Marine Band Concert Causes Reflection

"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger

February 2000

Harold W. Glasgow believed that it was important to expose students to a wide range of music. As director of the East Fairmont High School Band in the 1950s, he would load his car with students and take them to concerts in the area. I remember when he took some of us to Pittsburgh to hear the Salvation Army International Staff Band from London, England, and to Morgantown High School to hear Meredith Wilson speak about his experiences in the Sousa Band. After Mr. Wilsonís lecture, Mr. Glasgow took us backstage to get his autograph. On another occasion, we traveled to Pittsburgh to see the Barnum and Bailey Circus, where we were introduced to well-known circus bandleader Merle Evans.

These experiences helped us, his students, to develop a love for music. I was reminded of these experiences when I attended a concert of "The President's Own," the United States Marine Band this past October at Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg. Under the direction of Colonel Timothy W. Foley, the band brought a bit of history to Clarksburg. For two centuries, the United States Marine Band has participated in events that have shaped our national heritage.

Since its founding in 1798, the band's primary mission has been to provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Marine Band musicians appear at the White House more than 200 times annually, performing at South Lawn arrival ceremonies, state dinners, and receptions, and accompanying famous entertainers.

The concert performance in Clarksburg, co-sponsored by the Clarksburg Exponent- Telegram and the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, was a part of the 1999 National Concert Tour. Colonel Foley stated that "The President's Own" frames each concert with Sousa marches. In Clarksburg, the band opened with "The Glory of the Yankee Navy" and closed with "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

Two West Virginians performed with the band in Clarksburg: GySgt Betsy J. Hill of Shepherdstown played piccolo and GySgt Aaron D. Clay of Fairmont played string bass. GySgt Clay, a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College, was featured soloist.

At intermission, I spoke with Gary Poling, who had been a percussionist in my band at Washington Irving High School in Clarksburg. Gary, now a history teacher at Robert C. Byrd High School, reminded me that I had taken him and other students to a performance of "The President's Own" in Elkins in the early 1960s. Mr. Glasgow's belief in the importance of exposing students to great performances had clearly influenced my teaching.

As I enjoyed this spectacular afternoon, I could not help but notice that years of music education history in West Virginia were represented in the audience. Among those I saw were: Blaine Corder, retired band director from Barbour County Schools; Don Hamilton, past WVMEA president and retired music educator from Harrison County Schools and, more recently, West Virginia Wesleyan College; Ron Wood, retired band director at Fairmont Senior High School and past WVMEA president; Barry Vingle, current band director at Fairmont Senior High School; Dave Milburn, band director at West Virginia Wesleyan College; Randall Hall, retired band director from Harrison County Schools and recent WVMEA Hall of Fame honoree; James Ellis, band director at Robert C. Byrd High School; Jude Gore, band director at Salem Middle School; Charles Freeman, retired instrument repairman from Bandland; and Phil Wyatt, band director at Washington Irving Middle School. Their love of music was evident as they listened to the concert.