Marine Chamber Orchestra performs Living History concert

30 Mar 2008 | Staff Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali

In celebration of its 210th anniversary, “The President’s Own” continues its Living History concerts highlighting people and events that have shaped the nation and the United States Marine Band. Titled “The United States Marine Band…Orchestra,” the next Living History concert will take place at 2 p.m., this Sunday, March 30 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., and will focus on the establishment of the Marine Chamber Orchestra.

In the early 20th century, Marine Band Director Capt. William H. Santelmann required every member with less than 10 years of service to learn to play a string instrument. Capt. Santelmann, a violinist himself, believed an orchestra was better suited than a band for many indoor White House events. Although his order was understandably met with resistance from some band members, the Marine Band Symphony Orchestra—now called the Marine Chamber Orchestra—became exceedingly popular, giving frequent performances at the White House and free public concerts.

“Even a century after its creation, many people still do not realize we have an orchestra,” Assistant Director Maj. Jason K. Fettig said. “For this Living History concert I wanted to capture the tremendous innovation of Santelmann’s leadership by revisiting a truly special moment in Marine Band history—the Alice Roosevelt wedding in 1906. This was the first documented White House appearance for the orchestra, setting the foundation for countless other unforgettable events at the Executive Mansion in the years to come.”

The concert will feature music by Richard Wagner, Carl Maria von Weber, Frédéric Chopin, William H. Santelmann, Franz Liszt, and John Philip Sousa. After the concert, patrons can meet William H. Santelmann’s granddaughter Betsy Santelmann Grunwell, to learn more about the legacy of both her grandfather and her father, Lt. Col. William F. Santelmann, who was Director of the Marine Band from 1940-1955.

Prior to the performance, patrons will have the opportunity to enjoy pre-concert ensembles as well as historic images, original manuscripts, and other artifacts significant to each performance. The concert is free and no tickets are required. For additional concert information visit or call (202) 433-4011.
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