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Former director of 'The President's Own' Marine Band directs local high school band

Colonel John Bourgeois visited Roane County High School on Wednesday.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — "Good morning. This is even bigger than my Marine Band," exclaims Colonel John Bourgeois as he walks into the band room at Roane County High School.

Bourgeois was the 25th director of 'The President's Own' United States Marine Band. His career spanned nine presidential administrations. 

On Wednesday, he directed the Roane County High School Band.

"It was an experience of a lifetime, especially for still being in high school. There aren't many high school students who can say they played under Colonel John Bourgeois," said Daniel Rehberg, a student euphonium player.

When Bourgeois was drafted in 1956, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he eventually became 'The President's Own' director. 

He has fond memories of the presidents he served. "Former President Bush says, 'you know the thing I miss most about this job? The Marine Band.' Then, independently, President Clinton leans in and says, 'You know what I love most about this job? The Marine Band,'" Bourgeois recalled. 

He position gave him a unique vantage point to some of the biggest moments in history, using music to bridge the gap where words couldn't measure up. 

"The release of the hostages of Iran was during President Reagan's first inauguration. The band was playing 'America the Beautiful.' The clouds opened up and sunshine poured in. IT was really a treasure of a moment," Bourgeois said. "You encouraged a nation. You were there in victory and defeat, in moments of joy and moments of sorrow and patriotism. The band is very much the musical ethos of the country." 

In his retirement, Bourgeois visits schools and community bands as a guest conductor.He's in East Tennessee a few days ahed of a concert he's guest conducting with the Tennessee Wind Symphony.

The free concert is Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre. It's open to the public. No tickets are required.