TAMPA, Fl --
Thousands of musicians of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels gathered at the Tampa Convention Center, January 13-15th. While many in attendance came with the agenda to visit their local college or to watch the All-State ensembles perform, others came with no expectations, just hoping to browse the booths to see what the exhibitors had to offer.
6th Marine Corps District’s Musician Technical Assistant, Staff Sgt. Mardia Timoney, represents the Marine Music Program at the 2022 Florida Music Education Association Professional Development Conference. Alongside Timoney is Master Gunnery Sgt. Billy Rulapaugh, Marine Drum and Bugle Corps Musician Technical Liaison of The Commandant’s Own, Staff Sgt. Christian Guin, drum major for Parris Island Marine Corps Band, and Lance Cpl. Wolfgang Lynn, guitarist for Marines Forces Reserve Band. Passionate about their music career within the Marine Corps, the Marines were eager to educate other professional and emerging musicians about the opportunity to perform as a Marine Corps musician.
The FMEA Professional Development Conference is one of the largest music education events in the United States. It is attended by more than 10,000 people, to include music directors, grade school music teachers, music supervisors, college music professors, college students, K-12 students performing in the All-State ensembles, as well as students and professional musicians performing with other invited ensembles.
Intermixed with other attendees were several Marine Corps veterans who served within the Marine Corps Music program. Throughout the event, many made their way to the Marine Corps booth and shared their past experiences. The event turned into an unanticipated reunion when some attendees recognized Rulapaugh and reminisced on serving with him; however, one attendee in particular carried significant responsibility for 6MCD’s presence at the FMEA.
Retired Capt. Kirk Troen served in many different billets throughout his career in the Marine Music Program. In the three years leading up to his retirement, he served as the Head of the Music Program for Marine Corps Recruiting Command and cofounded the MTA program in 1993.
“The push to implement MTAs was that before they existed, it was the duty of the regular recruiters [to identify musicians],” said Troen. “Unfortunately the average recruiter is not qualified to audition musicians, and we could only have someone travel out once or twice a year to the applicant’s local area.”
Individuals who want to audition for the Marine Music Program need to pass the audition and pass all qualifications as a Marine. This means that they must attend and pass all the same initial training as all other Marines, regardless of military occupation specialty. Finding individuals who met this criteria was difficult, and the quota for new Marine musicians was regularly not being met.
“Recruiters did not know where to find the musicians to fill the vacancies,” said Troen. “Only after MTAs were implemented did we start attending events like FMEA.”
Attending FMEA allowed for Timoney and her team to connect with music programs from colleges and other music organizations. While many of the individuals in attendance would have never considered the Marine Corps as a career option, those same people stood in front of Timoney’s booth, requesting information, surprised by the opportunities that the Marine Corps Music Program has to offer.
“Serving as a Marine Musician is a great opportunity because of the high level of talent and professionalism that is expected from Marines, combined with pursuing a passion for performance,” said Timoney. “As a Marine, there is a strong emphasis on skills, such as confidence, self-reliance and self-direction which directly contribute towards achieving a high level of musicianship.”
The Marine Corps Music Program gives young men and women the opportunity to serve Nation while pursuing their passion for music.
“The most enjoyable aspect of being a Marine Musician is meeting our audiences during and after performances,” said Timoney. “We are privileged to perform for service members, veterans, government officials, dignitaries, and various communities all over the world.”
There are opportunities for versatility across each Marine Band with the various types of performances and ensembles that are employed daily. For more information on MEOP, request information at rmi.marines.com/6mcd or visit www.marines.com/music.
“6th Marine Corps District is proud to provide support each year in order to have an opportunity to not only meet new music educators, but also to elevate existing relationships between Marine representatives, Marine Musicians, music educators, and students wanting more information about career opportunities.”