ST. LOUIS -- The Marine Corps Band New Orleans Brass Ensemble visited multiple high schools in and around the St. Louis area, Dec. 12-14, playing New Orleans-inspired jazz music to students, teachers and faculty.
The tour wasn’t just entertainment, however. The 11 Marines, based out of New Orleans, Louisiana, with the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserves, were able to educate the students, particularly those who are in their respective high school bands, about becoming a Marine bandsman.
“These events are quite literally the best way to communicate to a high school student in how to become a band Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Devon Van, the Recruiting Station St. Louis program specialist and Marine bandsman. “Recruiters go into schools to do presentations and one of the many presentations we have to talk about is band. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate that, especially if your regular [military occupational specialty] is not band. So, this week was well worth it and we were able to inform a lot of students and teachers about the Marine band life.”
Van said the band also helped create relationships.
“The great thing about the band, or any other band that might come out, is that it helps break down some barriers and opens a lot of doors for us,” said Van. “Music is a universal language and it allows people to just sit down, relax and enjoy themselves. This band created conversations and more understanding not just of the band, but of the Marine Corps as a whole. I wish we could do more of these.”
The band ensemble visited Pattonville, McCluer, Fox, Seckman, Valley Park and Eureka High Schools.
During each stop, they played songs such as “St. James Infirmary,” “Bourbon Street,” and “3 a.m. Bounce,” among others, which are all New Orleans-themed songs.
Sergeant Spencer Day, a saxophonist with the band and a St. Louis, native, said one of the best parts about the recruiting tours is the question and answer sessions with their audiences. The band, he always notices, catches the attention of students when they learn “it’s much more than playing music.”
“We are Marines just like everyone else who wears the uniform,” said Day. “We conduct physical training every morning, qualify on the rifle range and deploy, if we are called to. That’s always the eye-opener to the people who we are performing for and people who might want to become one of us.”
Day also said playing in his home area was something he never thought he’d do.
“This is amazing that I can come back here and give back to the place where I grew up,” said Day, a Marquette High School graduate. “My mom, dad and grandma were able to come out here and watch me and the Marines play. It was truly amazing.”
It was obvious that those in the audience thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the Marines. Valley Park High School Band Director Stefanie Buscher was happy the Marine band stopped by and performed at her school.
“We definitely advertised that Marine Band NOLA was coming to our school and invited all who wanted to come,” said Buscher. “The bleachers were definitely full and we really got an awesome treat today! These guys are good! This was also really good because it shows one of the many opportunities there are for my students if they want to pursue a career in band after high school.”
In between each song, Staff Sgt. LeAnn Splitter, an assistant band ensemble leader, gave words of encouragement to all the high school students by telling them they could accomplish anything they put their mind to.
“To quote Henry Ford, ‘if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,’” said Splitter. “This is a pretty deep quote because you will only do what you put your mind to. You can’t accomplish anything if you ‘think you can’t.’ Every time we go into schools, we want to make sure we get the message across that nothing in life worth striving for is easy such as becoming a Marine band member. But, through a positive attitude and hard work, anything is possible.”