The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps -- the Marine "D&B" -- performs martial and popular music for hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. The Corps of more than 80 Marine musicians, dressed in ceremonial red and white uniforms, is known world-wide as a premier musical marching unit.
Throughout the summer months the unit performs in the traditional Friday Evening Parades held at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., and in Sunset Parades at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memoral (Iwo Jima Monument) near Arlington, Virginia, every Tuesday evening. These "Parades" are not street parades but are dramatic military ceremonies which are a symbol of the professionalism, discipline, and Esprit de Corps of the United States Marines. The Drum and Bugle Corps travels more than 50,000 miles annually, performing in excess of 400 events across the nation and abroad.
The history of the unit can be traced to the early days of the United States Marine Corps. In the 18th and 19th centuries military musicians, or "field musics," provided a means of passing commands to Marines in battle formations. The sound of various drum beats and bugle calls could be easily heard over the noise of the battlefield and signaled Marines to attack the enemy or retire for the evening. Through the 1930s, Marine Corps posts still authorized a number of buglers and drummers to play the traditional calls and to ring a ship's bell to signal the time.
In the tradition of their "field music" predecessors, the musicians in "The Commandant's Own" are Marines in the truest sense of the word. Every member is a graduate of Marine Corps recruit training and is trained in basic infantry skills. Prior to enlisting, each Marine must pass a demanding audition for service in the Drum and Bugle Corps. These Marines are selected so that following Recruit Training and Marine Combat Training, they proceed directly to "The Commandant's Own." without requiring further training. An interesting but little known fact about the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps is that it does not march in parades of state but instead is held back in reserve by the commandant of the Marine Corps who may order it anywhere as it serves under the commandant's immediate command. Two striking physical features which distinguish the unique Marine musical unit from the United States Marine Band, "The President's Own," are that field musicians of the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps wear white gauntlets which cover the wrists and bear and play silver color brass section instruments as compared to field musicians of the Marine Band whose wrists are not covered and who bear and play gold-colored brass section instruments. The brass played by the "Commandant's Own" are, in fact, drum corps bugles pitched in the key of G (as all drum corps brass was prior to 2000). Additionally, their bugles are 2 valved models similar to those used by drum corps in the US and Canada prior to 1990. Their current inventory of brass instrumentation was manufactured by the Kanstul company in 2006. Features of the uniforms and batons of the drum majors of the two Marine musical field units exhibit different characteristics also.