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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Bandmaster enjoys leading Albany's Marine Band

By Lance Cpl. Phuong Chau | | November 15, 2001


The sound of Marines' carefully-tuned and precisely balanced instruments fills the air. The listeners' tears demonstrate how moving the music is. Directing the band is a man who is perhaps more proficient at leading Marines than conducting musicians.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Matthew R. Farquhar, a Woodstock, Ga., native, is the Albany Marine Band's Bandmaster.
When a senior enlisted Marine manages a band without a band officer, he earns the traditional bandmaster title. Farquhar is currently one of only a few bandmasters in the Corps.
"The highest compliment you can pay a Marine is to give him responsibility and authority," said Farquhar. "It makes me feel very good."
The responsibilities entrusted to him indicate the confidence Marine Corps leaders have in Farquhar's abilities and in the abilities of MCLB Albany's band members, said Gunnery Sgt. Robert L. Hufford, drum major.
Farquhar's life with music began when he was in the fourth grade and an uncle gave the youngster his first trumpet.
"Music takes a person to a place that no words can describe," said Farquhar. "As music evolves inside you, it becomes a continuation of your body. When you talk or sing, it just happens and becomes second nature to you.
"Music is the international language," said Farquhar. "Any country can read it, because it is all the same."
Twenty-eight years later, Farquhar leads the renowned Albany Marine Band.
"Leading Marines is an awesome responsibility that I take with pride," said Farquhar. That pride is felt among all Marines including those who are and are not in his charge.
According to his contemporaries and his subordinates, Farquhar always has a big smile.
Lance Cpl. Tanya Santana, a flute player here, recalls times when her own facial expression may have reflected sadness, and Farquhar said something uplifting to wipe away her frown.
The bandmaster's experience and leadership abilities inspire Santana, she said.
"He has been here," said Santana. "He knows how we feel."
Farquhar truly cares for his Marines, said Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNany, who has worked with Farquhar for the past two years.
"This is the band everyone wants to come to," said McNany. "He [Farquhar] believes you must have fun being a Marine."
Farquhar's approach to his job and his music contributes significantly to the Albany Marine Band's motivation. He said that the job should be fun and the music should be excellent, a concept that his staff NCOs and NCOs have embraced.
Farquhar challenges his Marines musically as well as militarily, said Hufford.
"He has opened my field of view," said Hufford. "He doesn't have to force the Marines to play. He makes them want to play."
Farquhar's love for the Marine Corps and music is apparent, and is contagious, passing through the bandsmen like a wave of energy.
"Every possible emotion, whether it is happy, glad, mad or sad, can be expressed with music," said Farquhar, who is inspired by the Marines who are in harm's way. "It takes all parts of the Marine Corps to operate."
Farquhar's high esteem for his Marines is no secret.
"I treat people the same way I expect to be treated," said Farquhar. "We have a definite purpose, and the Marines know why we come in every day."
Their job is motivating and very gratifying, said Farquhar as he recalled an elderly gentleman who had been confined to a wheelchair for years. Trembling with effort, the old gentleman stood with tears in his eyes when the band played the 'Marines' Hymn."
"When we play taps, it is our job to make everybody cry," said Farquhar. "When we play the Marines' Hymn, it is our job to make everyone proud to be a Marine."
The band sees the fruits of their labor, said Farquhar. After a concert, the bandsmen visit with their audience.
"It makes it easier for them to come to work," said Farquhar, adding that stirring up emotion in people gives him an awesome feeling.
The band's performance is not all natural. Band members practice together four hours for every hour of performing for an audience.
Farquhar's goal for the band is to win the Col. George S. Howard Citation of Musical Excellence for Military Concert Bands, which recognizes a military band internationally. It is the top award a band can earn, and has only been won by a Marine Band once.
"March down any street and watch the public as we play the 'Marines' Hymn," said Fahrquhar, who has already earned a bachelor's degree in music. "That is why we do this."
The bandmaster's advice to all Marines is to remember why they came into the Marine Corps.
"Everyone comes into the Corps to do something, and sometimes we lose track of that," said Farquhar.
People who plan military functions and community events are fortunate if their event is approved for this prestigious unit because they have the opportunity to hear and witness Farquhar's military and musical leadership.