MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
For those in search of Marines who like to let loose and have a good time, look no further than the Combat Center Band, which offers a more casual form of musical entertainment in its Party Band Ensemble.
Warrant Officer 2 Stephen B. Giove, Combat Center band officer, said party bands, which resemble the famous brass bands of New Orleans, have always been incorporated into bands throughout the Marine Corps, and are meant to show fans that Marines are human while also providing those same fans with a good time.
“People love it when they see Marines out of the normal persona with their discipline and seriousness,” said Giove.
Sgt. Douglas Hardee, Party Band leader and snare drummer, said the Party Band, who entertain fans with such songs as “Hey Baby,” “Bourbon Street Parade,” “Margaritaville,” and “The Hamster Dance,” is meant to make people have fun.
“The Party Band is the fun ensemble,” said Hardee, a native of Charleston, S.C. “We make any situation into a party-like atmosphere, and if they’re not having a good time, we aren’t doing our job.”
Hardee said the current Party Band, which was formed in August, pulled together after its conception and selected both older, more recognizable songs like “Tequila” as well as more recent hits by artists such as Blur, in order to appeal to all age groups.
The goal is to get attendees to sing along and dance, making the show about the fans, more than the band, through crowd interaction.
Due to member’s commitments to the complete Combat Center Band, members of the Party Band were forced to learn 12 songs in only four rehearsals during liberty hours and continued to practice outside of work, sometimes at their private residences.
“To say these guys put in work is an understatement,” said Hardee. “I ask for commitment, they give me 100 percent.”
Lance Cpl. Daniel I. Phillips, Party Band trumpeter, said being a member of the Party Band is time consuming, but his love for music and desire to improve as a musician made him jump at the opportunity to play for the ensemble.
“It’s a lot of dedication, but I love music, and I like to play as much as I can,” said Phillips, a native of Knoxville, Tenn. “I look at it as an opportunity to broaden my talent.”
Phillips admitted that being in the spotlight with the Party Band can be intimidating because all eyes are focused on the Party Band’s nine members instead of the approximately 40 members of the complete Combat Center Band, but also said the pressure forces the band’s members to be at the top of their game.
“With that large crowd and with all those people we all have to be ready,” said Phillips.
Sgt. Victor L. Norris, Party Band tenor saxophonist, also admitted the band can be time consuming, but said the Party Band fits better with his personality of enjoying the spotlight while entertaining fans.
“I enjoy looking into people’s eyes and seeing their reaction,” said Norris, a native of Birmingham, Ala. “Playing music is what I love.”
Norris, who has hosted rehearsals at his home with his wife and three children, also feels, like Phillips, that the Party Band allows him to better himself as a musician.
“It forces me to be better because I’m out there in the spotlight, and if I screw up there is nowhere to hide,” said Norris. “It makes me perform better.”
While Norris admitted the Party Band is not a perfect concert ensemble, he said the band’s many personalities, which range from resolved yet confident soloists to comedic relief, combine with each member’s dedication to create a more intimate and entertaining show.
“If you don’t want to get up and have a good time, don’t call us because that is what we are going to do,” said Hardee.
Next up for the Party Band Ensemble is a trip with the entire Combat Center Band to Wisconsin where they will help with recruiting efforts in the Milwaukee and Green Bay area.