|U.S. Coast Guard Band|
The U.S. Coast Guard Band pictured in 2009.
|Active||1925 to Present|
|Branch||U.S. Coast Guard|
|Part of||USCG Office of Public Affairs|
|Garrison/HQ||New London, Connecticut|
|Colors||Coast Guard Blue|
Coast Guard Unit Commendation
|Director||LCDR Adam Williamson|
|Assistant Director||CWO Richard E. Wyman|
|Drum Major||MUCM Jonathan Towne |
|Conductor Laureate||CAPT Lewis J. Buckley (ret.)|
|Service Identification Badge|
The United States Coast Guard Band is a military band maintained by the United States Coast Guard. Established in 1925 and classified as a "premier ensemble", the Coast Guard Band is stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut and is responsible for providing musical support to the Coast Guard Academy's corps of cadets, as well as other official Coast Guard events and ceremonies. During the summer months it undertakes national and international tours to promote the Coast Guard.
As of 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard Band is the Coast Guard's only professional musical ensemble (a second branch band, the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band, is an auxiliary-staffed organization).
In March 1925, the Coast Guard Band was organized with the assistance of Lt. Charles Benter, leader of the U.S. Navy Band, Dr. Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and John Philip Sousa, former director of the U.S. Marine Band. At the time of its establishment, it was primarily as a ceremonial unit responsible for supporting cadet activities at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where it was stationed. In 1931 the Coast Guard Band was the principal military band for two of the days of the week-long observances of the sesquicentennial of the British surrender at Yorktown: October 17, thematically designated "Revolution Day", and October 18, designated "Religion Day".
An influx of new personnel into the Coast Guard during World War II stretched the band's capabilities and, for the first time, additional bands were raised by the Coast Guard to support stateside ceremonial and training requirements of the expanding force. In May 1943 an all-women's band, the Coast Guard SPAR Band, was activated at the Palm Beach SPAR Training Station. The Palm Beach SPAR Band, which had a strength of 35 personnel, was transferred to Washington, DC in 1945. While there it performed in the triumphal parade held for Admiral Chester Nimitz and participated in the mourning ceremonies for President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt, assigned to perform dirges at Union Station for the arrival of the funeral train carrying the president's body. The SPAR Band was deactivated in 1946.
In addition to the Coast Guard SPAR Band, bands were activated in many Coast Guard districts for the duration of hostilities. The 11th District Band enlisted Rudy Vallée as its bandmaster (during World War I Vallee had served in the U.S. Navy for three months before being expelled after it was discovered he was 15 years old). Like the SPAR Band, the district bands were phased out after the end of the war, the Coast Guard Band returning to its status as the service's sole musical unit.
In 1965 the Coast Guard Band was chartered by Congress as the official band of the entire service and was given parity with other U.S. military "premier ensembles". In 1976, and again in 1981, the Coast Guard proposed moving the band to Washington, D.C. Petition drives by citizens of Connecticut prevented the moves.
Lewis J. Buckley assumed command of the Coast Guard Band in 1975 as the group's fifth director. Leading the band for 29 years, until 2004, Buckley retired as the longest-serving conductor of a major military service band in American history.
In 1989 the Coast Guard Band became the first U.S. military band to perform in the Soviet Union and, in 2016 the Coast Guard Band performed at the debut of "The Finest Hours" at Mann's Chinese Theater, the first time the band had performed at the debut of major motion picture.
In late 2015 the Coast Guard began another study about the feasibility of relocating the band from its traditional station in New London, Connecticut to Washington, DC. The proposal to relocate the band has been opposed by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Almost all personnel of the Coast Guard Band are assigned to the ceremonial and concert bands, the group's primary performance units. The band, however, maintains several chamber music groups to provide specialized performance capabilities to which some personnel are co-assigned. This includes a woodwind quintet, a brass quintet, and a jazz band.
According to the Coast Guard, competition for its limited vacancies is fierce, and many new Coast Guardsmen enlisting as musicians are conservatory-trained with degrees from elite institutions including the Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, and the New England Conservatory. A number of its members also perform with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony, and the New Haven Symphony.
Operationally located at Leamy Hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the band has billets for 54 instrumentalists and command staff, and one vocalist. Its vocalist billet has traditionally been filled by a female singer.
In addition to regular Coast Guard uniforms, the Coast Guard Band is authorized wear of special ceremonial dress consisting of navy blouses with banded collars and shoulder boards, and a multi-colored aiguillette. A second distinctive uniform, the "concert ceremonial dress uniform," is patterned in white with blue highlights such as shoulder boards and cuffs.