The band that has led every presidential inaugural parade since 1925 will perform March 11 at the Lied Center.
The U.S. Army Band, considered one of the best military bands in the world, will pay its first visit to Lawrence with a March 11 concert at the Lied Center.
Sponsored by the Journal-World and the Kansas University Band, the free concert will mark a rare appearance for the band outside of Washington, D.C. Members of the group perform more than 6,000 times a year there in various ensembles.
``The best military bands in the United States are the Washington service bands. They are really top-quality professional ensembles. ... And the Army band is the primary ceremonial band in Washington itself,'' said Bob Foster, director of bands at KU.
``This particular band doesn't travel outside of Washington very often, so it's a very special mission for us to carry the musical message somewhere,'' said Col. L. Bryan Shelburne Jr., director of the band.
The U.S. Army Band was created by order of Gen. John J. Pershing in 1922. It led Calvin Coolidge's inauguration parade in 1925, beginning a tradition of inauguration performances continuing through President Clinton's 1993 ceremonies. During World War II, the band performed in North Africa and Europe.
Its current duties include providing music for diplomatic and state functions, hosting summer outdoor concerts and performing at military funerals.
The band's infrequent performances outside of Washington have included the rededication of the Statue of Liberty and a victory parade for Operation Desert Storm in New York City.
Shelburne will lead close to 65 of the band's musicians in the Lawrence concert. Two band members are Kansas University graduates.
Staff Sgt. Michael Parnell, trombonist and trumpeter, earned a bachelor's degree in music from KU in 1989. Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Seipp graduated from KU in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in music education. He also plays trumpet.
Musicians in the band are among the best anywhere, Foster said.
``They have top-quality performers in the same sense that top symphonies do. A lot of people from the great orchestras started their careers in the service bands, and vice versa,'' Foster said.
The program for the March 11 concert illustrates the band's range. Music from the opera ``La Boheme'' will be followed by George Gershwin's ``An American in Paris.'' The show will end with ``The Stars and Stripes Forever'' by John Philip Sousa.
The concert will cap the American Bandmasters Assn.'s 61st National Convention, set for March 8-11 in Lawrence. Hosted by the KU Band, the event will bring several of the nation's top symphonic and concert bands to town.
``It's the cream of the cream. It's the top cut nationally and, to a certain extent, internationally,'' Foster said.