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Great Lakes Bulletin

Navy Band receives prestigious award

The band that John Philip Sousa led during World War I was honored by the famous band leader’s foundation Feb. 21.

Navy Band Great Lakes was presented with the Col. George S. Howard Citation of Musical Excellence for Military Concert Bands Award for having demonstrated significant high standards of excellence in concert band performance.

The citation was presented to band director, Lt. Patrick Sweeten by Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), in a small ceremony in the rehearsal hall of the band’s building on Naval Station Great Lakes.

“This might be harder to achieve than winning the Stanley Cup,” said Mewbourne to the gathered band members. “I tell people all the time what amazes me about the band is how professional their music abilities are and how long the band members have been playing. It might be easier to get into the New York Philharmonic than to get into a Navy band.”

Mewbourne said that it shows the band members are proud of being part of Navy Band Great Lakes and proud to be in the Navy.

“It shows in your performances and in the wearing of your uniform that you are all proud doing what you do,” Mewbourne told the band members at the ceremony. “You should all be proud of being awarded this citation.”

According to the John Philip Sousa Foundation website, the Col. George S. Howard Citation identifies and recognizes active duty and reserve military concert bands that have demonstrated particularly significant high standards of musical excellence in concert under the current conductor.

“I think it’s just an honor to be part of the band that John Philip Sousa once led,” said MU1 Jeremy Bustillos, the band’s leading petty officer and a saxophone player. “I think by being awarded with this citation it further strengthens our motto of ‘Pride and Professionalism’ and that we do have pride in our work and in our service.”

MU3 Kristen Jacobson, from Spring, Texas, a trumpet player in the band, remembers a lot of hard work over the past few years. “It was a really nice acknowledgment of all the work and travel we have done,” she said. “It’s rare for a Navy band that is not in Washington, D. C., to be honored with this award and be considered one of the top wind ensembles in the world.”

Jacobson was also honored as a Col. Finley R. Hamilton Outstanding Military Musician in recognition for exhibiting exceptional musical and leadership qualities, and demonstrating great potential for continued outstanding military service.

“It was a big surprise for me and I didn’t know I was being put in for the award. But I am very grateful and honored,” said Jacobson.

Retired United States Air Force Col. George S. Howard was primarily known for his contribution to the military band program. During the nineteen and one half years that he was commander and conductor of the United States Air Force Band and Symphony Orchestra, he raised those organizations to international prominence. He is credited with originating the idea of using music as an international language to create better understanding between America and nations of the world. He took the USAF Band and Orchestra on ten international tours performing major concerts in fifty countries on five continents. He founded the Singing Sergeants, the Airmen of Note, The USAF Drum and Bugle Corps, the USAF Bagpipe Band, the WAF Band, and the Strolling Strings.

As Chief of Bands and Music for the Air Force, Howard established the USAF Bandsman School and became its first commandant. He controlled the musical destinies of more than two thousand bandsmen and set the standards for eighty-three Air Force Bands. He established a career field for commissioned officers as directors of the Air Force Bands.

He was born in Reamstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Conway Military Band School, Ithaca Conservatory, Ohio Wesleyan University, New York University and the Chicago Conservatory earning the following degrees: AB, AM, B. Mus. and Mus.D. In 1985, he received an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from Ithaca College and in 1986 he was elected Honorary Life President of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association.

Colonel Howard passed away on September 18, 1995.

Navy Band Great Lakes is just the fourth Navy band to be awarded the citation. United States Navy Band in Washington, D. C., has received the citation six times, the most recent in 2010. The U.S. Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Md., was awarded the citation in 1992 and Navy Band Charleston picked up the citation in 1994. Navy Band Great Lakes is the second fleet band along with Navy Band Charleston to be awarded the citation.

“This is a culmination of more than two years hard work across the board with all hands on deck having to up their game,” said Sweeten, who transferred to Navy Band Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a week following the award presentation, handing the band’s directing duties to Lt. Geordie Kelly, who transferred in from Navy Band 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

“To be recognized by our peers outside the military music program is a vindication on all that hard work by this band,” said Sweeten.

Sweeten credited more than 350 musical performances in front of more than 25 million people in 2013 alone as a reason for the citation being awarded to the band.

“To be in John Philip Sousa’s band and win an award from the John Philip Sousa Foundation recognizing us as one of the very fine concert band organizations means a tremendous amount to us. This was an award earned by a lot of different and talented musicians and we were all blessed to be here during this time,” Sweeten said.

Sweeten added the band being part of the 200th anniversary celebrations for the War of 1812 will be one of the biggest highlights of his time here and also was credited to being awarded the citation.

“The War of 1812 Bicentennial tour in 2012 will be one of the things I’ll always remember,” said Sweeten. “We did nearly 200 performances in six weeks. The workups took about a year and actually began before I took over the band. I think seeing the thousands and thousands of audience members at these concerts helped fuel what we were trying to build here.”

The John Philip Sousa Foundation is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the promotion of international understanding through the medium of band music. Through the administration of band related projects, the foundation seeks to uphold the standards and ideals of that icon of the American spirit, John Philip Sousa.

Sousa was born November 6, 1854 in Washington, D.C. In 1868 he became an apprentice in the U.S. Marine Band. 1880-1892 he directed the group, building it into a virtuoso ensemble. In 1892 he formed his own band and toured internationally. In all, he composed 136 military marches. He also wrote operettas. In the 1890s he developed a type of bass tuba now known as the sousaphone.

‘Pride in Service’ has been the theme for Navy Band Great Lakes for more than 102 years. From 1911, when the first bugler reported for duty, to bandmaster John Philip Sousa in 1917, to today’s Bandmaster, Navy Lt. Geordie Kelly, the music of Navy Band Great Lakes represents the pride and professionalism that is synonymous with the United States Navy. Homeported on board Naval Station Great Lakes and serving Commander, Naval Service Training Command’s mission of transforming civilian volunteers into 21st century Sailors, Navy Band Great Lakes performs more than 500 times each year throughout a nine-state area of the United States. Dubbed, ‘America’s Band,’ by President Woodrow Wilson, Navy Band Great Lakes annually entertains more than 60 million people as the United States Navy’s, ‘Ambassadors to the Midwest.’

For additional information about Navy Band Great Lakes please visit the band on the World Wide Web (, Facebook, or YouTube. You can also contact them by telephone at 847-688-4760, ext. 212.

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