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1st Marine Division Band stirs it up in Portland

By Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey | | June 10, 2009

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The 1st Marine Division Band showcased their skills and put on an array of shows for the City of Roses this past weekend.

The band, stationed out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., performed multiple concerts June 5-7 ranging from pouch concerts, big band shows and party band performances. The musical ensemble also played in a band fest and marched in a four and a half mile parade during the Portland Rose Festival.

Attended by more than two million people annually, the Rose Festival has been held for more than 100 years, and in 2007 the International Festivals and Events Association named it the best festival in the world.

The three days of concerts and performances started with a 45 minute pouch concert at the Portland General Electric World Trade Center’s outdoor plaza.

“We call them pouch concerts because upon checking into the band we are given pouches with music in them and at the concert we just play the music in the pouch,” said Cpl. Josh Baza, a 21-year-old native of Carlsbad, Calif.

The band performed three big band shows at the Waterfront Village – one on each day they were in Portland. The village is laid out and setup much like a state fair with rides, concession and souvenir stands at every turn. Big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with playing jazz music and became popular during the early 1930’s through the late 1940’s.

As a pre-game to the big band shows, the 1st Marine Division Party Band roamed around the village warming up the crowd.

“The party band is the most enjoyable part,” said Baza, a baritone saxophone player with the band. “We get together and play by our own rules. You will never see the same show, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

One of the party bands’ favorite numbers to play is Bob Marley’s “Stir it up.”

“It doesn’t matter the age group, people can enjoy what the party band plays,” Baza said.

The party band was used as a tool to get the surrounding individuals’ attention and inform them of the big band concert to follow.

“Crowds were more excited once they saw the party band perform,” said Cpl. Francis A. Fani, a 21-year-old native of Orlando, Fla.

The big band shows were well received and liked by those in attendance.

“I thought the band was great. I love big band,” said Maureen Giusti, a Washington, D.C., native and big band spectator. “I would absolutely come and see them again.” 

After every show the band did they were treated to a standing obviation afterward.

“The energy levels from the crowds have been exceedingly high,” said Cpl. Steven Sabo, a 21-year-old native of New Brunswick, N.J.

On the night of June 5 the band displayed its talents at Portland General Electric Park, the triple A baseball field for the Portland Beavers, as a part of band fest. The band fest was a battle of the bands format. The division band played the star spangled banner to open the event and then about half way through the affair played a 15 minute set. The band was not eligible for awards during the band fest since other bands were high school groups.

For one member of the band, trumpet player Cpl. Jason Comfort, it was a special night because his family was able to see him perform.

“It’s my first time back home with the band,” Comfort said. “My mom, grandpa, sister and cousin have been able to make some shows. I sometimes went to the Rose Festival as a kid, and it’s cool to see it from a different perspective.”

On June 6 the band marched and played in the four and a half mile Grand Floral Parade, which took the group from the Memorial Coliseum to downtown Portland.

“We were well received the entire parade,” Fani said.

Crowds lining the streets stood and cheered, some hollering “Semper Fi” or “ooh-rah” as the band went by.

The following day, after three days of shows, concerts and a parade, the band looked tired but said they enjoyed the trip.

“I looked forward to it,” Comfort said. “It keeps us going. It’s good for us as a band.”


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