In Alumni, School of Music

Master Sergeant Karl Johnson, a BYU alum, plays bass trombone in “The President’s Own” Marine Military Band

On January 20, 2021, the United States swore in Joe Biden as its new president in an inauguration ceremony. During the ceremony, several musical artists performed heartfelt songs that paid tribute to the new president and the country. “The President’s Own” Marine Military Band provided the tunes for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “This Land Is Your Land” and “Amazing Grace.”

One of the bass trombone players in the esteemed military band is Master Sergeant Karl Johnson, a BYU alum who graduated from BYU in the 1990s. Since graduating from BYU, Master Sgt. Johnson earned a master’s degree in 2000 from The Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with New York Philharmonic musician Donald Harwood. Before joining “The President’s Own,” Master Sgt. Johnson recorded music for motion pictures and television and substituted with Natalie Cole, the Canadian Brass, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and the Harry James Orchestra

“The President’s Own” Marine Military Band has been a part of the inaugural tradition since an act of congress established it in 1798. Its purpose is to “provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.” In the last 223 years of performing for both military and civilian occasions, “The President’s Own” maintains its status as an elite band of extremely talented musicians. 

The band is made up of musicians who have graduated with advanced degrees from top music universities, including The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Many members often serve in the band for 20 years or more. In total, the band has 129 musicians who perform as part of the Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra and Marine Chamber Ensembles, in addition to “The President’s Own” Marine Military Band.

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