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Musician Transitions To a Very Different Outfit

Once musicians join the band, they tend to stay, often for a decade or more. Master Gunnery Sgt. James Dickey, the retiring musician DeLuccio is replacing, had been with the band almost 28 years.

Barclay said that, though their role in the Corps differs radically from that of the average leatherneck, band members quickly earn, and return, the respect of fellow Marines.


Oboist Joseph DeLuccio, the most recent addition to the U.S. Marine Band, tries on his uniforms at the Marine Annex as he is instructed in how to assemble and wear them. (Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

But the transition from the music conservatory to the Marines, to say nothing of the inner sanctums of the White House, can be abrupt, and the lifestyle change drastic. "It's a very, very interesting process," Barclay said last week. "They come here and all of sudden they're wearing the uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps."

So while DeLuccio loves Bach and Mozart, and has been steeped in his profession for over a decade, he had to learn that his MOS (military occupational specialty) is 9811, for Marine Band musician; that he shouldn't go outside in uniform without his cover; and that if the concert begins at 1700, that means it's at 5 p.m.

To ease things, DeLuccio, who is quiet, well-spoken and passionate about his craft, was handed over to Gunnery Sgt. William Kanteres, 29, the band's assistant drum major.

Kanteres, of Manchester, N.H., is a kind of one-man recruit depot. He is also a musician -- a saxophonist -- but he was a member of one of the Marine division bands, underwent recruit training and deployed to Iraq with the division in 2003.

All new members of the Marine Band are turned over to him for indoctrination. "They really belong to him," Barclay said, "until he says that they're ready to go."

DeLuccio's audition last May 10 came after he spotted an advertisement in a well-known music newspaper. The job opening was for someone to play oboe and the similar, but larger, English horn.

DeLuccio had a bachelor's degree in music from Baldwin-Wallace College, near Cleveland, a master's degree in music from DePaul University in Chicago, and was at work on a doctorate in musical arts at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

But a pile of diplomas is no guarantee of work as a musician, a profession in which good, steady jobs can be hard to come by.

"You can't really pick and choose," DeLuccio said.

He had auditioned for six other jobs before this one, including positions with the Toledo Symphony and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He said the rule of thumb is that it takes an average of about 20 auditions to land a solid job.

The Marine Band is renowned and the job pays about $1,850 a month -- the standard rate for a staff sergeant -- with a $1,300 monthly housing allowance, adjusted to match the cost of living in Washington.

He submitted a résumé and was invited to a tryout.


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