Alumni Highlight: “The President’s Own”

After graduating from James Madison University in 1991, Master Sergeant Mark Thiele’s music career has spanned over decades. Having studied under James Madison University music professor, Kevin Stees, Master Sgt. Thiele expanded his career by playing in Walt Disney World’s “The Tubafours” for two years. He has since gone on to play in five presidential inaugurations as well as numerous ceremonies. Master Sgt. Thiele’s main focus is the tuba, though he studied music in general for many years.

1. How did JMU’s School of Music and Education influence your music and your career?

MT: JMU’s School of Music had a huge impact and influence on my music and career. It was there that I discovered what I really wanted to do with my life. The professors and students at the JMU School of Music all have a passion for what they do and for making music. So this atmosphere was what drove me to not only pursue music as my career, but to work at being excellent at it.

 

2. What has been your favorite memory with the United States Marine Band?

MT: There have been many memories that I have from my time in the Marine Band. We get to be a part of so many historical events and ceremonies, as well play music for audiences around the country. If I have to choose, I would pick two that stand out. One was on September 11, 2002, the one year anniversary of 9/11. We played in ground zero in New York City for the families of the victims from the World Trade Center. President Bush greeted every person there (there were thousands) and we provided music during this time and for the ceremony. Another great memory was playing at the Kennedy Center as a part of the awards ceremony for the Kennedy Center Honors. We were there to honor John Williams, and we performed some of his music for him at the ceremony. It was an incredible experience.

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Image Courtesy of Master Sergean Amanda Simmons

3. Could you describe what your experience was like joining “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band?

MT: After I won the audition, I couldn’t believe that I was going to get to be a part of “The President’s Own”. I was honored and excited about joining the band and playing with some of the greatest musicians I had ever heard.

4. Could you describe your experience at the 58th Inauguration?

MT: It was an honor to participate in the inauguration, it always is. We play at the entire swearing-in ceremony, the parade, and I also performed at one of the Inaugural Balls that night. There is an electricity in the city during that day, and we get a front row seat to this unique part of our political system. It’s very exciting.

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Image Courtesy of Master Sergeant Amanda Simmons

5. Do you have any advice for JMU students looking to be part of the music world after graduation?

MT: While you are in school, enjoy every minute of the music that you get to be a part of making. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes along. Go to as many concerts as you can, play in as many groups as you can, get to know as many professors and students as you can, expand your skill sets. If you love music, do it excellently and inspire others to do it excellently. Lastly, practice A LOT!

If you would like to see “The President’s Own” live, catch their performance in Washington D.C. on Sunday, February 12th

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Image Courtesy of Gunnery Sergeant Brian Rust

 

 


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