people over his first week of actions, I found the words of the following quote spot-on.  Perhaps you can imagine “The President’s Own” playing in the background as you read, somehow making the words even more meaningful:

“We were a country that has been snoozing. Now we are alert. Whether it’s negative or positive, energy has risen. People are engaged. They’re studying. They are thinking more. And I think that’s good. You can’t get that without someone being bold enough to say things people don’t agree with.” —Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown to the Wall Street Journal.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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