What it takes to be in the Marine Corps Band

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (WLUC) "Just like any other Marine, we're looking for the most mentally, morally and physically fit folks," said Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class Christian Flores, band officer. "But (also) someone that's obviously made a commitment to be a professional musician."

The two worlds don't always collide, but when music and the military do come together, it can set the stage for an incredibly rewarding and exciting career.

"Most people don't know that we have a music program, but if you look at what it takes to be an excellent musician, and the discipline that it takes, it marries very closely, to what the Marine Corps requires, as far as each individual Marine's discipline. And so, I look at it as one and the same," said Flores.

Band Officer Flores played sports in high school and always loved music, but then he decided to join the Marines.

"There was happy marriage between playing football and playing music and serving my county," Flores added.

But it's not for everyone. The Marine Corps Band is a highly elite group. Out of 180,000 Marines currently serving, only 600 are musicians. In fact, to become a musician in the Marine Corps, recruits go through an extensive audition process and extra schooling.

It's Staff Sergeant Mark Pellon, 12th Marine Corps District Placement Director, that they must impress first.

"So the audition process itself is three parts, the first part being the prepared material which I provide," said Staff Sergeant Pellon. "The second part is a test of their musical theory knowledge. And then the last portion is a sight-reading portion, which counts for 50 percent of their total score."

If the person is qualified, the Marine must then complete a program at the School of Music in Virginia Beach.

"The way we describe the school is, it's an associate's degree amount of information in six months. So, it's very, very intense," Staff Sergeant Pellon added.

The program puts musicians through a rigorous series of tests in the form of playing every genre: a rock band, marching band, ceremonial, concert bands, jazz groups

It's only then that a Marine can become a member of one of the Marine Corps 12 bands.

Now you might be thinking, why go through boot camp and learn to be a rifleman if you're only going to be holding your instrument for the rest of your career in the Corps?

"The one cool thing that we do, is that you get to see and hear the tenants of leadership in action, because we have to perform in synchronicity, but so does every Marine rifleman," said Flores. "They have to work in concert with their supporting elements."

Perfection and a lack of stage fright is key; Marine Corps musicians sometimes play for hundreds of thousands watching on national TV and live on the field for NFL games.

"I love it, and I've got to retire in a couple of years, and figure out what I want to do when I grow up, but this has been a great ride," Flores added.

"For me personally, this has been an invaluable career choice, because I know many professional musicians that wish they could have traveled the world playing music, that wish they had instruments provided for them, a college education which I got provided to me," said Staff Sergeant Pellon.

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