Houston, Texas --
A Marine Corps band pumped up the pace for Houston’s 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
After two weeks of near-continuous rehearsals, 46 Marines from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing band set off for a five-day stint in the Lone Star state, Jan. 16. In addition to the parade, the band was featured in many of the city’s celebrations commemorating Martin Luther King Day, including a battle of the bands.
For two Marines, who bring a combined 30 years of musical experience to the band – the trip was much more than a standard gig, it was the culmination of an experience than began in childhood.
“I play the saxophone,” said Sgt. Austin R. W. Moore, the training noncommissioned officer with the 2nd MAW band. “I’ve been playing for 15 years now.”
Moore’s playing career was ignited by his mother. “When I was in 5th grade, my mom told me that I was going to play in a band for at least a year,” said Moore, who grew up in the town of Claxton, Tenn., about 20 miles northwest of Knoxville. “She said if I didn’t like it, I could get out.”
But Moore said he found he enjoyed music. He continued playing, and eventually his talent led him to the Marine Corps.
“I lived in a pretty small town with nothing going on besides fast food and factory work,” Moore said. “I just wanted to get out and do something else and actually do something with my life. That’s how I came into the Marine Corps.”
After his initial auditions, Moore was selected to play for the Corps. Now, he not only plays the saxophone but also provides vocals while playing.
Like Moore, Sgt. Colin M. Martin grew up in a small town, in his case, Gettysburg, Pa. Martin, a squad leader with the 2nd MAW band, found his reason for enlistment in the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“9/11 had a lot to do with it for me,” Martin said. “I was a junior [in high school] and I had to wait for a little while, but I was looking at the military and started to talk with a recruiter.”
Though love for his country drove Martin to the Marine Corps, his fondness of music pushed him towards the band.
“I’ve been playing the trombone since 1993,” said Martin. “I was never mandated to play an instrument. In third grade I fell in love with the trombone. So I gave it a shot.
“I had a friend who had joined before me and he told my recruiter that I was in the band,” Martin said. “Then the recruiter set up my audition and I joined the finest fighting force the world’s ever seen.”
Martin continues to play the trombone for the 2nd MAW band and also performs in several small ensembles, like the brass quintet and party band.
The band’s weekend in Houston kicked off Jan. 17 when the band opened the 8th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Battle of the Bands. Twelve Houston area high schools were represented.
“I enjoyed the battle of the bands,” Moore said. “It was really good seeing such a diverse musical selection from all these great bands. We were playing the typical military marching stuff and they’re out there playing some modern stuff that you can here everyday, and I think that was pretty cool.”
Moore said the band’s performance at the event is what being a Marine is all about. The musical selection was traditional, but strictly enforced the precision offered by the Corps.
“It was definitely interesting seeing the different styles,” Martin said. “We came here and our performance was totally different than anything else that happened that night. That’s our job, to stand out and show people what we do.”
The event organizers presented the 2nd MAW Band with a trophy commemorating their opening performance.
While the Marines were in Houston, they also visited the Texas Children’s Hospital. While there, the band performed in the hospital’s waiting area and then was taken on a tour to talk with the children.