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Marine Band Serves Country Through Music

As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, U.S. military bands will be out in full force providing music for parades, ceremonies and other affairs.

Who makes up these ensembles?

Often, they are people like music educator Michael Stanley.

“I wanted to find a way to serve my country and combine it with a passion for music,” Stanley said. 

Stanley enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was selected to be a Marine musician after auditioning for a spot. Now a Master Sergeant, Stanley has served in a variety of musical capacities for the Marines, including conducting the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band in Japan. Stanley was in Cleveland recently, as the New Orleans-based Marine Forces Reserve Band toured Ohio.

[Master Sergeant Michael Stanley, Bandmaster/ photo: Marine Forces Reserve Band]

While Stanley joined the Marines with the desire to play music, that wasn’t what motivated clarinetist and conductor Gunnery Sergeant Justin Hauser to enter the Corps.

“I was a senior in college from New York, attending a state school there, for music education when 9-11 happened. I felt an urge and calling that I needed to serve. I went to my local recruiter and signed an open contract and said ‘give me any job.’ They found out through a friend who has already enlisted that I was in a band. I originally didn’t want to go into a (Marine) band, but I have loved it. I was planning on doing four years, and here I am 17 years later and I would like to go as far as I can. When I retire, I’ll probably show up the next day to see if anybody notices,” said Hauser while in Cleveland with the Reserve Band.

[Gunnery Sergeant Justin Hauser, Audition Supervisor/photo: Marine Forces Reserve Band]

Stanley said there is a major misconception about what is required of Marine musicians.

“People think that perhaps we don’t have to go through boot camp, but active duty United States Marine Corps musicians all go to boot camp and Marine Corps combat training. We receive the same training every other Marine receives and we are expected to do all of the same annual training requirements as every other Marine,” Stanley said.

[photo: Marine Forces Reserve Band]

As warfare has modernized, so too has the role of military bands.

“The nature of musical support has changed over the decades. When Civil War troops were returning from war, they were greeted with the songs of their day like marches and polonaises. Those have now turned into a ceremonial affair for military bands. We do the same thing today, but there might be a welcome back party (when troops return home) where we’ll send another one of our ensembles. We’re not just a marching ceremonial band. We have a wind ensemble, rock and jazz bands, brass bands and small chamber groups. We’re able to provide music  in just about any way, shape or fashion,” Stanley said.

Being a military musician has allowed Stanley to serve another role for his country.

“Throughout my career, nothing has stuck out to me more than wearing the cloth of our nation and holding the banner of democracy and everything we stand for, goodwill and charity, and being able to go to developing countries and spread that goodwill,” Stanley said.

[Master Sergeant Michael Stanley, Gunnery Sergeant Justin Hauser, ideastream's Dan Polletta/photo: ideastream]

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