Tooting his own horn
Music education major Brian Turnmire plays for some of the world’s most prominent audiences
Brian Turnmire is more than a full-time musician, he is a witness to history.
As a trumpeter in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band, Staff Sgt. Turnmire (BMus ’02) has a ringside seat to some of the most exclusive events in the nation, including the last two presidential inaugurations.
“It’s an incredibly long day of performances,” says the Ridgeland native. “We play live at the swearing-in ceremony, march down Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade and then play again at one of the inaugural balls, ending about midnight.”
Since January 2003 Turnmire has performed with the 160-member band, the nation’s oldest continuously active musical organization, which was formed in 1798.
His first job after graduation from UGA was as principal trumpeter with the Chattanooga Symphony. But he also had auditioned for the Marine band, and when that job came through he enlisted for a four-year tour and moved to Washington, D.C. He has re-enlisted twice since then.
“I was hired for classical work, but I also perform in different ensembles within the band,” he says. “I played with the jazz combo at the White House for a Stevie Wonder event last Spring. I played guitar in a country-and-western performance on the White House lawn on the Fourth of July and play ‘Taps’ at funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.”
He also performs with a brass quintet called Five Star Brass and sometimes plays banjo and cornet on national tours with the Marine Corps Band.
“It’s like no other job,” Turnmire says. “My work hours are never the same. I’m always on call. I have to be ready to step in on short notice. Last Monday I got called to play for a congressional ball. ”
In the summer he plays the outdoor concert series on the U.S. Capitol steps and on the Mall. He also is involved in the Music in the Schools program and directs music at a local church.
Turnmire continues advanced private studies with three music coaches, two principal trumpet players and a professor.
“I learned from UGA Professor Fred Mills that to be a lifelong learner, I have to keep learning new techniques and keep at it,” he says.
“I never thought I’d be doing this. The level of playing is quite high, and my parents are proud of me—that means a lot.”
“I appreciate being lucky enough to get a job playing music full time. Some of my ceremonial jobs even show up on C-SPAN.”
—John W. English, a professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Georgia, is a frequent contributor to GM.