A Salute to United States Military Bands

Jul 10, 2016

They perform at presidential inaugurations, state funerals, public concerts, all sorts of official functions, and, of course, in parades. They are the bands of the United States military. Each of the branches is served by a number of these ensembles, and the so-called premier bands take only first-tier musicians from conservatories and schools of music around the country.

The United States Marine Band — “The President’s Own” — is the premier band of the United States Marine Corps. Not only is it the oldest United States military band, it’s the oldest professional musical organization of any kind in America, established by Congress on July 11th, 1798. John Philip Sousa directed the Marine Band and composed Semper Fidelis and other marches for it, but military bands are not just Sousa.

John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter played in military bands. While in uniform, Eddie Fisher and Steve Lawrence sang with them. Many classical musicians get their start, gain invaluable experience, or spend a career playing in them.

They play an increasingly diverse repertoire, wowing audiences at home and abroad. Every day someone in the United States or a foreign country is exposed to the gift of music thanks to a United States military band.