The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps was founded on November 9, 1934 to augment the U.S. Marine Band and provide music for ceremonial functions at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
All Marine Musicians trace their heritage back to an Act of Congress signed by President John Adams in 1798. This bill formally established the United States Marine Band and called for the enlistment of a drum major, fife major, and 32 fifers and drummers. These early musicians, called “field musics,” were utilized in several roles. Some were used for recruiting, some served aboard ships and fought alongside other Marines in times of war, while others were retained to form a military band of Marines. By 1875, the formations of troops in battle underwent significant changes, making it difficult to signal troops with verbal commands - thus, fifes found their place on the battlefield. In 1881, fifes were replaced with bugles to signal troops, but it wasn’t until 1892 that the Navy ordered bugle calls to be standardized. Soon there were uniformed calls for every troop movement - from “Reveille” early in the morning to “Taps” at the end of the day.
At the time of the unit’s founding, the Drum & Bugle Corps was comprised of a drum major, sixteen buglers, three snare drummers, three tenor drummers, two bass drummers, and a cymbal player. These founding members provided musical support for ceremonies around the nation’s capital. During World War II, The Drum & Bugle Corps was tasked with Presidential support duties, accompanying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on his many trips to Warm Springs, GA, acting as his personal guard and providing musical entertainment. In recognition of this service, President Roosevelt awarded the unit with a distinctive scarlet and gold breast cord shortly before his death, which the Marines of the Drum & Bugle Corps proudly display on their uniforms today.
In 1956, the Drum & Bugle Corps was designated the official United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps by General Randolph M. Pate, the 21st Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 2006, by proclamation from the 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael W. Hagee, the unit was given its moniker - “The Commandant’s Own,” The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps.
In the tradition of their “field music” predecessors, the musicians of “The Commandant’s Own” are Marines in the truest sense of the word. Every enlisted member is first a graduate of Marine Corps Recruit Training and is trained in basic infantry skills. Prior to enlisting, each Marine must pass a demanding audition for service in the Drum & Bugle Corps. Following Recruit Training and Marine Combat Training, Marines are assigned to “The Commandant’s Own” at historic Marine Barracks, Washington DC.
The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps performs a variety of music from marches to jazz, patriotic, popular, and classical favorites. Comprised of 80 Marine Musicians dressed in ceremonial red and white uniforms, “The Commandant’s Own” performs for millions of spectators each year and is recognized worldwide as a premier musical marching unit. Additionally, Buglers from “The Commandant’s Own” have the distinct honor of providing standard funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
At one point in our nation’s history, there were over sixty drum and bugle corps serving in our nation’s armed forces. Today, The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps carries on this historic legacy as the only musical unit of its kind serving on active duty in the United States Armed Forces.
The unit travels the world along with the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and the Official Color Guard of the Marine Corps as the United States Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment.
The United State's Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, 2019.