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CCM Provides Strong Presence in ‘The President’s Own’ U.S. Marine Band

February 10, 2017

Having performed for every U.S. president since John Adams, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band is no stranger to inaugurations. January 20, 2017, marked the band’s 55th inaugural appearance, fulfilling its mission to provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Led by Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig, the band consists of roughly 160 members, including 10 College-Conservatory of Music alumni:

  • GySgt Samuel Barlow MM ’03, principal trombone

  • GySgt William Bernier MM ’00, clarinet

  • GySgt Jonathan Bisesi BM ’00, percussion

  • SSgt Cecilia Buettgen MM ’10, French horn

  • SSgt Hiram Diaz BM ’07, euphonium

  • SSgt Zachary Gauvain MM ’11, clarinet

  • SSgt Charles Paul BM ’02, librarian

  • GySgt Jennifer Paul MM ’03, French horn

  • GySgt Julia Piorkowski MM ’03, operations

  • GySgt Elisabeth Plunk BM ’01, co-principal flute

Marine Band 2017The Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. Some research even suggests that on March, 4, 1801, the band played for Thomas Jefferson who recognized the band’s special bond to the Commander-in-Chief and is credited with giving them their name, “The President’s Own.” The UC alumni in the band graduated in different years, hold various degrees and took their own career paths. But there’s one definitive thread: They credit their success to the time they spent at CCM.

“Being surrounded by many creative, hard-working, and focused individuals was an inspiration to me,” Staff Sgt. Charles Paul recollects. “I was an undergrad at CCM and the large population of graduate students were a great source of mentorship and helped me strive to get better as a musician.”

Opportunities to grow, challenging course work and a high quality of instruction are also noted for preparing members for the demands of “The President’s Own.”

“As a horn performance major, I found both the horn studio and the collective brass studios to be a very supportive environment in order to grow as a well-rounded musician,” Gunnery Sgt. Julia Piorkowski recalls. “Whether in studio class together or listening and collaborating with fellow students in the practice room, there was genuine interest to both support and challenge each other in order to raise the bar.”

“The President’s Own” has more than 500 performances annually as part of the Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles at the White House and across the nation during the band’s annual concert tour. The Bearcats among them have advice for current students hoping to similarly embark on a life of performance.

Marine Band 2017“Open yourself up to as many musical opportunities as possible,” Sgt. Cecilia Buettgen says. “I tried very hard to accept every invitation from my CCM professors and fellow students to be a part of concerts, recitals, opera and ballet performances. This resulted in me working with string ensembles, woodwind and brass quintets, brass choirs, composers, dancers, visual artists, singers, conductors and so many more. The choice to be open-minded and to take advantage of musical opportunities is what inspired me to audition for ‘The President’s Own’ United States Marine Band. It has been a choice that’s changed my life for the better in every way!”

“Never say no to an opportunity,” Sgt. Elisabeth Plunk adds, “either on the stage or behind the scenes!”

For more information on “The President’s Own” Marine Band, visit their website.


Official Band Bios of its 10 UC Alumni

GySgt Samuel Barlow MM ’03, principal trombone

Trombonist Gunnery Sergeant Samuel BarlowTrombonist Gunnery Sergeant Samuel Barlow joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in June 2004. He was named principal trombone in January 2013. Gunnery Sgt. Barlow began his musical training at age 12. Upon graduating in 1995 from Northside High School in Jackson, he attended Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., where in 2000 he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. In 2003, he earned a master’s degree in music performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory in Ohio. His trombone instructors included Susan K. Smith from Austin Peay State University and Cincinnati Symphony principal trombone Cristian Ganicenko. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Gunnery Sgt. Barlow performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in Ohio. In 2010 he was featured as a tour soloist on Stephen Bulla’s arrangement Southwest Showcase and on the 2014 tour he performed Arthur Pryor’s Fantastic Polka.


GySgt William Bernier MM ’00, clarinet

Clarinetist Gunnery Sergeant William BernierClarinetist Gunnery Sergeant William Bernier joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in July 2002. Gunnery Sgt. Bernier began his musical training at age 9. After graduating in 1993 from Easthampton High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York in 1998. He continued his education at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, earning a master’s degree in music in 2000. He has studied under Kenneth Grant, Ronald DeKant, and Michael Sussman. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” he was a member of the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra in Newport. Gunnery Sgt. Bernier also performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ohio, and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Indiana. In 2006 he performed Richard Strauss’ Duet Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon with the Marine Chamber Orchestra and in 2007 performed Claude Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie with the Marine Band.


GySgt Jonathan Bisesi BM ’00, percussion

Percussionist Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan BisesiPercussionist Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Bisesi joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in May 2004. Gunnery Sgt. Bisesi began his musical training at age 8. After graduating in 1996 from Orchard Park High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2000, and in 2002 received a master’s degree in music from Boston University. His percussion instructors include Allen Otte of CCM and Timothy Genis of Boston University. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” he was a teaching associate in percussion at Boston University and a fellow of Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass. Gunnery Sgt. Bisesi performs with the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., area, and across the country during the band’s annual concert tour.


SSgt Cecilia Buettgen MM ’10, French horn

French horn player Staff Sergeant Cecilia BuettgenFrench horn player Staff Sergeant Cecilia Buettgen joined the “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in May 2013. Staff Sgt. Buettgen began her musical training on the horn at age 11. After graduating in 2004 from Sterling Heights High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2008 from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. In 2010, she earned a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She studied with Lin Folk of WMU, Elizabeth Freimuth of CCM and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Randy Gardner of CCM and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Buettgen was the acting principal horn of the Beijing National Opera House in China and performed with the Columbus and Lima Symphony Orchestras in Ohio, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra in Newport, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Indiana, and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra in St. Joseph. Staff Sgt. Buettgen performs with the Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and across the country during the band’s annual concert tour.


SSgt Hiram Diaz BM ’07, euphonium

Euphonium player Staff Sergeant Hiram DiazEuphonium player Staff Sergeant Hiram Diaz joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in January 2012. Staff Sgt. Diaz began his musical instruction at age 12. He graduated in 2003 from the New World School of the Arts in Miami and continued his education at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance in 2007. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree from the University of North Texas in Denton, where he studies with euphonium professor Brian Bowman. His instructors also included Timothy Northcut of CCM and Jay Bertolet, former principal tuba with the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Diaz was a member of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Band (283d Army Band) in Ft. Benning, Ga. Staff Sgt. Diaz performs with the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., area, and across the country during the band’s annual concert tour. He performed Tom Davoren’s Ascension with trumpet/cornet player Gunnery Sgt. Amy McCabe as featured soloists on the 2016 national concert tour.


SSgt Zachary Gauvain MM ’11, clarinet

Clarinet player Staff Sergeant Zachary GauvainClarinet player Staff Sergeant Zachary Gauvain joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in May 2014. Staff Sgt. Gauvain began his musical training on clarinet and piano at age 10. After graduating in 2005 from Keller High School in Texas, he attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 2009 and studied with Richard MacDowell. In 2011 he completed a master’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of Cincinnati where he studied with Ixi Chen of the Cincinnati Symphony and Ben Freimuth of the San Francisco Symphony. He completed an additional master’s degree in clarinet performance in 2014 from Rice University in Houston where he studied with Richie Hawley. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Gauvain taught privately in Houston and performed with the Fort Worth, Austin, and Temple Symphony Orchestras in Texas; the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colo.; the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado; and the Spoleto Music Festival in Italy. Staff Sgt. Gauvain performs with the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and across the country during the band’s annual concert tour.


SSgt Charles Paul BM ’02, librarian

Librarian Staff Sergeant Charles PaulLibrarian Staff Sergeant Charles Paul joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in February 2012. Staff Sgt. Paul began his musical training on piano at age 5 and French horn at age 13. After graduating in 1997 from Parkland High School in Allentown, he attended the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he earned a bachelor’s degree in horn performance in 2002 and studied with Randy Gardner. He received his master’s degree in horn performance in 2004 from Temple University in Philadelphia where he studied with Adam Unsworth of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Staff Sgt. Paul was a freelance musician in Washington, D.C., and has performed with the Richmond Symphony and Fairfax Symphony Orchestra in Virginia, the National Philharmonic and Washington Concert Opera in Washington, D.C., the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, and the Allentown Symphony. As a Marine Band Librarian, Staff Sgt. Paul prepares music for performances by the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra, serves as a copyright and licensing specialist, and assists with maintaining the music library and historic archives.


GySgt Jennifer Paul MM ’03, French horn

French horn player Jennifer PaulFrench horn player Jennifer Paul joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in August 2004. She was appointed assistant section leader in January 2016. Gunnery Sgt. Paul began her musical training at age 10. Upon graduating in 1996 from Jacobs High School in Algonquin, she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where in 2000 she earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. In 2003 she earned a master’s degree in music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She also received a professional study certificate in 2004 from Temple University in Philadelphia. Her notable horn instructors include Kazimierz Machala of the University of Illinois, Randy Gardner of CCM, and Adam Unsworth of Temple University. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Gunnery Sgt. Paul was CCM graduate teaching assistant for the horn studio from 2001-03 and a freelance musician in Philadelphia. Gunnery Sgt. Paul performs with the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., area, and across the country during the band’s annual concert tour. She appeared as a soloist with the Marine Chamber Orchestra performing Libby Larsen's Concertino for Horn and Strings.


GySgt Julia Piorkowski MM ’03, operations

Operations Assistant Gunnery Sergeant Julia PiorkowskiOperations Assistant Gunnery Sergeant Julia Piorkowski joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in October 2004 as a librarian and joined the Operations staff in March 2012. Gunnery Sgt. Piorkowski began her musical training on the French horn at age 9. After graduating in 1995 from Rosary High School in Aurora, she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she earned a bachelor’s degree in French horn performance in 2000 and studied with Kazimierz Machala. She received her master’s degree in 2003 and completed her doctoral studies in 2004 at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she studied with Randy Gardner. While she served as a Marine Band librarian she collaborated with, and received training from, the librarians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Gunnery Sgt. Piorkowski was a freelance musician and private teacher in the Cincinnati area. As Operations Assistant, Gunnery Sgt. Piorkowski is responsible for the daily scheduling and logistics of the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra commitments.


GySgt Elisabeth Plunk BM ’01, co-principal flute

Flutist Gunnery Sergeant Elisabeth PlunkFlutist Gunnery Sergeant Elisabeth Plunk joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in June 2004 and was named assistant principal in 2009 and co-principal in 2015. Gunnery Sgt. Plunk began her musical instruction at age 6. Upon graduating in 1997 from Moline High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory in 2001, and in 2003 received a master’s degree in music from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Her flute instructors included Randolph Bowman, the principal flute of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Jeanne Baxtresser, the principal flute of the New York Philharmonic. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Gunnery Sgt. Plunk performed with the Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh and as guest principal flute with the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra) in São Paulo, Brazil. Gunnery Sgt. Plunk performs with the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and across the country during the band’s annual concert tour. She has also conducted training sessions at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve Band in New Orleans and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band in California.


By Jamie Muenzer
Associate Director of Alumni Relations
CCM & DAAP

Email Jamie
or call 513-556-4423

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