Mixing the Marines and Music

Alan de Veritch sold his Santa Clarita real estate company earlier this year to devote more time to music, consulting and teaching. Before starting the business with a partner in 1979 he was co-principal violist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 10 years. His eclectic career interests might be traced to an unusual four-year hitch in the Marine Corps at the White House. De Veritch, 43, and his wife, Evelyn, also in real estate, live in Valencia.

I was a freshman viola performance major at Indiana University and I was maintaining quite a heavy concert schedule so I was not really at school too much. So my local draft board in North Hollywood switched me back to a 1-A. That was just '65, '66, so we were getting involved in Vietnam.

My father was quite concerned, of course, so he started doing some research and he found out that the U.S. Marine Band is the official musical organization of the White House and they do carry some strings.

I went back there, talked to the commanding officers and explained to them that at Indiana University I had a string quartet in residence and wouldn't that be something nice to have at the White House. They liked the idea and ultimately I negotiated a contract with them that they would take in the entire string quartet if we enlisted for four years.

When we came to Washington, the drum major sat us down for a couple of days and showed us how to salute and how to shine our shoes.

We had our 30-day leave every year, plus we had arranged additional leave time and passes that would enable us to still perform as soloists as civilians. I did many performances in the Washington area, Philadelphia, New York, all up and down the East Coast.

One afternoon during the Johnson Administration, I had to play a cocktail party at the White House that went from about 4 to 6, and at 8:30 that night I was performing as soloist with a chamber orchestra at the art museum in Philadelphia. I had it timed just to the minute that I could get from the White House to National Airport up to Philadelphia and into the art museumwithin minutes.

I entered the airplane wearing this White House Marine uniform with the red jacket and my white hat and my blue pants and carrying my viola. They were sure with the uniform this had to be a weapon of some sort.

When we got airborne I went to the restroom and changed into tails with white tie and formal dinner apparel and came back and sat in my seat again. Remember we were very sensitive to hijacking in those days and people took one look at me and they were sure they were in for trouble.

It was an interesting tour of duty. It gave me a fascinating education as far as the political system, government, seeing all the world leaders. I made some phenomenal friends, contacts that to this day have been very critical.

I became very friendly with Abe Fortas who was a justice of the Supreme Court. Abe Fortas was an amateur violinist. He loved music, so we spent many evenings over at Abe's house, just sight-reading chamber music and talking about music. He would always invite one or two other justices. Justice Douglas and his wife, Cathy, would come over for dinner.

Now that I've been involved in legislation and lobbying and the whole political process, I really can look back and say, wow, what an incredible opportunity. When I think about the information and the knowledge that those few people that sat around the table represented.

I think those years and my involvement there, even though it was a nonpolitical involvement, really stimulated my interest in community leadership and trade association and the political process. The whole thing stems totally from the years in Washington.

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