Anita Brown

 
 

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Facebook Discussion 8/18/10: “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band

TOPIC:  “The President’s Own”  United States Marine Corps Band personnel displays the EGA (Eagle, Globe & Anchor) symbol on its uniform.  Those who earned their EGA through hard work and perseverance in Boot Camp find it a discrepancy that is hard to swallow, as they feel anyone who wears the highly respected and meaningful emblem should have “earned” it through completion of Boot camp.  They feel anything short of that dilutes their ability to wear it with pride. 

This discussion ensued on The United States Marine Corps Official Page and on my  Facebook wall following my trip to Marine Barracks at 8th & I, Washington, DC this past weekend,  during which I learned quite a lot through personal observation and discussion with Marine Corps personnel.

Additionally, I have to say that I was completely blown away by a rather impromptu musical experience while there.  Having been in touch with my long-time colleague Liesl Whitaker prior to my departing New York, she invited me to attend a rehearsal of The Army Blues Band, in which she serves as Lead Trumpet player (and sounds amazing, I might add!).  I packed a bunch of music to leave with them, but much to my surprise, they were able to take the time to read through three of my arrangements, which I had the privilege of conducting, and in one case, singing with them.  

We played through my arrangement of Antonia Carlos Jobim's  Sabia',  and my original works Remembrance and Santa's On His Way, which I sang--after all, an original Christmas tune isn't a Christmas tune unless it has lyrics!  I and happy to say that all three titles in addition to Alexander's Lullaby Waltz are now in their band library.  Another profound privilege.

Considering the following discussion is mostly regarding “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band, I would also like to add that The Army Blues Band, a 17-piece jazz ensemble, completely blew me away in its top notch artistry and sight reading abilities.  I look forward to working with them again in the future.

More blog entries to come…I hope…

Here is the Facebook discussion regarding the Marine Corps Brethren vs. “The President’s Own” Band.

I feel privileged to be protected by our Constitution and that it is protected by our Armed Forces, with our bull dogs and pit bulls, The United States Marine Corps Infantry, guarding The Gate.

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~AB

Facebook Discussion:

After my incredible experience in DC I had to comment and clarify on The United States Marine Corps Official Page, where some people see only through a very specific filter. As a composer and someone who understands production, being privy to these rehearsals was mind boggling for me, and an enormous privilege:

Jim Krantz I understand Austin, but i can tell you officers earn their EGA. their road to the Corps is a whole lot harder than us enlisted. It's not just OCS. But I was surprised to find out about The Marine Band. On the other hand the 8th & I Drill team must be 0300 Marines. They are volunteer as is the 8th & I Drum & Bugle Corps. I did the same thing at NATTC Millington, TN. the Marine Air Detachment Drum & Bugle Corps.

Anita Brown  @Jim, "The President's Own" serves a particular purpose. I was just at 8th & I and was the guest of a number of officers at different events, concluding with The Evening Parade and actually, followed by a get together at Center Ho...use, the... Officer's club. In the words of active officers, if USMC did not hand select by rigorous musical audition process, and allow these first rate musicians to simply be among a performing ensemble, the members of its band (which includes a full string orchestra, jazz ensemble and rock configuration within it--also different from the other services) would not be as outrageously amazing as they are. I sat in a rehearsal of the Marine Band String Orchestra at the Annex. It was better than the New York Philharmonic's strings. It was the finest string ensemble I have EVER heard. The piece was Arthur Honneger's Symphony No. 2, a dense, harmonically challenging (understatement) work. Because they play for The President and Heads of State they must represent The Marine Corps and what it, as an aggregation, stands for. The Marine Corps is supposed to be the finest of the finest. This is why, I believe, it is the only performing organization that does not require its players to go to boot camp. Musicians whose primary goals in life are to play music simply will not subject themselves to the rigors of boot camp. It's that simple. I don't know whether their uniforms display an EGA, as they are significantly different than all the other uniforms of USMC, but you can rest assured that 1) they earned the position (albeit in a different way), they represent USMC in the finest light musicians can offer and they take their position and honor to hold rank very seriously. ALL OTHER MUSICAL ORGANIZATIONS EXCEPT "THE PRESIDENT'S OWN" Band (i.e., all the Drum & Bugle Corps and other performing organizations of USMC audition FIRST, THEN go to boot camp and then go to Marine Corps Music School...but I forget where that is. The Silent Drill Platoon, whose rehearsal on 8/13/10 I was privileged to attend at 7:15 am is comprised of all 03xx's. They have either deployed or are going to deploy. They go through rigorous ceremonial training and can also lose their spot via a challenge by another waiting in the wings. They are NOT volunteers. The responsibilities of all Marines at 8th & I are to serve The President, Heads of State, the fallen Marines and their families at ceremonies and to bring awareness and USMC pride to the public. I might add that they do exactly that. They are the link to the public, offering a microcosm of The USMC to be viewed by whomsoever should care to attend an Evening or Sunset Parade; each Marine on staff and in a performing organization, particularly The Silent Drill Platoon, offers insight to the public of the finely tune, well-oiled machine that IS The United States Marine Corps. Respectfully submitted.

Austin Stewart i just find it odd that they would let that just happen iv played a lil in mid school i was first chair for the alto sax i just dont understand that they would do that and i have no problems with OCS they also have my respect by far its just why would the just give them the EGA to wear when other earn the right to be there and play there instrument

Anita Brown  I just explained it to you. They HAVE to be a cut above the rest. Think of it as NOT just a fighting force, but a representation of the US Armed Forces that represents THE best of everything THE PRESIDENT needs, and where do we put them?  In The USMC; where else? Think of it as hand picking the finest of the finest. Remember, sometimes the need to EARN the EGA in the eyes of Marines--with all due respect--becomes a very black & white topic of conversation. Apparently whoever set this up this way (Maybe Thomas Jefferson--can't remember) felt THIS method of cherry picking musicians was the method that would achieve the performance goals and the musical link to the public in the best way possible. Playing first alto in jr. high doesn't make you an expert, with all due respect. I taught those kids and that is NOTHING like the level of playing that exists within that band. As a composer in NY with a jazz orchestra full of NY's finest B'way & jazz players, I was flabberghasted with the quality of the strings and moved with the band's evening performances at the Evening Parade. These performance are "DEFINITIVE" performances. No other service's musical entities are "definitive." My ears are pretty damn keen. These guys blew me away. And BTW, the USMC Drum & Bugle Corps personnel around the world who DID go thru boot camp are also NOT volunteers, AND they carry weapons. The only organization that does not carry weapons is "The President's Own Band." That's why they call it "The President's Own" because they serve The President at his every whim, musically speaking. The diversity required to pull THAT task off, musically, is enormous. These musicians are TOP rate worldwide. Hands down. No question. Did they earn the EGA? If you can be understanding of the concept, then yes. Technically as Boot Camp goes, no. Does the USMC want them in the position they are in? ABSOLUTELY!

David Jackson WHY? They should be playing for military personell not these stupid rich performers

Anita Brown It's the face of The United States brought to the public eye worldwide. Think bigger. Anyway, On my fan page for my band (facebook search Anita Brown Jazz Orchestra) I just posted the 8/13/10 performance of the Silent Drill Platoon at 8th & I. Sorry for the less-than-stellar camera work. Was trying to see with my own eyes while taping. Small camera. But, exciting and inspiring nonetheless. :-) At least to ME.

Jim Krantz  Well, it looks like I started something. Loius, Austin is in Middle School, therefore we should cut him some slack. Austin, you keep working at whatever you feel good about in life. If it's music, the Marine Corps or anything else do your ...very best. Work hard and you will be proud of what ever you accomplish because you will know you earned it. Just as I did my Blood Stripe some 50 years ago. Tell you father Semper Fi from an Old Marine. God Bless You, Young Man. Anita, I understand what you are saying, I really do. I don't know if you earned our "Title" or not, but I am assuming you did not. We are a brotherhood that only we truly understand. Louis mentioned trusting with my life. We do that. At 71, there isn't much I can do except support my young brothers as they go to the Zone. The Marine Band uniforms display our EGA, on their collars and the brass buttons of their blouse. Many who earn that EGA, and who understand the history and the honor it represents are not anxious to share it with anyone no matter who they are. They wear the rank of a Marine and I don't like it! If anyone came up to me in a bar and tried to represent himself as a Marine fraudulently I would at 71 years of age cold cock the sob. period.

Almost 2 years ago John McCain was at a back yard gathering in a small town 30 or so miles North of Des Moines. i was there wearing a Once A Marine... cap Sen Mc Cain offered a Semper Fi as he walked past to the mic. I said Thank You Sir. Not Semper Fi, as he is not a Marine. After he finished he stopped at my table to sign a poster for a woman as I stood at a "relaxed" "Parade Rest" ( I was almost 70 after all). He said in my direction, "I have a son who is a Marine" . I responded, "Yes Sir, I know, he is my brother". Senator Mc Cain stopped what he was writing and looked up at me and said " You know, I never understood that until now". We ARE a brotherhood. There is no doubt that the Marine Band is made up of fine musicians. But they are NOT Marines. I really do not care WHO says differently. I suspect you are a fine musician as well. And I understand the unending hours of practice. I did that to a small degree as well. I do respect their expertise, but I do resent their wearing of the uniform that I DID go through the rigors of boot camp to EARN!

Anita Brown  @Jim, I completely understand what you're saying about the Marine Corps. No, I have never served in the military at all. However, my view of USMC is colored by my deep admiration for what it stands for and provides. Without going into it any further, let it suffice as is. However, far be it for any of us to tell those who set up the United States Marine Corps before any of use were around to observe its inception, to tell them that they got it wrong. Someone decided that the USMC band would be the finest in the land. They gave them different colored blouses because, as it was told at the 8th & I Evening Parade this past Friday, the musicians used to be non-fighting boys. Young boys. They gave them a different colored uniform so as to differentiate between them and the trained, fighting Marines.

Please bear in mind that the history of music begins with warfare: trumpets and drums in battle. Actually, the drum came first, which is an angle the Geico commercials haven't thought of yet. ;-) Trumpets and drums were used as signals in a time when there was no other means of communication across great distances of open expanses. In an age of cell phones music has evolved to a place that is complex at least. While the military no longer "needs" trumpets and drums on the battle field to indicate which flank should move in which direction, the tradition remains. Coupled with the added ceremonial responsibilities that the Marine Band handles, the tradition has grown and become equally as complex as the role of The Corps and even music itself, to return to a previous statement.

I completely understand your tug and that the EGA is something that is earned. However, there are powers that be that have said, "YOU are gonna do THIS for US because we are the BEST, so you better be the BEST. Are you the BEST of the musicians in our land? Then you can work for US and do as we see fit. If not, Have a nice life. And demands will be put upon you and you WILL comply." There is no other playing gig like it in the land. All the military bands are incredible, but The President's Own is cherry picked.

I hope you will try to understand they bear the EGA because someone in your fraternity who ranks higher than you decided it should be so. And BTW, they really do represent you well. Few know how challenging it is to be a lone bugler playing the fanfare for the morning colors, announcing the arrival of one or another entity and most profoundly, playing Taps for a fallen hero. Do you want anyone but the finest players with musical endurance analogous to that of fighting Marines ("analogous to") to be representing you and your loved ones or your brethren? I think not. Why would you want anything but the best musicians in the land representing the face of The United States Marine Corps to the public?

Liesl Whitaker   As a member of the US Army Band - "Pershing's Own" in DC, I will also add that the majority (and I mean a very significant majority) of DC military musicians (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in college. More than half have Master's degree's, and many have their Doctoral degrees, making them "Dr. X", as well as SSGs, SFCs, MSGs and SGMs (and the equivalents across the services). They are not just former 1st chair holders in their junior high or high school, or even college bands, with due respect. We are trained experts in our field. Many have professional experience to boot, such as former Broadway musicians, major symphony musicians, and/or international touring musicians, making us among the best not only in the US, but in the world! Yet we enter the services as enlisted personnel, not officers. Those in the medical and dental MOSs enter as officers. They are not thought as lesser soldiers, seamen, airmen or Marines because their field of expertise is looked upon as necessary in battle, in my humble opinion.

But we, too, serve a very important purpose. Not only are we a link to the public, as Anita said, but we also carry out an extremely important task in that we pay tribute to the lives of those lost, either in war or peace, by rendering final military honors with "Taps" and other ceremonial pomp. I, personally, have played all over the world as both a civilian and a soldier musician. I've played in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, to name a couple of well-known halls. Yet none of those venues meant more to me, nor presented such a musical challenge as playing the 24 MUST-BE-PERFECT notes of "Taps". This is the most difficult musical task I have, as I am challenged by perfection much in the same way as the drill teams and other ceremonial units are, and much the same as someone in combat is challenged. I have been to Iraq and Afghanistan over the Holidays as part of the USO tours with the sole purpose of entertaining our troops. These are the most important venues I have ever performed in, far more important than Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, as the people being served are our fellow soldiers, etc., who are also among the best. We are trained experts, and our purpose is vital. Incidentally, we (the Army Bandsmen) DO go to boot camp, and many of us sail through! We are in great shape, and are left to stay physically fit without organized PT. Our unit just displayed 100% pass on the last PT test. I don't know of a lot of others that do that on a regular basis. While the Marine Band doesn't go to boot camp, they are expected to weigh in and abide by Marine Corps standards. We spend YEARS perfecting our skills. There are levels far greater than junior high and high school levels out there, and you should know that your servicemen and women reflect those professional levels, and earn the right to wear the uniform and serve in the ways that we are skilled.See More

Anita Brown Amen Liesel!  Thanks again for everything--the visit to Arlington National Cemetery coupled with your knowledge of the grounds as an Army Bugler was truly special.

 

Please realize that Liesl is saying "much in the same way" not to equate musical performance with the horror of being called to perform as a member of the infantry.  Rather she is saying that the manner in which our finest fighters prepare mentally, expect the most of themselves, strive for the greatest degree of perfection minute by minute is common to all who serve out great nation and in fact, is all for the same goal:  to honor each other and stand united.  And regardless of our personal opinions, it is still great.

 

~AB

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