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Marine Band prepares for a lively Colorado Boulevard show

Members of one the 20 marching bands at the Rose Parade have unique backgrounds in music.

December 31, 2011|By Kirk Silsbee
  • The United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band participates in the 122nd Tournament of Roses Rose Parade themed "Building Dreams, Friendships & Memories" in Pasadena on Saturday, January 1, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
The United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band…

There are probably few, if any, people who come into this world with a congenital love of marches. Blaring brass, blasting tubas and unison staccato drums — all playing at a fortissimo dynamic — is definitely an acquired taste. Yet there are few Americans whose hearts aren’t stirred in some way by the opening strains of the “Marines’ Hymn”:

“From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli....”

Something about that music and those words speaks to our elemental national character.

Twenty marching bands will participate in the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade on Monday. They come from all over the United States and everywhere from Calgary, Canada to Karskrona, Sweden to Kyoto, Japan to Puerto Rico. The United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band, though, will be the only outfit with a retinue. Twenty or so people in historic military garb — from the Revolution to the present — follow the band. It’s a silent but powerful reminder that the history of the American military is the history of America.

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The USMC West Coast Composite Band is headquartered in San Diego and every musician in it has his or her own story to tell. Chief Warrant Officer Stephanie Wire directs the band, and she’s no exception. She’s an 18-year veteran and career Marine musician.

Wire grew up in various Pennsylvania towns and found her way into the Marine Corps indirectly.

“I stumbled onto it,” she confesses.

Speaking from her office, she relates that she was a high school flute player with a background in piano and violin when she first learned that the Marine Corps offered music opportunities. After some college, she says: “I enlisted with flute as my occupational specialty.”

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