Taylor Branson February 03 2011, 1 Comment

Contributed by Jack Kopstein


Born in Washington, D.C., 1880 - Died in Bethesda, Maryland, 1969

Taylor Branson was a native of Washington, D.C., who like his predecessor John Philip Sousa, seemed destined for a career in the U.S. Marine Band. His father was a country fiddler who read no music and wanted his son to become a "real musician." He arranged for the boy to study violin with Marine Band member William Santelmann, who would later direct said band for thirty years. After completing high school, Branson enlisted as a Marine Bandsman at the age of seventeen. He continued the study of violin (with Herman Rakemann) and began taking clarinet lessons with Andrea Coda and composition with Arthur S. Tregina, both members of the same band. He soon became concertmaster of the Marine Band Symphony Orchestra, serving as conductor during the Gridiron Club concerts. Branson was a pioneer in instrumental music broadcasting, conducting regular orchestral programs over NOF, the Naval Air Station, as early as 1919. He later introduced a radio program which was designed to benefit listeners who were invalids - the young announcer at the time was Arthur Godfrey. In 1921, Branson became second leader of the Marine Band and in 1927, he was appointed leader. In addition to American music, Branson programmed a great deal of music from other lands, including South America. One of his most prized awards, the "Cross of Boyaca," came from the Colombian Minister, Miguel Lopez Mumarejo, for his "untiring efforts in the promotion of closer cultural relations between the peoples of the Americas, by means of the diffusion of Latin American music in the United States." As a member of the prestigious Gridiron Club in Washington, Branson served as its musical director for over twenty-five years. He was also active as a guest conductor and adjudicator - in 1930, he was on the national high school panel which awarded first place to the Hobart High School Band, conducted by William D. Revelli. After serving with the Marine Band for over forty-one years, he retired with the rank of captain in 1940. At his death in 1969, Taylor Branson was survived by his wife, three daughters, and two sons. Most of Branson's marches were dedicated to the Marine Corps, including: Marine Corps Institute; General Lejeune; Tell It to the Marines; Marines of Belleau Woods; The President's Own; Eagle, Globe and Anchor; Headquarters, U.S.M.C.; and Marine Corps Reserves. Others include The Times Picayune Centennial and Benjamin Franklin University. (Information from Kenneth Berger, John Burroughs, Jim Mann, Albert F. Schoepper, and the U.S. Marine Band.)