EVERETT, Massachusetts -- He belted out lyrics to Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby” while keeping the beat on the bass drum across his chest. The crowd reacted in turn, not expecting the percussionist in the back to take the spot as lead singer. Not only were they impressed that a band trained in military music can break out into modern hits, but that a prominent fighting force had a band at all.
Playing a concert at Everett high school in Everett, Massachusetts, is just one highlight of Cpl. Jordan Snow’s career as a Marine Corps musician. However, his path to becoming a Marine is just as illustrious a journey, taking his desire to be a musician in the Corps across the Atlantic Ocean several times over.
“It’s not to say what I was doing wasn’t fulfilling and fun, but I wanted what I was doing to have more meaning and more of an impact,” said Snow, a percussionist with the Marine Corps Band in Quantico, Virginia.
Snow was born and raised in Proctor, Vermont, to a military family. He became proficient in a range of instruments growing up and moving from place to place. The family was eventually stationed in Germany when Snow was in high school.
“At that point, music was definitely something I wanted to pursue as a career in some form,” said Snow. “I was better on the drums, so after high school, I went to the Berklee College of Music for percussion performance.”
Now a Berklee graduate, Snow returned to Germany and settled himself outside of Ramstein Air Base. He worked at the child development center on base while teaching private music lessons on the side. He was 23 years old, living on his own with a job on a military base with side income coming in from his tutoring. But he didn’t feel like it was enough.
“I grew up having a different perspective of sacrifice than a lot of people as I was in a military family and worked on a military base,” said Snow. “I was happy, but I was sure I could be doing more.”
It was one afternoon that Snow went online to the five service websites and weighed the options. Part of his decision was that the Marines.mil website was the most attractive to him. Another reason was one of his high school friends was a Marine recruiter in Lawrence, Mass.
“(Sergeant Shawn Blake) was working out of Massachusetts at the time, so I reached out to him for some more information and learned of and pursued the musician option,” Snow said. “Shortly thereafter, I was on a plane to Mass to audition for the (Musician Enlistment Option Program).”
The Marine Corps has 10 active-duty bands across the country and Japan where, if successful in passing an audition and graduating from the Naval School of Music, a Marine musician’s job is to perform in concerts and hone their skills. When Snow arrived in Lawrence, his schooling at Berklee helped him pass the audition and began the enlistment process into the Marine Corps.
“He was to lose a little weight before we could send him to boot camp, but otherwise he was a very well-spoken and mature individual,” said Gunnery Sgt. Sangty Mam, the Portland, Maine, Military Entrance Processing Station liaison and the supervisor of Recruiting Substation Lawrence when Snow was an applicant. “What he did just to ensure he was an active poolee speaks to his commitment to the Marine Corps.”
Snow flew back to Ramstein to exit his base job and pack everything up, then fly right back to Massachusetts to begin the processing, all on his own dime. When he returned to the states he lived with his parents in Vermont during his time in the Delayed Entry Program, which prepares individuals for recruit training while getting all the paperwork in order. He would drive from western Vermont to Lawrence, a three-hour drive, and back multiple days a week when required to work out with the Marines.
Once shipping to recruit training in October of 2014, his progression to where he is today was a quick one. Snow trained through the Naval School of Music in Virginia where, after four months of Marine Corps training, he found it challenging to get back to where he was musically on the drums.
“Every day, I was practicing to train back to where my skill level was,” said Snow. “But when I graduated and was assigned to the Quantico band, that’s when the real work began.”
A Marine musician can expect to perform nearly every week, be it at a base event, an international ceremony or a local concert. Snow joined the Quantico band in October of 2014, and in the year and a half of service, he has been all over the country, including performing for the 9/11 ceremony in New York City.
Snow plans on staying in as long as he can and honing his craft, possibly branching out in the Marine musician community as well as using the educational benefits to study music education in college.
“In a way, we’re the face of the Marine Corps when we perform in public or for other countries, and we all take that to task,” said Snow. “I worked a little to get here, from Germany and going back and forth to Mass, but it was all worth it.