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Arts Desk

The President's Own: The United States Marine Band

One of the most prominent bands in nation, and the country's oldest, continuously active musical organization, is frequently heard on WRTI's weekday 7:15 am Sousalarm. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston shares a glimpse of the U.S. Marine Band.

In 1798, just a year after John Adams became the second president of the United States, an act of Congress created the United States Marine Band. The band played for Adams on New Year’s Day in 1801.  A performance at the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, two months later, solidified its status as "The President’s Own." The official mission of the U.S. Marine Band is "to perform for the President and the Commandant of the Marine Corps."

Colonel Michael J. Colburn joined the band as a euphonium player in 1987, and rose through the ranks to become its director in 2004. He says being a part of living history can be both awe-inspiring and daunting.  

Members of the band are chosen after an audition similar to those held by major orchestras, with some crucial added requirements. They must qualify for the Marine Corps and receive a White House security clearance. Most stay for decades.

President George W. Bush shared a light moment at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in 2008 when he directed the U.S. Marine Band in John Philip Sousa’s "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Sousa served as head of the band for 12 years from 1880 to 1892.


More from an interview with Colonel Michael J. Colburn on the history of the U.S. Marine Band, auditioning for the band, his role as director, and a memorable moment in the Oval Office with President George W. Bush.