The chance to become a Marine musician is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The honor includes performing in front of large crowds at some of the most prestigious arenas in the world. They also have the chance to further their personal musical careers while serving their country. However, many don’t realize these opportunities exist. When Marine musicians have the opportunity to play for the public their purpose is twofold; to entertain and to demonstrate the possibilities to the next generation of Marine musicians.
The Marine Corps Jazz Orchestra, featuring musicians from Marine Band San Diego, recently had the opportunity to perform at universities across the Dallas/Fort Worth area from Sept. 22-26. The performances not only highlighted the talents of Marine musicians, but also served to bolster ties with the local music community and influencers.
During the tour, Marine Corps musicians teamed up with local music professors and former military musicians who understand the rigors of being in a military band.
“Doing what we do is a journey,” said Joe Eckert, a Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. “It is not a destination. You’re never going to arrive, and if you’ve arrived, you’re in trouble. There’s always something more to achieve, and we’re always looking for ways to make it better. Everybody’s job is so very integral to what the guy next to them does. So, as a musician in a musical group like a big band, especially in the military, teamwork is very important.”
“I think there are a lot of similarities between being a good musician and being a good Marine. I think the basic thing is the discipline of it. To be a professional musician takes so much hard work and dedication and the rigors of the job as a Marine musician are the same hardships of a practicing musician who is always trying to stay on top of their game.” Alan Baylock, an Associate Professor and Director of the One O’Clock Lab Band
Musicians, whether in the service or not, strive to further their careers by being the best at what they do.
Eckert, who is also a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, recognizes the impact these performances have on the relationship between the Marine Corps and the music community.
“They’re great,” Eckert said. “They’re the utmost professionals. They are very courteous and cordial to me. In my position, not only as a retired military musician but also as a college professor, they are really great to the kids, and I think they are putting a very great face on our military.”
The folks who played here today are excellent representatives of the Marine Corps spirit and what they do, he continued.
“Because my son was a Marine musician for the band in San Diego, I have a fairly good understanding of the Marine Corps music program,” echoed Gary Phillips, the executive director of the Metro Praise Youth Orchestra and Keller Area Youth Jazz Orchestra. “Because these young people are Marines first, they have to be combat ready. When they’re not deployed, they’re the face of the Marine Corps. When these Marines are around my students, I think they are at first a little bit intimidated, but then they realize that these Marines are great musicians and they’re really not scary”.
Phillips has had four of his own former students go on to join the Marine Corps music program and two were involved in the recent week-long tour.
“What I’m proud of is two of the young men that were in this band are alumni of our program,” said Phillips. “They’re local boys. I’m calling them boys, but now they’re young men. But when they joined our program they were just boys. To see how they’ve matured as musicians, and to see that they are now grow men with responsibilities, really does a lot for me to see what they have become.”
While musicians have the ability to play in many different venues, both stateside and abroad, they also have the chance to offer insight to young musicians in the local music community to perfect their craft in their own careers.
“I’m really happy that the Marine band is here today at the University of North Texas,” said Baylock. “Not only to share their music, but to share their insight on a career as a Marine musician. It is inspiring not only to the faculty but to the students, and it gives them insight into one of the many ways that one can become a professional musician. For myself, formerly being a military band member, it worked out great, and I have only good things to say about my time in the service and to these gentlemen and young women here doing the same.”