ESCONDIDO, Calif --
A quiet hush came over the crowd as the curtains rose to reveal the 1st Marine Division band in their dress blues. They thrilled the audience with a variety of musical pieces including a trumpet solo that brought a raucous applause. Each song played represented experiences Marines go through from recruit training to retirement.
Lance Cpl. Gregg Alvarez, a trumpet instrumentalist, for the 1st Marine Division Band, performed the solo as a nod to the rich history of the Marine Corps. He decided to be part of that lineage when he joined the military after earning a master’s in music at the University of Louisville. He started playing the trumpet 18 years ago, but it was his dream to become a Marine, a dream that he achieved in 2012.
Being a 28-year-old lance corporal with a master’s degree is something seldom seen in the Corps. Many Marines with a college degree become officers, but Alvarez chose a different path.
“I originally joined to become an officer,” said Alvarez, a native of Harlingen, Texas. “But I wanted to have the experience of being in the band because I love music.”
Alvarez has a lot of experience helping to elevate the performance of the trumpet section, said Gunnery Sgt. Tracy Martinez, the enlisted conductor for the 1st Marine Division Band.
“When I first saw him, my first thought was he is a little older than most people coming into this career field,” said Martinez, a native of Newbury Park, Calif. “I could tell he had some life experience behind him. His musical ability was also something that is not typical of someone new to the band, especially someone at the rank of lance corporal, so he made a good impression.”
Alvarez, along with every member in the band, knows he is a rifleman first and musician second. When the time comes for the band to deploy, they lay down their instruments and pick up their weapons, ready to support any operation. The rigorous training schedule does not keep Alvarez from maintaining the high standards of being a Marine.
“It’s challenging because we will have very long days,” Alvarez said. “We do everything the average Marine does and we tie it in to our band practice routine, but we manage to balance all that on top of 300 to 350 performances a year.”
Recently, Alvarez participated in the 1st Marine Division Anniversary Concert at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, Jan. 31. The event was held to honor 1st Marine Division’s 73rd Anniversary and to give local residents a chance to see the division band in action. It was an opportunity for Alvarez to showcase his musical talents while honoring the Marine Corps.
“It was a good experience to play for the veterans who served before me,” Alvarez said. “I enjoyed participating in building the bond the division shares with the community.”
Alvarez continues to hone his musical abilities and improve his section through his knowledge and experience. The Marine Corps has allowed him to fulfill two dreams, earning the title of Marine and performing for audiences across the U.S.