The United States Merchant Marine Academy Band - "Cohan's Own" July 29 2010, 0 Comments

The United States Merchant Marine Academy band “GEORGE COHAN’S OWN” Contributed by Jack Kopstein Cohan's Own Merchant Marine band During World War II, Maritime Training Facilities were placed in strategic locations around America. These stations included Pass Christian, Mississippi, San Mateo, California, Fort Trumbull, Connecticut, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and Kings Point. At the larger locations, professional musicians were recruited to form marching, concert, and dance bands to play for the hundreds of seafarers in training. In 1943, the present Academy at Kings Point was established. With it, a 45 piece professional band, made up of the finest New York City musicians, was recruited and played for thousands of cadets during their intensified wartime training at the Academy. To this day, the raised platform in the mess hall at the Academy, where the present Regimental midshipmen officers sit, and the radio broadcasting booth are vestiges of that professional band. Their duty each day during the war was to play for the entertainment of the troops at all mess sittings and play additional music for dances on weekends, which was broadcast live over WCBS radio. After the war, the professional band was disbanded and music at the Academy became the responsibility of midshipmen. This program had varying degrees of success until 1971, when a full-time Director of Music was appointed and the band members were placed into their own company. Since that time, the band has represented the Academy at all Presidential Inauguration Parades, as well as the Miss America Pageant, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Cotton Bowl Halftime Show on New Years Day, and countless other national events. In 1994, a 35-piece ensemble boarded the ocean-liner Queen Elizabeth 2 and traveled across the Atlantic to Normandy, France for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, while entertaining the WWII veterans on board.  In June, 2000, the band flew to New Orleans and represented the Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine at the Opening Ceremonies of the D-Day Museum. A  singular honor was bestowed upon the band in 1999 by the descendants of the "Man Who Owned Broadway," the late Mr. George M. Cohan. The Band was instrumental in helping the local community and Park District of Great Neck save his former residence, which was slated for demolition.  Mr. Cohan was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal in 1936, in recognition for two patriotic compositions which have become synonymous with America: "Over There" and "A Grand Old Flag." Helen Ronkin Lafaso and Ms. Mary Ronkin Ross, the grandchildren of Mr. Cohan, formally thanked the band for their support and gave the band the honour to be called, "George M. Cohan's Own" for "now and in the future." Thus, Kings Point became the first Federal Academy Band with an officially bestowed title. The Band's membership changes twice each year as the sea splits change. Thus, every fall and every spring a new band is effectively born. Due to this unique rotation, the band is never the same twice. (website information) contributed by jack Kopstein