Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Former Marine Band director to conduct KU bands

December 1, 2001


Retired Col. John Bourgeois was in charge of music at the White House from 1979 to 1996.

But the former director of the United States Marine Band has never seen as much emphasis on patriotic music as in the months since Sept. 11.

"The thing that is really amazing is people are unabashedly flying the flag, and that's creating this sense of community," he said. "Unfortunately, it took something horrible for this to happen. It's apple pie, baseball, the American flag and patriotic music."

Bourgeois is in Lawrence to conduct the Kansas University Symphonic Wind Ensemble and University Band in its "Salute to America" concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Lied Center. On Friday, he rehearsed with KU students and rehearsed and spoke with students at Eudora High School.

Bourgeois joined the Marine Band billed as the "President's Own" because it coordinates White House music in 1958 as a French horn player and arranger. He was named assistant director in 1974 and to director in 1979. He retired in 1996.

Bourgeois said the current patriotic outpouring was rivaled only by the homecomings of astronaut John Glenn from orbit and the hostages from Iran.

Many of Bourgeois' favorite patriotic tunes are marches by John Philip Sousa, the 17th director of the Marine Band.

"He didn't write too many duds," he said.

And, he added, don't underestimate "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"The 11th of September was indeed a day of infamy," he said. "It was an attack on American soil. But also we recall Fort McHenry in Baltimore was also an attack on American soil (during the War of 1812), and it inspired 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"

Bourgeois directed the 144-piece Marine Band under presidents Carter to Clinton, but his relationship with the chief executives was more professional than personal.

"It's not that you're going to have a social conversation with the president on your own instigation," he said. "If the president is there and wants to chat, you chat."

Despite the new patriotism, Bourgeois said he's glad to be retired and not conducting the Marine Band now. But he said the band received a lot of attention when it toured last month.

"It's not just the president's band," he said. "It's America's band."

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