(Concert on the Avenue – July 25, 2017 – video by Jeff Malet)
Military bands in the U.S. trace their beginnings to a simple fife and snare drum unit used to communicate signals on the battlefield. They further enhanced their value by providing a needed morale boost for military personel. “Music has done its share, and more than its share, in winning this war,” declared Civil War Gen. Philip Sheridan, who understood the impact music has on troops.
Today, military bands play an important patriotic role for soldiers and citizens alike. Famous Marine bandleader and composer John Philip Sousa, the “March King,” raised the standards of military music and bands to new heights with perennial patriotic standards like “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the official march of the U.S. Marine Corps, “Semper Fidelis,” among many others. Some of our most famous entertainers honed their talents with military bands.
Military bands perform at parades, presidential inaugurations, state funerals and a variety of other events and ceremonies across the nation. They honor those who have served our country and inspire American citizens to heightened patriotism and service.
Many of our armed forces’ “elite” musical units are based in the D.C. metro area, where you can see a high-quality, family-oriented performance on virtually any day during the summer months. Best of all, they are free. Below is a summary of what the upcoming summer season has to offer in our nation’s capital.
The U.S. Navy’s Concerts on the Avenue series, presented on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at the U.S. Navy Memorial, will hold the first of its scheduled summer concerts on June 4. The concerts highlight naval history and heritage, honor our fleet and pay tribute to our nation’s veterans. Eight of these weekly concerts will begin with the presentation of the state and territorial flags of the United States by the Navy Ceremonial Guard. The Navy Drill Team will execute their flawless demonstration of close-order drill, coordination and timing. These sailors carry 1903 Springfield rifles, all with 10-inch fixed bayonets.
These “full-scale” Concerts on the Avenue at the U.S. Navy Memorial are scheduled for June 4, 11, 18 and 25; July 23 and 30; and Aug. 6 and 17. On the remaining Tuesday evenings, you can see alternating performances by the U.S. Navy Concert Band, Country Current, Commodores and Sea Chanters chorus. Consult the U.S. Navy Memorial website for a full schedule of summer events at Navy Memorial Plaza, including a Thursday outdoor movie series. All concerts last exactly one hour. The location is 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, adjacent to the Archives Metro stop.
The U.S. Capitol West Front steps (National Mall side) will be the venue for the 2019 Military Bands Summer Concert Series. Concerts start at 8 p.m. There will be performances by the U.S. Navy Band (Mondays), U.S. Air Force Band (Tuesdays), U.S. Marine Band (Wednesdays and alternate Thursdays) and U.S. Army Band (alternate Thursdays and Fridays). Lawn chairs are allowed in specified areas. Food is permitted; alcohol and glass bottles are not allowed.
The U.S. Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants also play Fridays at 7:30 p.m. at the Air Force Memorial and Saturdays at 7 p.m. at National Harbor Plaza in Maryland.
Founded by Congress in 1798, the Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. The Marine Corps Sunset Parade features the music of “The Commandant’s Own,” the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon on Tuesdays during the summer from June 11 through mid-August. Start times are 7 p.m. through July and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 6 and 13. In 2018 the event was moved to the Lincoln Memorial due to renovations at the Marine Corps War Memorial. For 2019, while renovations are completed, the parade will still take place on most dates at the Lincoln Memorial with the exception of those on June 25, July 2 and July 9 (stay tuned for the locations of those parades).
“The President’s Own” United States Marine Band Friday Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., starts at 8:45 p.m., beginning with a concert by the United States Marine Band. A one-hour-and-15-minute performance of music and precision marching, the Evening Parade also features “The Commandant’s Own,” the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Corps Color Guard, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers and Cpl. Chesty XIII, the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington. Visit the Marines Baracks Washington website to make reservations for this event.
The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” was founded in 1922 by Army Chief of Staff General of the Armies John J. Pershing to emulate European military bands he heard during World War I. Twilight Tattoo is the United States Army’s outdoor ceremonial concert, held throughout the summer in the D.C. area. It is an hour-long military pageant that features the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Drill Team, the U.S. Army Blues and members of the U.S. Army Band Downrange on Wednesdays through July 31 (no performances on July 3 and 10). The Twilight Tattoo is also scheduled for Thursdays from May 9 through June 13. This means for six weeks there will be a Twilight Tattoo on Wednesday and Thursday. The performance starts at 7 p.m. (pre-ceremony pageantry begins at 6:30 p.m.) on Summerall Field at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. In the event of inclement weather (rain, extreme heat, etc.), performances will be moved indoors to Conmy Hall. The U.S. Army Band also will continue an annual tradition with the end-of-summer music spectacular: The 1812 Overture Concert at Summerall Field on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 8 p.m. Consult the Band’s website for a full schedule and location info.
Members of the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps perform using musical instruments and wearing uniforms similar to those used by musicians of the Continental Army. On July 4, they will play in front of the National Archives steps on Constitution Avenue beginning at 10 a.m., prior to their participation in the National Independence Day Parade.
Other musical concerts will take place throughout the metro area this summer at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum and other local venues. For times and places, consult the various bands’ websites. Remember, outdoor concerts are all subject to weather cancelation.
View Jeff Malet’s video of a prior year’s Concert on the Avenue at the U.S. Navy Memorial by clicking on the play icon in the center of the image above.