President Bush turns to the audience after conducting the United States Marine Corps Band, known as "The President's Own," during the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association in April.
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP Enlarge
U.S. Marines Gunnery Sgt. Kristin Mergen is too savvy to let her pride get the best of her.
She s the spokesman for the renowned United States Marine Band, and as she ticks off its accomplishments she focuses on what is probably the 65-musician group s most important role.
What makes us special and unique is our mission, which is to provide music for the president of the United States and the commandant of the Marine Corps, she said in a phone interview. We re the only service band to have that as our primary mission and we wear that very proudly.
Which means that the Marine Corps band is essentially the house band for the White House. While the other services may be invited to play on the South Lawn or presidential events around the country, the marines are the only ones who play in the White House, she said.
When she was asked, teasingly, if that s because they re the best of all the service bands, she laughed.
We ve just been lucky enough to be bestowed with the responsibility of providing music for the president, she said. We would never say we re the best. We feel very privileged to have this responsibility.
The band, which performs a sold-out show sponsored by The Blade Wednesday at the Stranahan Theater, was formed in 1798 and has performed for every president since John Adams.
The Marine Band s 17th director was the great John Philip Sousa, who began the concert tour tradition in 1891. Sergeant Mergen said that legend has it that Sousa was itching to get the band on the road so that people throughout the country could hear its precision playing.
But President Benjamin Harrison didn t seem to be getting the message, and his permission was necessary. So someone told Sousa that the only way to get to the president was through his wife, which is when Harrison concluded that the Marine Band would probably go over better throughout the country than he would.
President Harrison said, It s pretty well understood that everyone would want to see you and hear you rather than see me or hear me, she said.
The band is comprised of about 150 musicians, but 65 break off to tour every year. The Department of Defense has divided the country into five regions, which means the band only plays in an area every five years. The last time it was in Toledo was 10 years ago.
It will play traditional band repertoire, marches, and instrumental solos for the 7:30 p.m. free show at the Stranahan, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. No more tickets remain for the concert.
Contact Rod Lockwood at email@example.com or 419-724-6159.