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Staff Sgt. Wendy Bickford, a clarinetist with “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, performs during the Coats of Red and Blue 2 concert at the Sunset Cinema Sunday.

Photo by Pfc. Michael T. Gams

Combat Center graced by 'The President's Own'

26 Apr 2009 | Pfc. Michael T. Gams

With help from eight members of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band filled the Sunset Cinema with brilliant music during the Coats of Red and Blue 2 concert April 26.

The members of “The President’s Own” came to the Combat Center April 21 and shared their musical skills with the Combat Center band throughout the week in preparation for Sunday’s performance.

“The President’s Own” is the oldest professional musical organization, established by Congress in 1798, and therefore brings a great deal of knowledge and history to the table whenever they perform, said Sgt. Steven A. Hofmann, a percussionist with the Combat Center Band and Dallas native.

To be selected for “The President’s Own,” the only band tasked with performing for the president and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, one has to be the cream of the crop in the music world, he said. The eight musicians who came to the Combat Center have, combined, more than 200 years of musical experience and bring a wealth of knowledge to share with members of the Combat Center Band. 

At the start of the performance, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen B. Giove, the Combat Center Band’s conductor and Hollywood, Fla., promised the crowd an entertaining show featuring music the audience might not expect from a military band.

In commemoration of William Shakespeare’s baptism date, the band began their performance with Reed’s “Othello,” a musical rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Next, the band changed tempo and moved to a jazz song, featuring a solo by Combat Center clarinetist Cpl. Patricia A. Newby, a Miami native.

As promised, the band then played some rather unconventional music, venturing into songs from the classic “Looney Tunes” cartoon.

The band didn’t stop there; they then played music inspired by the great-American comic book hero, Superman.

The show finished with a medley of each military branch’s hymns, as Giove asked current and former members of each branch to stand when their song was played.

“The show was outstanding,” said Debbie Baumgarten-Yantes, a Twentynine Palms resident. “I come to the shows as much as I can and they never fail to impress and entertain me.”

Seeing members of “The President’s Own” perform for the first time just added to the night, she added.

The week proved more then just a learning experience for the Combat Center band; it also afforded the members of “The President’s Own” the opportunity to learn from the Marines in a field band.

“It was a great experience,” said Giove. “It was awesome to have Marines from “The President’s Own” learn from us as well as we had the opportunity to learn from them, not just as musicians, but as Marines.”

It’s been an amazing week, said Staff Sgt. Wendy Bickford, a clarinetist with “The President’s Own” band and of Lakeland, Fla. All of the Marines in the Combat Center band are so talented; it has been a blast to work with everyone.

“The President’s Own” will hopefully be back next year to mentor the Combat Center band and put on another stellar performance, said Giove.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms