The Few, The Proud, The Band Geeks
June 26, 2003 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Want to serve your country, but you're not exactly up for being a marine? If you know an instrument well, then not to worry...join "The President's Own", the official USMC band! Unlike other USMC bands that are put together from Marine Corps regulars, musicians in the President's Own are enlisted specifically for playing in the band (MOS 9811). You have all the rank, privileges, pay, and snappy uniforms as a Staff Sergeant upon entry, and you can even work yourself up to colonel! You get all the benefits, like seeing the world and free haircuts, provided you meet height and weight requirements, and can meet certain physical criteria (try marching for 10 hours a day)....and NO BOOT CAMP...that's right...they're the only unit in the Armed Forces that doesn't require any military training before joining. And of course, one the coolest things about the Marine Corps band, is that you follow in the footsteps of John Philip Sousa, who enlisted when he was friggin 13.
posted by taumeson (19 comments total)
Not to be confused with "The Commandant's Own", which is the USMC Drum and Bugle corps...I've seen them at 8th and I (the Washington DC barracks and home to the commandant) and they're fantastic!
posted by taumeson at 8:26 AM on June 26, 2003

Well, and you have to be able to play an instrument.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:39 AM on June 26, 2003

I've seen The President's Own twice at the 8th and I barracks myself, along with the Silent Drill Platoon and The Commandant's Own. I second taumeson's "fantastic" evaluation. If you get a chance, go see one of the summer Friday night concerts. Regardless of how you feel about the military, it's free and musically excellent.
posted by The Michael The at 8:39 AM on June 26, 2003

From what I've heard, don't bother auditioning unless you are a complete badass on your instrument, sight-read like a studio pro, etc. Very selective group.
posted by crunchburger at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2003

Generally the USMC band is considered the highest band in the country. For musicians on non orchestra instruments (Classical Saxophone and Euphonium come to mind) there's insane competition, because the military bands are the only places you can be a professional player.

Its very much akin to the level of any world class orchestra, just happens to be the military.

There's also academy bands, West Point has one, I can't remember if any of the other ones do.
posted by stryder at 9:12 AM on June 26, 2003

What crunchburger and stryder said. Even for orchestral wind players, it's almost as hard to get into "The President's Own" as it is to get into a major orchestra. These days, nearly all of the band members are conservatory trained--more than a few Juilliard degrees in this crowd.
posted by Tholian at 9:20 AM on June 26, 2003

Hmmm. The President's Own. Snappy title. Musicians in the military, prestigious organisation close to the most powerful man in the world.

Sounds just right for a Steven Segal movie, doesn't it? Hey, if Segal can be the world's most dangerous CHEF just think what he could do as the world's most dangerous percussionist!
posted by kaemaril at 9:42 AM on June 26, 2003

Want to serve your country, but you're not exactly up for being a marine?

I'm not usually one to gush about the military and whatnot, but I was a little bugged by the tone of this FPP. As the other posters have said, there is a great deal of honor and a great importance in such bands. Despite the erosion of the value placed on the arts in the United States, items such as military bands and music at official events show that music is still given a place in our culture.

And besides, would you rather the government hire Radiohead to play diplomatic events, and No Doubt to play taps at funerals? (That was a rhetorical question, but do with it as you wish).
posted by VulcanMike at 9:53 AM on June 26, 2003

I believe a good chunk of the players come from the other military bands, which DO require you to go through boot camp, regular training, and damn well expect you to serve in combat if necessary.

That being said, President's Own is a unique and high quality group which can be very appealing to professional muscians with no prior military background. They market heavily to the pros; I get audition notices all the time, which does make me wonder about the rate of turnover. It was something I considered for a time, but I no longer meet the physicial requirements for service.
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:02 AM on June 26, 2003

The President's Own performed a piece (Godzilla Eats Las Vegas) by a friend of mine on the capitol steps. They're mighty good. I would be ecstatic with a performance of my music by any of the military bands.

There's some really good concert music out there for bands, even though most people only think of them in the context of marching. From a composer's standpoint, you get many more opportunities for performances with bands than with orchestras. However, since there are very, very few professional bands, the best college and military bands constitute the bulk of the top-tier performing groups.

posted by gsalad at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2003

Steve: You know Eric Whitacre? One of the choirs at my former university keeps doing his stuff, which is phenomenal. "Cloudburst" blew my mind, made me wish I'd really made it through auditions that year. I've got the 1997 Mark Custom Recording disc.

And while we're at it, where's the military opportunities for singers?
posted by weston at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2003

Are they as good as the US Navy Port Authority Soul Band (first track on that LP)?

Such a good song.
posted by influx at 11:57 AM on June 26, 2003

Weston: "Cloudburst" is great, isn't it? He just premiered the band version of it last year, and I think it works really well. You can listen to a clip of it on his site or on our BCM International site (apologies for the lame web design - I'll redo it one of these days).

The BYU choir is downright amazing - I heard them at Carnegie Hall a few years ago (perhaps you were in it then?) - they did Eric's "When David Heard" and "Water Night". Their recordings of his music are the best of any I've heard.
posted by gsalad at 12:27 PM on June 26, 2003

As my girlfriend was informed after asking, at the Center House officer's club after party one Friday night at the 8th and Eye Barracks, "ALL Marines, from the lowliest grunt to the Commandant are trained and tested killers and that does include the band." They meant it. If we have to go to bed early on a Friday night, god forbid, the damn "President's Own" and "Commandant's Own" keep up up! They really are quite good and the drill teams which perform at the Friday night festivities are quite impressive as well, far better, I must say than the Navy drill team from the Navy Yard down the street! This is of course from the mouth of a scathing pink-o liberal, but its still pretty damned impressive!
posted by Pollomacho at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2003

"ALL Marines, from the lowliest grunt to the Commandant are trained and tested killers and that does include the band."

That jarhead was either a little over-enthusiastic or a little misinformed...probably a little of both. I looked it up, and the President's Own doesn't need to go to boot or MCT...though all the other bands (there's one for every regiment and wing, apparently) do...and so do the Commandant's Own.

But the President's Own is so good, and they want such a high caliber of musician, that they don't force them through military training....that's simply not their purpose.

I do believe they keep up with the military lifestyle, and all, though.

I'm not usually one to gush about the military and whatnot, but I was a little bugged by the tone of this FPP.

Just comparing and contrasting the idea of a band with the idea of a marine, 'tis all. I earned the right.
posted by taumeson at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2003

Generally the USMC band is considered the highest band in the country.

I always thought that this honor went to Cypress Hill or George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelics.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:16 PM on June 26, 2003

I think Redman holds that distinction at the moment.

Most likely, taumeson, he was drunk, it was midnight in an officers club and he was just an administrator, interesting read, the requirements page, thanks for pointing that out!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2003

I've heard several Marines state that everyone in the Corps "from the Commandant to the cook" is a rifleman. It's part of the tradition that every Marine is a fighting Marine. I knew about the President's Own, but didn't bring it up since arguing with a Marine is like arguing with a stump on fire, only more likely to end up in a fistfight.
posted by joaquim at 2:22 PM on June 26, 2003

I know a few people in that band, and they do have to keep up with the military lifestyle. That includes weight requirements, "on call" status, and--for the gay members--adherence to "don't ask don't tell."

Not a cushy gig by any means.
posted by Tholian at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2003

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