"The President's Own" United States Marine Band
The United States Marine Band at the White House in October 2007
FoundedJuly 11, 1798
Allegiance United States
Branch United States Marine Corps
TypeMilitary band
Garrison/HQMarine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
Nickname(s)"The President's Own"
March"Marines' Hymn" (official hymn) Play
"Semper Fidelis" (official march) Play
DirectorLieutenant Colonel Ryan J. Nowlin
Associate DirectorCaptain Darren Y. Lin
Assistant DirectorFirst Lieutenant Jose D. Toranzo Infante
Director Of OperationsMajor Douglas R. Burian
Deputy Director for Administration and ProductionChief Warrant Officer 3 Sara Sheffield
Drum MajorMaster Gunnery Sergeant Duane F. King
Assistant Drum MajorGunnery Sergeant James R. Holt III
John Philip Sousa
Colonel Michael J. Colburn
Colonel Jason K. Fettig

The United States Marine Band is the premier band of the United States Marine Corps. Established by act of Congress on July 11, 1798, it is the oldest of the United States military bands and the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. Today, the Marine Band includes the Marine Chamber Orchestra and Marine Chamber Ensembles.

The Marine Band is entirely separate from its sister military band, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps ("The Commandant's Own") and the 10 active duty Marine Corps field bands.

The Marine Band has been uniquely known as "The President's Own" since 1801 due to its historical connection to the President of the United States. The relationship between the Marine Band and the White House began on New Year's Day 1801 when President John Adams invited the band to perform at the Executive Mansion. Later that year, Thomas Jefferson initiated the tradition of Marine Band performances by requesting that it perform at his inauguration. The Marine Band has played at every United States presidential inauguration since. President Thomas Jefferson gave it the title "The President's Own" in 1801. This terminology emulated a long-established British usage, where various military units were designated as "King's Own" or "Queen's Own".

Today, the Marine Band performs in about 500 events every year[1][non-primary source needed] including state funerals, state arrival ceremonies, state dinners, parades, concerts, and other social events. The Marine Band travels across the country each October and November during its fall concert tour, a tradition that began in 1891 under its most famous director, composer John Philip Sousa.

Members and organization

United States Marine Band uniforms

The Marine Band recruits experienced musicians, selecting members through a rigorous audition procedure. Members must satisfy additional security and physical requirements to be eligible. Selected band members serve under a four-year contract as active duty enlisted Marines and are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and physical standards. Members of The President's Own and the United States Coast Guard Band are the only members of the United States Armed Forces not required to undergo recruit training and do not perform combat missions. Also, they are not assigned to any unit other than the Marine Band. Musicians of other Marine bands must attend boot camp and Marine Combat Training (MCT).

The 'President's Own' band members wear rank insignia with a lyre replacing the standard crossed rifles. Commissioned officers are often drawn from within the band. However, auditions are open to members of all Marine Corps bands. Drum majors are career Marines and are selected from the Marine Corps field bands, as they are responsible for the military development of the band's members. As of 2010, the USMC spends about $10 million annually to support the band.[2]

In 2005, Sara Sheffield became the first female feature vocalist in the band's history.[3]


The Marine Band marching down 15th Street during an inaugural parade held in honor of President Bill Clinton on January 20, 1997
Members of the Marine Band escorting the remains of President Ronald Reagan to the Capitol Rotunda during his state funeral held in June 2004
The Marine Band performing for an audience attending a wreath laying ceremony honoring the United States Marine Corps' 229th birthday at the Marine Corps War Memorial

The Marine Band's performance schedule is coordinated by the Marine Band Branch of Headquarters Marine Corps Public Affairs, which works with the Director of the Marine Band and the Marine Band Operations Office to schedule performances and ceremonies by the band, chamber orchestra, and chamber ensembles.

The Marine Band also has a professional support staff (Library, Recording Lab, Stage Managers, and Stage Crew) and Administration, Public Affairs, and Supply offices. They work to coordinate, promote, and facilitate performances throughout the year.

The full band has a complement of about 130 members, although they all play together only rarely.

A 42-piece band is used for all Pentagon and formal military arrivals and patriotic openers for significant events. Patriotic openers are 15 minutes of patriotic music, including the presentation and retirement of the colors, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (national anthem), and the "Marines' Hymn". Patriotic openers are performed throughout the Washington metropolitan area at various events for military organizations, federal agencies, and associations.

Events that the Marine Band participates in include:


Violinist from the Marine Band performing during a reception at the residence of the Commandant of the Marine Corps on July 19, 2013
Drum Major of the United States Marine Band, Master Sergeant William L. Browne, wearing a bearskin headpiece and holding a ceremonial mace
Jason Fettig during the inauguration of Joe Biden

The Marine Band's early leadership consisted of a Drum Major and a Fife Major, who wore identical uniforms. The Drum Major was considered the Leader of the Marine Band, while the Fife Major's responsibility was to train the fifers. The first leader of the United States Marine Band was William Farr, listed in historical records as having served as Drum Major from January 21, 1799.

After the retirement of Drum Major Raphael Triay in 1855, then-Fife Major Francis Scala became Drum Major. On July 25, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress to reorganize the Marine Band. This act abolished the rank of Fife Major (and in 1881, the fife was removed from Marine Corps instrumentation entirely), created the positions of Leader of the Band/Principal Musician, Drum Major, and authorized 30 musicians. Scala was the first Marine Band musician to receive the title "Leader of the Band"; John Roach was selected as Drum Major.

The earliest recorded Second Leader of the United States Marine Band was Salvador Petrola. Marine Band cornetist Walter F. Smith, who had performed under 17th director, John Philip Sousa, became the first official Second Leader when an Act of Congress established the positions of First Leader and Second Leader of the Marine Band in March 1899.

Many changes occurred during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. The titles First Leader and Second Leader were replaced by Director and Assistant Director. When Albert F. Schoepper was appointed as Director in 1955, a second Assistant Director was added to the Marine Band leadership. Today, the Assistant Director positions are designated in two titles: Senior Assistant Director and Executive Officer, and Assistant Director. Also, the first "Soloist and Moderator" was appointed during the Eisenhower administration. William D. Jones, known as the original soloist with the new US Air Force Band and originator and director of the Singing Sergeants, was transferred by an Act of Congress to the USMC Band and given the title "Ambassador of Music".[4] The Soloist and Moderator served as the senior enlisted member until 1972 when Schoepper and Jones retired.

Today, the Drum Major serves as the senior enlisted member of "The President's Own" and is responsible for the band's appearance, ceremonial drill, and military decorum. The Drum Major is charged with directing the band in ceremonies, including the inaugural parade, and regularly leads the band in review for presidents and visiting heads of state and other dignitaries.

The Drum Major wears a bearskin headpiece and carries a ceremonial mace used to signal commands to the musicians. The Drum Major also wears the officer's version of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (the Marine Corps emblem). The uniform also includes an ornate baldric, similar to a sash, embroidered with the band's crest and the Marine Corps' battle honors, as well as miniatures of personal medals.



Drum Majors:


Sousa composed several of his finest marches, including Semper Fidelis, while serving as director of the Marine Band.[5]

Thomas Powell Knox joined the Marine Band in 1961 as a trumpet player and moved to the arranging staff in 1966. Three years later, Knox was appointed chief arranger and continued composing and arranging for the Marine Band until his retirement in 1985. Some of his more notable compositions include "God of Our Fathers" (commissioned for Ronald Reagan's first inauguration) and "American Pageant", which was commissioned for Richard Nixon's first inauguration. Knox arranged or composed over 300 pieces, many of which the Marine Band and other bands across America still played.


Performances by the Marine Band


See also


  1. ^ ""The President's Own" United States Marine Band". marines.mil. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  2. ^ Pincus, Walter, "Defense Dept. Uses Thousands of Musicians, Spends Many Millions, To Strike Up The Bands", The Washington Post, September 7, 2010, p. 13.
  3. ^ ""The President's Own" United States Marine Band". marines.mil. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  4. ^ "Entertainer William Jones, 63, Dies – tribunedigital-orlandosentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. November 20, 1992. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  5. ^ Alfred W. Cramer (2009). Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century-Volume 4. Salem Press. p. 1386.

Further reading