St. Louis was alive with the sound of music as Marine Band San Diego toured high schools and concert venues April 24 – 27.
According to Gunnery Sgt. William R. Howe, music programs coordinator, 9th Marine Corps District, the 50-member band was happy to leave their usual schedule at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego to work closely with high school students and the community.
“The band’s job is public relations,” said Howe. “They exist to expose people to the Marine Corps in ways they don’t expect.”
Howe said many know about the armed forces, but are not aware of musical opportunities in the services. The band deliberately visited as many high schools and venues as their schedule permitted in order to spread the Corps’ message of musician enlistment options.
“The band is an opportunity to break down doors or barriers, allowing access to more schools,” Howe explained.
"Of the 16 different schools they visited, most allow recruiters limited access, such as a monthly cafeteria setup or career talk. The MCRD Marines’ presence helped establish a relationship between the Corps and the schools.
“It was a nice change from the weekly routine,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Sullivan, small ensemble leader, Marine Band MCRD San Diego.
Sullivan, who coordinated most of the tour, said the visit required two months of planning to find enough schools and concert venues to keep the band busy.
After a visit to Fort Zumwalt South High School, Gary W. Brandes, director of bands, said the visit was a chance for the Marines to show they were “just regular people,” who were Marines and played music for a living.
“My students were completely in awe,” Brandes said. “Not only of the quality of the band, but of their commitment to discipline and excellence.”
Brandes said his students were familiar with the Marine bands from the Tournament of Roses Parade on television, but seeing the musicians in person had a more profound effect.
“This has been a great opportunity for (the students) to see the Marine Corps as an option,” said Brandes.
Howe said he had hopes to bring the band back to the Midwest within the next year.
“It was a productive trip,” Howe said. “We generated good will for the Marine Corps, and I know the band had a blast.”