I will admit it, I am a complete music snob. That being said, last night I got to hear the Coast Guard Band when they played at the Coast Guard Foundation dinner in Washington DC. As I was sitting there listening to them I found myself kind of just swept away…I mean of course I had heard about the Coast Guard band…but hearing them in person? I was really impressed. (And not because we all wear the Coast Guard shield.) After getting to enjoy the band last night and since they have a concert tonight in DC, it seemed like a good time to talk about this particular Coast Guard asset.
The Coast Guard Band was organized in March 1925 with the assistance of Lt. Charles Benter, leader of the United States Navy Band, Dr. Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and “American March King” John Philip Sousa, former director of the United States Marine Band. That is a pretty strong musical parentage to start a band with. It wasn’t until 1965 the Coast Guard Band became permanent after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the congressional legislation. The oldest continuous sea going service in the country finally had an official band all their own!
Since their inception the band has played all over the country and all over the world too. You can follow the Coast Guard Band’s adventures and musical endeavors on their blog.
Interesting factoid, the Coast Guard band had the the longest-tenured conductor of a major service band in American history. Captain Lewis J. Buckley served as Director, U. S. Coast Guard Band, from June 1, 1975 through September 30, 2004. The Coast Guard Band’s fifth Director, he was the first to achieve the rank of Commander and then Captain before he retired. The current director, Commander Kenneth W. Megan joined the U.S. Coast Guard Band in June 1975 and was appointed the Band’s assistant director in July 1986. You can read the bio’s of most of the band here.
You can actually download some recordings of the band their webpage , here. On the Coast Guard Youtube channel you can see the Coast Guard Band with Honor Guard, Port Security Unit 301 and Recruit Company Victor-180 on the march in the inaugural parade Jan. 20, 2009. There are actually a lot of videos of the band floating around out there.
Tonight for anyone who is in the DC area you can check out the band at Lisner Auditorium at 7:30p.m. as they present “A Salute to America’s Veterans, Past and Present” . Taking a look at the program, it looks like the audience will be treated not just to good music but to a walk through the musical history of the armed services. It even looks like the Commandant, Admiral Allen is performing with the band as a narrator during one of the pieces. Oh, did I mention the show is free?
For anyone who isn’t in the DC area, you can check out the Coast Guard Band’s webpage to find out if there are any performances coming up in your neck of the woods. The Coast Guard band is a show you shouldn’t miss the chance to see, hear, and enjoy.