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Musician Transitions To a Very Different Outfit

The auditions are always tense -- and the competition intense. Indeed, during clarinet auditions in December, none of the 50 applicants made the grade.

"You essentially get five to 10 minutes to prove yourself," he said. "If you're not feeling good that day, well, too bad. You just have to bring your game and do the best that you can. . . . It's a very, very stressful thing to do."

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)

DeLuccio's audition at the Marine Barracks, at Eighth and I streets SE, was a pressure-packed affair in which he competed against 44 other candidates.

"The standards are high," said Dickey, the retiring oboist, "and the scrutiny is everywhere."

DeLuccio was summoned to play for a five-person selection committee. He was issued a number, 33, and stood behind a screen so the members could not see him.

He walked to the tryout area on a long carpet, which is laid down so the committee cannot tell by the sound of the shoes if the applicant is a man or a woman. The committee wants to be influenced only by the candidate's music.

DeLuccio was asked to play a short but difficult portion of Mozart's "Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in C Major"; a piece from Maurice Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin"; a part from Beethoven's Third Symphony; and a selection from Anton Dvorak's Seventh Symphony.

He was the last of six finalists called back to play again after lunch. This time the screen was gone, there were 10 people on the selection committee, and the pressure was even higher.

DeLuccio played for about a half-hour and at one point performed with one of the band's oboists. Afterward, DeLuccio waited for the verdict with the others in a warm-up room.

Finally, a band official entered and announced: "At this time, we'd like to offer the position to Joseph DeLuccio. Congratulations."

"Wow," DeLuccio thought. "All this hard work has finally paid off."

On Jan. 4, he reported to the new Marine Annex, the band's headquarters, at Seventh Street and Virginia Avenue SE.

There was no time to waste.

This is the band's busy season. Dickey's retirement ceremony was Friday. DeLuccio's first band rehearsal was four days later. His first concert, Sunday, is at the University of Maryland.

He got his service uniforms Jan. 24. He needed help learning how to properly iron the vertical creases in the front of his khaki shirt. Kanteres keeps an iron and an ironing board in his office.

Monday morning, DeLuccio called at Yi's to get his three newly tailored band jackets. He then reported to the band's locker room, where Kanteres showed him, in rapid-fire fashion, how to assemble the uniforms and wear them.

The white belt has to rest above the two gold buttons at the back of the jacket. The gold Marine Corps collar pins has to align with the collar's white piping. And the loop at the end of the braided white shoulder cord hooks over a button at the top of the jacket.

DeLuccio examined himself in a mirror. He looked the part but seemed a little tentative.

"You look good," Kanteres said.

Yesterday, DeLuccio rehearsed with the band for the first time. Wearing a dark green sweater and pants, khaki shirt and gleaming black shoes, he sat in the front row. On his shoulders were staff sergeant's chevrons -- the rank accorded entry-level members.

This transition looked easier. On tap for the rehearsal was music by Sergei Prokofiev, Ottorino Respighi, Charles Ives and Samuel Barber. "It was fun," DeLuccio said afterward. "It was nice to finally get to be doing what I came here to do."

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