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"The Commandant's Own," The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps

  • The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps was founded on November 9, 1934 to augment the U.S. Marine Band and provide music for ceremonial functions at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. All Marine Musicians trace their heritage back to an Act of Congress signed by President John Adams in 1798. This bill formally established the United States Marine Band and called for the enlistment of a drum major, fife major, and 32 fifers and drummers. These early musicians, called “field musics,” were utilized in several roles. Some were used for recruiting, some served aboard ships and fought alongside other Marines in times of war, while others were retained to form a military band of Marines. By 1875, the formations of troops in battle underwent significant changes, making it difficult to signal troops with verbal commands - thus, fifes found their place on the battlefield. In 1881, fifes were replaced with bugles to signal troops, but it wasn’t until 1892 that the Navy ordered bugle calls to be standardized. Soon there were uniformed calls for every troop movement - from “Reveille” early in the morning to “Taps” at the end of the day. At the time of the unit’s founding, the Drum & Bugle Corps was comprised of a drum major, sixteen buglers, three snare drummers, three tenor drummers, two bass drummers, and a cymbal player. These founding members provided musical support for ceremonies around the nation’s capital. During World War II, The Drum & Bugle Corps was tasked with Presidential support duties, accompanying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on his many trips to Warm Springs, GA, acting as his personal guard and providing musical entertainment. In recognition of this service, President Roosevelt awarded the unit with a distinctive scarlet and gold breast cord shortly before his death, which the Marines of the Drum & Bugle Corps proudly display on their uniforms today. In 1956, the Drum & Bugle Corps was designated the official United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps by General Randolph M. Pate, the 21st Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 2006, by proclamation from the 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael W. Hagee, the unit was given its moniker - “The Commandant’s Own,” The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps. In the tradition of their “field music” predecessors, the musicians of “The Commandant’s Own” are Marines in the truest sense of the word. Every enlisted member is first a graduate of Marine Corps Recruit Training and is trained in basic infantry skills. Prior to enlisting, each Marine must pass a demanding audition for service in the Drum & Bugle Corps. Following Recruit Training and Marine Combat Training, Marines are assigned to “The Commandant’s Own” at historic Marine Barracks, Washington DC. The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps performs a variety of music from marches to jazz, patriotic, popular, and classical favorites. Comprised of 80 Marine Musicians dressed in ceremonial red and white uniforms, “The Commandant’s Own” performs for millions of spectators each year and is recognized worldwide as a premier musical marching unit. Additionally, Buglers from “The Commandant’s Own” have the distinct honor of providing standard funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery. At one point in our nation’s history, there were over sixty drum and bugle corps serving in our nation’s armed forces. Today, The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps carries on this historic legacy as the only musical unit of its kind serving on active duty in the United States Armed Forces. The unit travels the world along with the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and the Official Color Guard of the Marine Corps as the United States Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment.
  • MILITARY ENSEMBLES
  • 12/20/2018 03:00 PM - 04:00 PM
  • "The Commandant's Own," The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps
  • Captain James 'Axel' Foley
  • Captain James ‘Axel’ Foley enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004. Following graduation from Marine Corps Recruit Training at Parris Island, SC, and Marine Corps Combat Training at Camp Geiger, NC, he reported to Marine Barracks Washington, DC for duty with “The Commandant’s Own” in 2005 as a Soprano Bugler. As an enlisted Marine he served in the Lead Soprano and Mellophone Bugle sections, rendered funeral honors as a Bugler at Arlington National Cemetery, was highlighted as a Featured Soloist, and performed solo ceremonies as a Ceremonial Bugler. In addition to his responsibilities as a musician he assumed collateral duties including Marching Drill Designer and Instructor, Section Leader, Chief Music Librarian, Ceremonial Field Crew Director, and Administrative Chief. He was twice selected as the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps’ representative to the Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officer Musician of the Year Board. In 2009 he was chosen through a competitive board to fill an officer vacancy in the unit and was appointed a Warrant Officer by the President in March of 2010. He served as the unit’s Operations Officer and Assistant Director from 2010-2014. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in December 2014, becoming the Company Executive Officer. He assumed duties as the sixth Director and the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps in July 2018. Captain Foley is a graduate of both the Sergeant and Staff Non-Commissioned Officer’s Courses and graduated from The Warrant Officer Basic Course at The Basic School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he placed on the Commanding General’s Honor Roll in the top 5% of his class. His personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star (second award) and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. During his time in the Marine Corps, “The Commandant’s Own” has performed around the country and across the world, entertaining, motivating, and inspiring countless military and civilian audiences, national and foreign dignitaries, and heads of state. The son of two US Air Force Officers, Captain Foley began his musical studies in the Orange County Public School system, in Orlando, FL, where he studied the trumpet and bassoon. He graduated in 1998 as a National Merit Semi-Finalist from the Engineering, Science, and Technology Program at Edgewater High School while dual-enrolled at the University of Central Florida. Captain Foley initiated his undergraduate studies in Music at Mercer University then transferred to the Universities of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Platteville. He was a winner of the 2001 Concerto Competition and interned in his intended field as a Program Assistant and Event Coordinator at the UW-Platteville Center for the Performing Arts. Captain Foley graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Music (Business/Arts Administration) from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville in 2002. Following graduation, he moved to Washington, DC, to pursue a career in Arts Administration. He worked for Arena Stage and then the Washington National Opera before enlisting in the Marine Corps in 2004. While on active duty, he earned a Master of Music Degree in Conducting, studying with Prof. Mark Camphouse, from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, in 2010. An advocate of all types and styles of musical performance, Captain Foley was a performing member of the 1997-1998 Magic of Orlando, 1999-2001 Madison Scouts, and the 2002 Concord Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps. Additionally, he was member of the Washington, DC, acapella group Vox Populi and has performed in several musical theater productions, both on stage and in the orchestra pit. He is an alumni member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Men’s Music Fraternity. Captain Foley is active as a clinician, arranger, and guest performer.