TONIGHT: ‘The President’s Own’: U.S. Marine Band returns to Grass Valley for first time in a decade |

TONIGHT: ‘The President’s Own’: U.S. Marine Band returns to Grass Valley for first time in a decade

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector


WHO: Marine Corps League #885 Gold Country Detachment and Music in the Mountains

WHAT: “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band

WHERE: Ali Gymnasium, Nevada Union High School

WHEN: Friday, Oct. 11, doors open at 6:45 p.m, Seated by 7:15, program begins 7:30

TICKETS: Free Tickets (limit four per person) at the Music in the Mountains Box Office or by calling 530-265-6173

UPDATE NOON FRIDAY: According to the marine band’s twitter account, tonight’s show is on.

A “once in a decade” experience comes to Nevada County Oct. 11, when “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band performs for the community.

Sponsored by Marine Corps League #885 Gold Country Detachment and Music in the Mountains, the free concert takes place at Nevada Union High School’s Ali Gymnasium at 7:30 p.m.

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The highly regarded Marine band was founded in 1798 by an Act of Congress during the Presidency of John Quincy Adams and has performed at every Presidential inauguration since Thomas Jefferson’s, who is credited with having dubbed the organization, “The President’s Own.”

The band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization and has been under the direction of some of the nation’s greatest musical leaders, including John Phillip Sousa. The mission is to provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Retired Maj. Gen. Orlo Steele grew up in Grass Valley and returned home after retiring from the Marine Corps following a 35-year career, which included a stint as the commandant of the barracks in Washington, D.C. where the U.S. Marine Band resides.


“8th and I is the home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps,” Steele said. “It’s also where we have our ceremonial units — the United States Marine Band, the Drum and Bugle Corps and also our detachment that protects the President at Camp David. I commanded that for two years, so I am very familiar with the band.

“It has some of the greatest musicians. Many of them have advanced degrees from Juilliard and other schools of music.”

A total of about 150 people are in the band, but the traveling group is approximately 60 members. Steele said they have been coming to Grass Valley since the 1960s.

“I was on active duty and my mother was the head of attendance at the high school at the time and a former Marine first brought it to Grass Valley,” Steele said. “Its purpose is for recruiting. We cannot charge for this event. This is done by Uncle Sam. Your tax dollars are at work! The band’s purpose is to put the Marine Corps in view for local recruiters.”

A fourth generation Californian, Steele’s own experience in the Marine Corps was positive. In fact, Marine musicians played a part in his decision to stay long term. He said it was during a stint in San Diego that he came to realize life in the Marine Corp was something he would do long term.

“I was a series officer in San Diego and I used to watch the band come up and play morning colors and I began to think this is the life for me,” he said. “So that’s why I stayed in.”

As for those considering a career in the Marines, Steele said he would highly endorse it.

“I had a very positive experience and most of the men and women who go into the Marine Corps have the same,” he said. “It’s a very small brotherhood/sisterhood of people who have the same attitudes.”


Approximately 1,500 tickets are distributed. Music in the Mountains Executive Director Jenny Darlington-Person said the organization partners with the Marine Corps League #885 by handling tickets and helping with ushering.

As the concert is free, there is no cost benefit to offering to assist, but she said the nonprofit is happy to offer goodwill to the program which also furthers Music in the Mountains’ mission of bringing high-quality musical opportunities to Nevada County.

“We have existed for nearly 40 years with the idea of bringing communities together through fantastic music performances and music education programs,” Darlington-Person said. “While we are known for primarily classical music, but we also bring jazz, Broadway, and this concert fits really well with our July 3 program which is patriotic or American music and it’s a really nice fit for some of the other things we do.”

Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig has chosen a diverse mix of programs from traditional band repertoire and Sousa marches to instrumental solos and a salute to the Armed Forces, a news release states.

“We always try to highlight music on our programs that celebrates the region we are visiting, whether it be marches that provide a connection or folk music that might be associated with certain areas of the country,” Fettig said in the release. “We have tremendously appreciative patrons who come to Marine Band concerts for all types of different experiences, so our programs are designed to include a great variety of music that mirrors the wonderful diversity in our national musical heritage.”

Many area middle and high school music students have been provided free tickets. Darlington-Person said.

“They are very excited to be able to hear a professional band, which most kids don’t. The kids around here don’t get the opportunity very often,” she said. “Most of the band members have college degrees and advanced degrees. It is good for the kids to see there are career opportunities in music you wouldn’t normally think of.

“Who would think you could play the trumpet and be a Marine as well?”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

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