Rim High grad joins Marine Corps Band training program

Aug 27, 2023 | Music and Entertainment

David Anderson persevered and was accepted into the U.S. Marine Corps Band training program.

By Chris Levister – President, Blue Jay Jazz Foundation

David Anderson knew getting accepted to the elite U.S. Marine Corps Musician Enlistment Option Program (MEOP) was a long shot, if not next to impossible. After all, the Marine Corps Band is the oldest professional musical organization in the United States and one of the hardest music programs to get into in the world. Every year, thousands of hopeful students apply and a small handful gets in — as few as 4 percent.

What’s more, most of the applicants have at least a four-year degree in music or possess extraordinary music skill.

In July the 2023 Rim of the World High School graduate beat the odds. He was among a handful of aspiring musicians shipped to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego for a chance of a lifetime.

“David has this amazing ability to pivot around obstacles,” said Kari Stebbing, the Rim High School music director. “This is an awesome opportunity for him to experience what his life is going to be like as a professional musician in the United States Marine Corps.”

“It’s kind of unbelievable and I couldn’t imagine being able to say this would happen a year or two ago. There’s been a lot of hard work, but everything seems to have built on itself,” said David, a 2023 Blue Jay Jazz Future Generation scholarship awardee, the son of Steven and Olga Anderson of Crestline.

“I’m just a kid from Crestline fresh out of high school,” said David. “It’s like a dream unfolding in front of my eyes.”

That’s an understatement according to his father, Steven: “He’s been a dedicated member of his high school marching and jazz bands. He took part in numerous school competitions but rarely did he discuss his musical ambitions or ever practice at home. His interest in joining the Marines to play music came as a real head scratcher.”

David says all the hours on the field practicing with the school bands gave him an excellent preparation for the military and his music career. He grew up in a musical family. As a kid he took music classes with his two siblings; they excelled, he didn’t.

“When he revealed his plans to apply for the Marine Corps Band, most of us were surprised – we didn’t take him seriously,” explained Steven. “Once he made up his mind to be a Marine musician, there was no stopping him.”

David’s first audition was unsuccessful. His recruiter recommended intense professional saxophone instruction.

There was a hitch. His aging saxophone was in disrepair. He had less than four months to show significant improvement before his application would be reconsidered. Then there was the problem of ready cash to pay for instrument repairs and private lessons.

Candidates must be very versatile and be able to play a wide range of music styles, such as orchestra, marching band, jazz group, ceremonial, rock band, etc. The auditions have three steps: prepared material, theoretical knowledge of music and, finally, sight-reading, which counts for half of the final.

The $1,200 scholarship from Blue Jay Jazz Foundation made a huge difference, David said. The award was to be presented to him and his fellow awardees on Aug. 24 after their live performance at the jazz festival.

“My family, band mates and friends stepped up. I had to swallow my pride. Given the circumstances of my imminent enlistment in the Marine Corps and the need to develop my saxophone proficiency, I asked the Foundation to accelerate disbursement of the scholarship funds,” David said.

“The Foundation’s board of directors unanimously agreed to waive our policy and expedite the funds,” said Vice President Hugh Bialecki. This allowed David to train with a Redlands-based music professional.

Once a candidate is selected, he or she must sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, their duty is exclusive to the Band. They cannot be transferred to any other unit. They must also undergo six months of extra schooling at the School of Music in Virginia Beach. In these six months, the musicians will have to complete the equivalent of an associate degree. It is not for the faint of heart.

Musicians who succeed in joining the band can make a comfortable living from their music, getting to travel the world, play on stage in front of heads of state and large crowds and serve in an honored Corps that will give them lifelong friends, moral values and a great sense of accomplishment, according to the U.S. Marine Corps Band website.

Depending on their specialty and the available positions, musicians can be sent to eight different bases around the continental United States. This includes Hawaii and Japan. With over 700 performances around the world every year, including about 200 at the White House, the Marine Corps Band is really a musician’s dream come true.

David’s advice to aspiring musicians: “The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up.”

1 Comment

  1. R Somers

    David–I’d love to talk with you sometime. Your story and mine have very many parallels. (I too am a Rim Grad.)


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