Anita Brown


Anita's Blog

My Response to a post on "Marines" Facebook Page

The topic was the price tag for military bands.  The argument of some if it's not worth the money.  What some fail to realize is that the price tag includes paying the musicians for their work (playing for ceremonies, concerts, parades and funerals for the fallen) in addition to transportation and accommodations whenever a band travels, including traveling to play for the troops overseas.


My response:

The existence of the bands is rooted in history. Trumpets and drums were used to communicate across vast expanses of battlefields. Over time, and with the invention of better instruments, more were incorporated and implemented in ceremoni es of all kinds. Music is part of our culture. Art and the ability to reason is what sets humans apart from animals. Every college athletic team has a band in its corner. They don't get much attention, but they're there. Why shouldn't each Armed Service have its own band? (Rhetorical) Colleges are an extension of the bigger picture, modeled after something bigger. @Bob, the hierarchy, at some point, decided that if Marines are the "best" then they should be represented by the best musicians and decided to hand pick those musicians from the most accomplished in the land. The highest level musicians would not agree go to boot camp. They just want to play music. Nothing more. They are all highly accomplished adult musicians, not college-bound kids. For the fact that they are selected by the most stringent audition requirements necessarily means there is nothing better. They play for every event within the White House, for every inauguration, for every Presidential funeral and a plethora of other occasions.

When I went to DC about a month ago I was privileged enough to observe The Marine Band's String Orchestra rehearsal at 8th & I. They were rehearsing for something at The White House. It was the finest string section I have ever heard in my life, bar none, and I have been a music educator as well as a professional composer/band leader and student of music all of my life. That string orchestra blew me away and that's the hardest thing to get right: strings. The Army Blues Band (DC) and the West Point Jazz Knights (NY), both of which I have had the honour of conducting on my own music are incredible bands and function in various capacities to bring awareness to the public. Members of those ensembles also function in a ceremonial capacity for fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery and in other public relations capacities at West Point.

At the Evening Parade they offer the explanation that the band wears a red uniform because historically, the band had been non-combatant young boys, recruited solely for performing music as needed. While they currently wear these uniforms in performance they actually wear civilian clothing during rehearsal, unlike the bands from the other branches, which do go through basic training of their respective branches. So they really never don the EGA unless they are performing, and are set apart from Marines with the color of their uniform, as history dictates.

We should be celebrating all the accomplished musicians who contribute to events of all kinds for the Armed Forces. It is what enriches us as a people. Music speaks to the inner soul. It's just a fact. Different music touches different people and everyone has a personal relationship with music. Most refuse to be separated from their music. I, as a composer, mostly sit in silence now, as there is too much music in my head to listen through my ears except when I really feel the need.

The whole music performance industry is going belly up because of technological advancements. Human being musicians are changing careers because as a whole, our nation does not seem to value *live* music, and I can attest first hand to the fact that we surely do not value music education in our schools. At the very least, I know our military bands will help keep music alive in our culture, for which I am grateful.

BTW--John Phillip Sousa was the director of The Marine Band and as such was writing for the band. There is a huge statue of him within the wrought iron gates of The Annex of The Marine Barracks, Washington, DC., two blocks from the entrance at 8th & I. (A *lovely* walk under the highway.) He is the definitive composer of marches. Had he not held that post we probably would not have the archives of wonderful American military marches that have become a staple of every (if still existing) American school/college band program. There are a couple videos posted on my video tab from 8/13/10 at 8th & I.

Just a New York Jazz Composer's perspective...with all due respect. :-)


Music is not free.


And...A Marine (perhaps an inactive Marine) whom I met online said to me the other day, "You're the rich composer..."  I had to laugh.  "Rich composer" is a bit of an oxymoron, although some do make it.  They're usually in Hollywood writing film scores. 

I pretty much write for nothing or next to nothing and try to get my music played by others so I can have exposure to do clinics or sell music to college jazz programs.  It's a calling, like being a Marine is a calling.  Marines don't do it for the money, they do it because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  I do what I do because I need to express myself in these terms and I can only hope that I give a small bit of respite from someone's daily grind, or if I'm really lucky, give someone pause enough to reflect, as a result of my efforts.  That's pretty much it.

Be the first to respond!

Leave a comment