Hazardous Musician Play

Here’s an occupational hazard of serving the U.S. president that might not leap to mind: your lips frozen on your tuba.

Weird, but true. So for what was feared could be a frigid presidential inauguration, the U.S. Marine Corps Band prepped ahead with Plan B and prerecorded the music it planned to play Jan. 20.

Not since President Ulysses S. Grant’s second inauguration have instruments frozen resulting in a music outage. For Grant, it happened during the Inaugural Parade, one without the music of the president’s wwn. This year, aside from the Brass-synka meets Milli Vanilli, band members have removed their metal mouthpieces (think tongue on flag pole) and replaced them with plastic ones. They have lubed every valve possible, but condensation inside the instrument still could cause it to freeze making for a Marine Band whose music is dead on arrival.

Though it’s true that in the event of a deep freeze the drummers would be unaffected, marching with just percussion (not an option anyway) would be, at best, pathetic, embarrassing, and highly unpresidential. It would be a faux pas at the Macy’s Day Parade, a Mardi Gras parade, and certainly the Inaugural Parade. Shall we fete the prez with a roar or a whimper? Roar, even if it’s a prerecorded one. (Who carries the boom box?)

One piece was composed for the band in the event of frozen instruments. It is aptly named “Frozen Horns” and was written by former Marine Band Chief Arranger Master Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Knox, USMC-Ret., for Jimmy Carter’s 1977 inaugural parade. It requires blowing into the instruments, but the valves are not used.

Is it live or is it Memorex?

For those interested in contacting the Marine Band with inquiries about “Frozen Horns” or other points regarding their music, the band’s librarian has been kind enough to provide her information:

Master Sgt. Jane Cross, Chief Librarian
United States Marine Band
[email protected]

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