MLA Newsletter
Music Library Association No.186 Jul-Aug 2016
Spotlight On…Military Music Libraries

Music Librarians in the Military: Marine Band Library&Archives
By Master Gunnery Sergeant Jane Cross, USMC, Chief Librarian of the US Marine Band Library&Archives

I'm often asked, "What is a typical day like in the Library?" As you know, there is no typical day, and below is just a sampling of the wide variety of issues and tasks handled by the United States Marine Band Library and Archives. Though we are not a public library, we answer approximately 500 outside requests for information and music each year from individual researchers, ensembles, and military bands both foreign and domestic.

  • Email: Does the Secretary of Labor rate musical honors? If so, what should be played?
  • Marine Band Musician: Do we have String Quartet No. 7 by Shostakovich? I'm thinking about programming it on a recital.
  • Phone call: I think my great-grandfather was either in the Marine Band or the Sousa Band. Can you tell me for sure? Would you have any photos?
  • Research and prepare scores and parts for the White House State Dinner in honor of the Nordic countries.
  • Phone call: "Is there any documentation about the standardization of 'The Star-Spangled Banner?'" (from the History Detectives television show, followed by an interview and broadcast on PBS)
  • Meetings: Help coordinate music preparation and program deadlines for our national tour, recording sessions, and educational chamber music series in local elementary schools.
  • Email: I would like to perform Elgar's "Crown of India" with my high school/community/college band. Where can I find that?
  • Build folders for a summer evening concert on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
  • Marine Band Musician: I saw this on YouTube and I'd love to perform it. [This leads to two years of coordination with a rental agent in an Eastern European country to obtain the music and make the performance happen.]
  • Author: What are the ingredients in the cocktail named after your 18th director? [The Fanciulli: bourbon, vermouth, and Fernet Branca]

While responding to the many interesting inquiries can be fun, it is in addition to our primary mission, which is to support the full range of musical commitments tasked by the White House; the Head of Marine Corps Music Section/Division of Public Affairs; and the Director of "The President's Own." Supporting the many ensembles that the Marine Band can form from its 130 musicians means that the Library makes sure the right music is in the right place at the right time. With an average of more than 1,200 performances and rehearsals for band, orchestra, chamber ensembles, and commercial music groups appearing anywhere from the South Lawn of the White House to ceremonies, funerals, and the concert stage, it's a whole lot of "music on the move." When musicians win one of our auditions, many of whom graduate from your universities and conservatories, they work hard, and the library is right there keeping up with them, ensuring they have all the sheet music, reference materials, and listening resources we can provide to help them be successful and have great performances.

As primarily a performance library, we are members of the Major Orchestra Librarians' Association (MOLA), and our priority is the preparation of music for performance. This includes acquisition, cataloging, fixing page

Spotlight On…Military Music Libraries, continued

turns and rehearsal systems, errata, proper documentation of past performances, and preservation of approximately 100,000 titles of sheet music covering a wide variety of instrumentations, ensembles, and genres.

The Library also provides instrumentation information for upcoming performances to aid in personnel and equipment decisions. We handle copyright and licensing, serve as historians, edit all program and album liner notes, and manage subscriptions. One of the best things about working in our library, in addition to being surrounded by amazing music and the wonderful people who make it, is the wide variety of materials we get to work with and the many different types of tasks we undertake, from research, reference, and music preparation to serving as curators and archivists. We are privileged to have excellent support from the National Museum of the Marine Corps to help properly curate, preserve, and document approximately 1,300 historical artifacts related to our organization's history. The artifact collection includes items such as uniforms and instruments dating to the 1800s, and the majority of these holdings are related to the Marine Band's legendary 17th Director John Philip Sousa.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of our archival holdings are also related to Sousa, and this includes photographs, scrap books, papers, and ephemera. Artifact and archival holdings not linked to Sousa include donations that help illuminate the organization's 218-year history.

Sousa is credited with helping establish the Marine Band Library, appointing his percussionist brother George in 1898 as the first librarian to lay the foundations of our permanent collection. Today we are a full time staff of six, a dedicated team with a good sense of humor ready to acquire, license, prepare, edit, catalog, research, preserve, and perform "any and all other duties as assigned." We are all musicians enlisted in the Marine Corps, and we each hold at least a master's degree in music performance or a related field, including history, library science, and music education. The variety of education and experience each of us brings to the Library helps forge the dynamically creative team required to best serve our organization and our nation.

members of the staff of the marine band library

Left: (clockwise from top right) Master Gunnery Sergeant Jane Cross, Staff Sergeant Nishana Dobbeck, Staff Sergeant Tilden Olsen, Staff Sergeant Charles Paul, Gunnery Sergeant Kira Wharton

Right: (clockwise from top right) SSgt Charles Paul, GySgt Jennie Mills, SSgt Nishana Dobbeck, MGySgt Jane Cross, GySgt Kira Wharton, SSgt Tilden Olsen

members of the staff of the marine band library