The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets Celebrates Golden Anniversary

By SFC Michael Parnell
The U.S. Army Band

News story photo
Photo Credit: SSG Chris Branagan
On July 10, 2009, in celebration of its 50th Anniversary, The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the official fanfare ensemble for the President of the United States, took part in a special ceremony at the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, New York—one of the seven locks in the system connecting the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. The ceremony marked the 50th anniversary of the group’s inaugural performance on June 28, 1959 that welcomed Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the occasion of the lock’s official opening.

Joining the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets at the ceremony were Georges Rioux, Consulate General of Canada; Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH); Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Richard Corfe, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation; Karl Weissenbach, Director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum; and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and president of The Eisenhower Group, Inc. The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets are currently directed by Captain David Paroby of Warminster, Pennsylvania.

Since its founding in 1959, The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets has become a vital part of numerous historic occasions. A distinct brass ensemble within The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” the group was patterned after British coronation-style trumpet ensembles that are rich with ceremonial tradition and consist of instrumentation that covers the full spectrum of brass voices. In April of 1960, the Herald Trumpets gained official acceptance in Washington, DC when the group performed at the arrival and departure ceremonies for the official visit of French President Charles de Gaulle. There to greet President de Gaulle at Washington National Airport was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As President Eisenhower stepped out of his car, the Herald Trumpets sounded “Ruffles and Flourishes” followed by “Hail to the Chief.”

At the departure ceremony for President de Gaulle, the Herald Trumpets once again sounded “Ruffles and Flourishes” followed by a specially prepared version of the march “Hail Columbia” as Vice President Nixon stepped out of his car. Immediately following the music, Mrs. Pat Nixon asked Herald Trumpet leader and conductor Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Gilbert H. Mitchell, then a Master Sergeant and cofounder of the Heralds, what they played for her husband. The next day, Vice President Nixon sent a letter to General Gailey, Commanding General of the Military District of Washington, requesting that the Herald Trumpets become a “standard part of the ceremonies when we welcome distinguished visitors to the country.” From that point forward, the Herald Trumpets used “Hail Columbia” for Vice Presidential Honors.

Since then, the Herald Trumpets has impressed audiences around the world in performances such as the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, the opening of the World’s Fair in Knoxville in 1982, and the Summer Olympic Games at Los Angeles in 1984. The group was seen by millions worldwide at the rededication of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1984, the U.S. Bicentennial Presidential Inauguration in 1989, and the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The Herald Trumpets has performed in Canada, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, The Netherlands, Nova Scotia, and North Korea.

Sergeant Major William Bramwell Smith, III is currently the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the Herald Trumpets and performs the demanding high E-flat soprano part. His father, William Bramwell Smith, Jr., and Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Gilbert H. Mitchell were co-founders of the group.

“I am proud to lead The Herald Trumpets and to be a part of America’s history.”
–Sergeant Major William Bramwell Smith, III
NCOIC, U.S. Army Herald Trumpets

The Herald Trumpets has had a variety of special performances this year commemorating their more than a half century of service to our Nation. Highlights include performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, and at the International Trumpet Guild annual conference. They are scheduled to perform later this year with the St. Louis Symphony and at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

Today, the Herald Trumpets’ primary role is to provide musical honors for the President of the United States and visiting foreign dignitaries in Washington, D.C. They have played “Hail to the Chief” for 11 U.S. Presidents plus numerous prime ministers and royalty. The Herald Trumpets also performs with their parent organization, The United Sates Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in addition to White House events and other local and national events and ceremonies.

“The Herald Trumpets is an extraordinary team of non-commissioned officers that have for the past half century developed into a well-trained, precision music ensemble,” added Colonel Thomas Rotondi, Jr., Leader and Commander of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own”. “The group’s mission is very prestigious and unique, and throughout history these world-class musicians have always represented the very best of the United States Army and the United States of America.”

The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets continuously represents the United States Army as one of its most highly visible elements, representing more than one million American Soldiers. This ensemble will continue to perform for national and international events as well as mentor young musicians.

“The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets is a national treasure.”
President George H.W. Bush

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