MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- It is not uncommon for Marine corporals to lead Marines. As noncommissioned officers, that is their job. However it is uncommon for an NCO to be assigned to a billet that involves directing Marines with a higher rank.
Cpl. John Stanz, trumpet player for the Albany Marine band, was recently given the opportunity to direct fellow band members. The opportunity arose when Albany Band officials challenged their Marines to design and put together the marching and drill maneuvers the band will execute when they perform at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August.
Stanz, a Washington Township, N.J. native, stepped up to the challenge because Stanz said he has enjoyed marching since his days in a high school band. During his senior year in high school has been a clinician, someone who writes and teaches drill for high school marching bands. As his love for marching bands grew, Stanz learned even more about marching in college.
"I love it," said Stanz,referring to marching. "It's the fact that you can get things across musically, and you can do something visual at the same time. It is all done in a military manner, and it is the drill aspect that I like."
More than 400 performers from around the world will perform at the event in Scotland. The Albany Marine band will be the only group at the festival representing the United States.
During that event, the Marine band will march toward the spectators in one straight line, shoulder to shoulder. Stanz hopes to give the Scots a memorable performance.
"The entire band will be on one straight line, marching and playing to the grandstand to the melody of 'America the Beautiful," said Stanz. "It's a mass formation and it is really spectacular to see when it is done correctly. It has a great impact on audiences."
Beyond his love of music and marching bands, Stanz volunteered to create the march for the band. He decided to "step up to the plate," because he said he wanted a challenge. He realized that developing the march the band would perform for millions of spectators was a big challenge and honor. But "if you never take a chance, you are never going to get anywhere," he said.
Stanz wrote and "mapped out" the way the band's marching maneuvers will accompany the music. He also coached the band during the long hours of practice for the event under the relentless heat of the southern sun. Like a coach during "the big game," he told the band members when they messed up, but he also gave them words of encouragement.
Stanz admits he feels a little funny telling sergeants and staff sergeants what to do, but he realizes that as long he is respectful to fellow band members, he will have their full support.
"Regardless of rank, we are all working for one cause, and that is to put on the best show we can in Edinburgh," said Stanz.
According to Staff Sgt. Christian E. Flores, Albany Marine Band enlisted conductor, Stanz is the right musician for the tough and demanding task. He has the utmost confidence in Stanz, and believes that he will put together a stunning performance.
Flores admits that he did have some concern about putting a corporal in charge of such a daunting task.
"There was some concern, but when you have a strong NCO or leader, they are going to be able to demand presence that will get the job done," said Flores.
As a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps with years of musical experience, Flores feels it was "time to pass the torch on to the next generation." As a leader of Marines, he feels it is important to let the junior Marines take the helm and steer fellow Marines to victory.
Stanz has been jokingly called a "musical genius" by fellow band members because of his many accomplishments, such as being named the Corps' Marine Musician of the Year for 2001. But he humbly denied that he is even close to being a genius. He takes on musical challenges such as this because of his love for music and the Corps, he said.