Classically Trained: Navy band blows into town

In the eighth grade, my classmates and I got to hear the United States Marine Band, a.k.a. the President's Own, in rehearsal at their barracks in Washington, D.C.

We were told this would be the opportunity of a lifetime, a rare chance to hear one of the world's greatest ensembles — the oldest professional group in the U.S., the band John Philip Sousa directed, the band that puts the hail in "Hail to the Chief" at the White House — play on their home turf.

We fell asleep.

I still feel guilty about that, but maybe my failure to keep my eyes open that spring morning is what fuels my desire to hear military bands any chance I get.

So when I got word that the U.S. Navy Concert Band is playing at Orange Coast College next week, I couldn't help but remember when I was too exhausted from a middle school band trip to realize the opportunity I had.

The best part of OCC's Feb. 22 concert is the price: free.

Capt. Brian O. Walden conducts the Washington, D.C.-based band, which is the premier wind ensemble of the Navy. The ensemble was officially formed in 1925.

I've also received word that the concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert B. Moore Theatre, is going to be a homecoming of sorts for one of the band members: Musician 1st Class Dana Booher, who grew up in Costa Mesa and is a graduate of Edison High School in Huntington Beach.

Booher plays the baritone saxophone and has been with the Navy Concert Band since August 2011. Before joining the Navy, he studied at Indiana University, where he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees.

There will be a lot of great aspects to enjoy about this special concert, not the least of which is the type of group being presented.

It's not often one gets to hear a wind band of full-time, professional-grade quality, as there are few of them in existence worldwide outside of universities, music conservatories or the military.

As the name suggests, in addition to percussion, a wind band is primarily comprised of instruments whose sounds are produced by a form of wind, whether by blowing into woodwinds or buzzing into brass instruments. Instead of a four-part string section (violins, violas, cellos and basses), there is a much larger contingent of clarinets and flutes than you'd find in a standard symphony orchestra, where there might only be two of each.

In fact, compared to most orchestral settings, in modern wind bands there are other larger sections as well: as many as six trumpets instead of only two, two tubas instead of one, and the addition of two euphoniums and various saxophones of the alto, tenor and baritone persuasions.

The result is a wonderfully diverse, vibrant sound — more so than in many orchestral setups, in my opinion.

There is also a host of great wind-band literature that, also in my humble opinion, is on par with lots of tried-and-true orchestral repertoire. Great composers, some familiar, like Gustav Holst, and others who are less so — Percy Grainger, Ron Nelson, Frank Ticheli — have written for this great medium.

The Navy Concert Band's performance next week promises to have traditional marches and other patriotic music, transcriptions of orchestral music for band, and more rarely heard modern wind band repertoire. Local veterans are also expected to be in attendance.

For more information and to get those free tickets, visit or call Alexis Booher at (714) 235-7811.

BRADLEY ZINT is a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at


If You Go

What: U.S. Navy Concert Band

Where: Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22

Cost: Free, but tickets are required

For more information: Visit or call (714) 235-7811

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