Written by retired Capt. Lewis Buckley.
In 1975, when I had been the director of the U.S. Coast Guard Band for about a month, a young music teacher from Massachusetts applied for a position as a music arranger. His music was first-rate and his interview was comfortable and confident, so we recruited him. Little did I know at the time that Ken Megan would become my longtime friend and colleague, or that he would serve the Coast Guard for nearly four decades and succeed me as director.
Over the weekend, Capt. Ken Megan conducted his final concert before heading into retirement. The Coast Guard Academy’s Leamy Hall was packed with appreciative fans and the band shared the stage with dozens of former band members – myself included. Such devotion by both audience and colleagues is testament to his stellar career and the huge impact he has had on our band and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Capt. Megan’s positive impact spans far more than just the nine years he served as director. He is retiring with more than 38 years’ service, which is fairly astonishing in and of itself. He has been a remarkably productive, innovative and impactful individual for all of those years.
In the 1960s, my predecessor Lt. Cmdr. William Broadwell instituted national recruiting of musicians, which attracted graduates of the nation’s finest conservatories and university music schools to the Coast Guard Band. I believe that decision was the most important single event contributing to the top level professional quality of today’s Coast Guard Band.
Some 15 to 20 years later, Megan, by then a chief petty officer, seized an opportunity that put this increasingly prestigious U.S. Coast Guard Band on the world map of great concert bands. In response to my suggestion we explore broadcasting concerts on our local National Public Radio station, he created what would become a series of national and international concert broadcasts that continued for two and a half decades. The Coast Guard Band became the undisputed king of band music on NPR. Those broadcasts were Ken Megan’s project, decades before he was the band’s director; he made them happen.
As the band’s concert narrator for 18 years he was the face and voice of the Coast Guard Band. When President George H. W. Bush left office, the commandant chose Megan as the sole Coast Guard representative to speak on behalf of our service in a national Armed Forces Salute to the outgoing president in Washington, D.C.
As director, he has taken seriously his most important responsibility to the band and the Coast Guard: ensuring the continued growth, caliber and reputation of the Coast Guard Band so the band’s professionalism would always reflect that of the Coast Guard itself.
His greatest legacy will be the wonderful musicians he has attracted to the organization. As a frequent audience member, I can tell you that today’s is certainly the strongest, most talented Coast Guard Band in the service’s history, and its reputation continues to grow. Last year’s world renowned guest conductor Tim Reynish ended his performance with the band by telling the Leamy Hall audience, “It’s hard to say that any one band is the best band in the world; but this band may just be that band!”
I have enjoyed watching Capt. Megan flourish in the job I enjoyed so much for so long, and it has been wonderfully rewarding to watch the continued growth and impressive accomplishments of the Coast Guard Band under his leadership. He has stood the good watch, serving faithfully and effectively, and he retires with the warmest gratitude and congratulations from all of us who care so much about the welfare of the Coast Guard and its marvelous Coast Guard Band.
Capt. Lewis J. Buckley retired as director of the U. S. Coast Guard Band in 2004, having served in that position for over 29 years — the longest-tenured conductor of a senior military band in American history. He entered the Coast Guard in 1969 as a trumpeter.