KINGS POINT, N.Y., March 25, 2014 - On Monday, March 17th, the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s (USMMA) Regimental Band and Color Guard marched in New York City’s 253 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The band was selected to escort the honorees of this year’s parade, The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), on their 100th Anniversary in New York. Also marching with the GAA was the Honorable Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland. The Taoiseach is the equivalent of a Prime Minister.
More than 60 band members, playing snare drums, tenor drums, bass drums, cymbals, trumpets, French horns, trombones, euphoniums, tubas, saxophones, clarinets, and flutes and joined the Color Guard to complete the 1½- mile march up Fifth Avenue, in our nation’s oldest and largest parade. Despite the freezing temperatures, the band sounded wonderful as they played familiar Irish and American tunes, including “Life on the Ocean Wave,” “McNamara’s Band,” and a George M. Cohan medley which included “Over There” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Rear Admiral James A. Helis, Superintendent, said, “We are fortunate to have such a wonderful band at USMMA. We are very proud of how they represented the Academy at the parade. It was a great day!’
The Regimental Band has a long history of playing at significant events since it began in 1943. They have represented the Academy at all the Presidential Inaugural Parades, the Miss America Pageant, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Cotton Bowl Half-Time Show on New Year's Day, and countless other national and international events. A singular honor was bestowed upon the Band in 1999 by the descendants of the late George M. Cohan. In 1917, while living in Kings Point, home of the Academy, Mr. Cohan composed “Over There,” the anthem to America’s doughboys serving in World War I, for which he was later presented a Congressional Gold Medal by President Franklin Roosevelt, the only American song to be so recognized. The Band was instrumental in helping win the fight to save Cohan’s historic home in Kings Point, just a quarter mile from the Academy gate. In appreciation, Cohan’s granddaughters, Helen Ronkin Lafaso and Mary Ronkin Ross, granted to the Band the right to be called, “George M. Cohan’s Own” “for now and the future” Thus, Kings Point became the First federal academy band with an officially bestowed title.
The Band’s Director of Music is Captain Kenneth R. Force, USMS. CAPT Force who is an Honorary Alumnus of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, has dedicated many years of service to the USMMA and the Regimental Band. He is a world renowned Bandmaster, Arranger/Composer and Conductor. He is has a long history of serving with U. S. and international military bands and has composed music for and shared his expertise with the entertainment industry from Broadway to Hollywood.
Color Guard Commander, Nick Grippo, 1/c, said, “I have enjoyed almost every St. Patrick’s day of my life standing on Fifth Avenue with my family. To march in this year’s parade was an amazing experience that I will remember forever.” Midshipman Bandmaster, Trevor Ball, 1/c, said, “Marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was fantastic. Being cheered along by thousands of people was a wonderful feeling, and the whole experience was a great way to lead into the last trimester of my senior year. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my time as the Regimental Bandmaster.”
To hear The USMMA Regimental Band, “George M. Cohan’s Own” click here: Sounds