BELLOWS FALLS -- A crowd of nearly 1,200 people were on their feet applauding and saluting the President’s Own Marine Band on Oct. 13 as they filled the Bellows Falls Union High School gymnasium with patriotic songs by John Philip Sousa, John Williams and other well known composers.
Directed by Vermont native, Colonel Michael Colburn, the United States Marine Band made Bellows Falls one of their stops on their Northeast National Concert Tour where they will perform in a different city every day, performing 29 concerts in 11 states.
The Marine Band has toured regularly since 1891, when Leader John Philip Sousa took the band to 32 cities and towns in New England and the Midwest. Concert moderator and vocalist, Sgt. Kevin Bennear entertained the crowd throughout the evening and asked all members of the Armed Forces to rise as the Marine Band performed, "A Salute to the Armed Forces of the United States of America," arranged by Thomas Knox. Veterans and active members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Gaud and Marines proudly stood during the playing of the official songs. As an encore, Sgt. Bennear lead the crowd in singing "God Bless America," written by Irving Berlin in 1918.
Music students at Bellows Falls Union High school had an opportunity to meet with members of the President’s Own Marine Band in an audition setting prior to the concert. BFUHS students Tim Jones, saxophone, Emily Vaccaro, trumpet and McKensey Brandon, tuba, played audition pieces they are working on for Districts and upcoming New England competitions.
Three musicians from the Marine Band who play the same instruments, were matched up and offered their professional expertise to the high school students. "Record yourself, listen back and learn from your own recordings" said Audrey Cupples a saxophonist and 24-year veteran of the band.
Marine Band tuba player, Cameron Gates of Oregon, recalled his best friends in life have been the friends he’s had in band.
Marine Band musician, Brad Weil, was raised in a musical family where his father was a high school band director and his mother was a choir teacher.
They left students with information about the Marine Band High School Concerto Competition where the winner is invited to perform a solo selection in concert with the Marine Band in Washington, D.C., and will receive a cash prize of $2,500. Information is also accessible at www.marineband.usmc.mil.
Students asked if the musicians had ever met President Obama. They all said they had and that the band plays for presidential events regularly. In fact, half of the 150 member band has remained in Washington during the National Tour to attend to presidential events at the White House.