On Friday afternoon, October 30, Chatham Charter middle school band students enjoyed a virtual discussion with a percussionist in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. SSgt Michael Hopkins was a middle school student of Chatham Charter instrumental music teacher Elizabeth Taylor when she taught in the Wake County Public School System. During the Google Meet, he complimented Taylor on helping him have a strong foundation in music.
The Q&A session was an outreach of the Marine Band’s Music in the Schools initiative. The educational program helps students experience Marine Band music and allows them to interact with its musicians.
In explaining his musical journey, SSgt Hopkins mentioned the dual degrees he earned at Northwestern University in Percussion Performance and Civil Engineering. Two years ago he auditioned and was accepted into the Marine Band, which also included joining the U.S. Marine Corps.
Hopkins explained that the Marine Band performs at the White House and Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery funerals, Presidential Inaugurations, and at other events in the Washington, DC area. It also presents its own wind ensemble, jazz and string concerts. Typically in October the Band does a national concert tour, but that was not possible this year due to the pandemic.
When asked by a student, Hopkins recounted one of his favorite moments to date as a member of the Marine Band. It occurred almost exactly a year ago, when the Band’s concert tour took them throughout cities along the West Coast of the United States.
“We were in Los Angeles. The Marine Band has a special relationship with composer John Williams. He surprised everybody and walked out onstage and conducted the Band in playing ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ from Star Wars. That was incredible. This is the guy who wrote it, and he was conducting me playing it,” recounted Hopkins.
As he answered student questions, SSgt Hopkins was able to weave in aspects of his job as a professional military musician as well as how his love of music developed from a young age.
“I really appreciated Mrs. Taylor reconnecting with SSgt Hopkins so our students could meet a professional musician who is also an active member of the military. Additionally, not being able to have our usual Veterans Day event on campus in November, this opportunity had extra timeliness. SSgt Hopkins gave the students insight for developing a lifelong love of music, whether they choose it as a career or not. He also talked about many good habits he developed as a college student that align with those we stress at Chatham Charter. We are grateful he was able to make time to meet with our students,” said administrator and music educator Beth McCullough.