GARDEN CITY, N.Y. --
“There is a point where music becomes less about music and more about being a person,” said Sgt. Charlie Arbelaez, an alto saxophone player assigned to Marine Band San Diego, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Arbelaez, along with Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steve Giove, director of the Parris Island Marine Band, Gunnery Sgt. Tim Otis, musician procurement chief for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Quantico, Va., Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Bley, the 1st Marine Corps District’s musician placement director, Staff Sgt. Ken Ebo, trombone instructor at the Armed Forces School of Music, and Sgt. Devin Penner, a pianist with the Quantico Marine Band, launched the Marine Corps Jazz Ensemble tour in the 1st MCD’s area of operations March 4.
The band took their music to high schools and colleges to spread knowledge of the Marine Corps’ Musician Enlistment Option Program and to interact with hundreds of young men and women who, like them, are passionate about music.
The Marines performed at Syosset High School, Western Connecticut State University, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, Floral Park High School, the Lincoln Center in New York City, The University of Massachusetts Lowell, The University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Berklee School of Music.
“Most people do not associate music and Marines together,” said Otis, a native of Rosenburg, Ore. “When they hear we have a music program they are surprised – we are trying to change that perception.”
The Marine musicians held clinics for students, which gave the aspiring musicians an opportunity to play alongside professionals and receive constructive criticism. Students were also given the chance to perform with the Marines on stage during concerts. At the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, and Western Connecticut State University, the music directors performed with the Marines.
“These guys are really amazing for bringing music at an extremely high level of musicianship across the country,” said Michael Mossman, director of music at Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College. “The music is always there for us, just as the Marine Corps is always there for us.”
During the tour, a few students from different schools auditioned for the Marines’ MEOP. Even the students who did not express interest in the Corps showed appreciation for the professional performance of the ensemble.
On March 10 the Marines stopped by the PRI’s The World studios at WGBH in Boston, where they performed two songs and were interviewed by Marco Werman, one of the radio personalities in the station.
The tour reached its climax March 8. The Marines performed with jazz icon and trumpet virtuoso Jon Faddis at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
“The tour itself went very well,” said Bley, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. “It’s really important to engage with younger musicians and to show them what is available to them as upcoming musicians training to be professionals.”
For more information about the Marine Corps’ Musician Enlistment Option Program visit www.mcrc.marines.mil/1stmcd/UnitHome/Music.aspx