Brandywine woodwind, brass to attend virtual clinic with Marine band

NILES — This month, one group of high school students will be working with a band with roots dating back more than 200 years.

The Brandywine band announced recently that its eighth through 12 graders will be working with the President’s Own Marine Band in a clinic on May 20 and 21. The President’s Own United States Marine Band has a history dating back to 1798, and according to the Marineband.Marines.mil website, “is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization.”

Ruth Livengood, director of bands for the Brandywine School District, had been in contact with a friend from college, Staff Sergeant Cecilia Buettgen, who plays French horn in the President’s Own Marine Band. She will be joined by Gunnery Sergeant Harry Ong, who plays the clarinet, and Gunnery Sergeant Ellen Dooley, who plays the flute.

“It is known to many or most as the best band in the world,” Livengood said. “To gain admittance to this band, you have to be an expert musician in your field. Placement in this band is extraordinarily difficult to achieve, and the band is comprised of the top musicians in the nations.”

The band is the only group that exempts a Marine from participating in basic training, placing emphasis on musical ability.

Livengood worked with Buettgen to set up one brass and two woodwind clinics for the students. The instructors from the President’s Own Marine Band will work with students on correct tone production, articulation, dynamics, musicality and other musical ideas.

The clinics will take place on the Zoom platform.

The transition to e-learning has been especially difficult for music teachers. Livengood has been using a Google classroom where she can upload music for the older students to practice. The younger students have been working through a method book that they were able to obtain for use at home. Practice logs help to keep track of their time put in to keep their skills fresh.

“We have various videos uploaded for help to the classroom, and have some social media platforms I utilize to communicate with the students to help promote our group interaction,” Livengood said.

The students have participated in group video chats as well to keep in touch with their instructor and one another.

“This is an amazing technological opportunity that otherwise would be next to impossible to receive in person,” Livengood said. “I am grateful for this unexpected perk to the e-learning environment we are currently immersed in.”

There are currently 150 students who Livengood hopes will be able to participate in these clinics with the President’s Own Marine Band members. The students would be split into three groups of 50.

“This opportunity is aimed at more advanced players,” Livengood said. “I’m looking forward to great opportunities such as this in the future for my younger students.”

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