A Garden City native will be performing in the 57th Inauguration of the President of the United States on Monday, as a member of¬ the United States Marine Band.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Max E. Cripe, who now resides in Bowie, Md., is the principal French horn player in "The President's Own," the Marine band that, from what research suggests, has been playing in every presidential inauguration since Thomas Jefferson's on March 4, 1801. An accomplished musician himself, Jefferson recognized the unique relationship between the band and the chief executive and is credited with giving the Marine Band the title, "The President's Own."
"You know it's something that's gone on long before you got there and will go on long after you leave, so you just feel like ... it's a really good tradition and it's good to help carry it forward," Cripe said, referring to the longstanding tradition.
Cripe, who was appointed the principal French horn in 2004, joined the 130-piece band in 1988 at the tail end of Ronald Reagan's second term, so this will be his seventh inauguration performance. He has performed before the following presidents: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Because the band routinely performs at the White House, Cripe has had the unique experience of being in the same room as U.S. presidents and foreign leaders.
"There are all sorts of presidential events in the White House, state dinners, where you get to see other heads of state, the Queen of England. Just to be right there in the room when they come in — it's a very interesting, fascinating job," he said.
He said he has personally met presidents he performed for, at least in passing.
"We work in the White House on a regular basis, so we certainly come in contact with all of them and meet them and shake their hand, very briefly, as, of course, they're busy," he said, laughing.
One of the most memorable moments, Cripe said, was when the band performed at Ronald Reagan's funeral.
"The Reagan funeral was an incredible event, a beautiful service. We played in the cathedral for his service and with all of the existing presidents sitting there in the front row right near us, that was really something. It was also a very moving service," he said.
Cripe's parents, Keith and Gladys Cripe, were longtime residents of Garden City. As Cripe was growing up, his father, who died in 2004, worked at Western Motors and his mother, who died recently, worked at Purnell's, a fabric shop that used to be located on Main Street.
"Mom passed away just last year about Thanksgiving, so that's my last sort of connection to Garden City," Cripe said, adding that his parents got to watch him participate in several inaugurations during their lives.
"They always watched me on TV and sometimes they could actually see me. It's a large band that plays there on the platform and sometimes when the camera panned around, they could see me," he said. "They were very excited and proud to have me up there, I think."
Cripe began musical training when he was 10 years old. After graduating from Garden City High School in 1980, he earned a bachelor's degree in music performance from The University of Kansas and a master's degree in performance from Wichita State University.¬ Prior to joining "The President's Own," Cripe was a member of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.¬
In addition to performing with "The President's Own," he also performs with the Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles at the White House, in the Washington, D.C., area and across the country during the band's annual concert tour, which he said includes a stop in western Kansas in 2014.
"It would be nice if we could play out there. We'll play somewhere in the western part of the state. It hasn't been determined which town yet, but I'll certainly put in a good word for Garden City," he said. "We did play in Garden City once since I've been in the band. That was kind of cool to get to come back and play in my old high school auditorium, so hopefully it can happen again."
For inauguration ceremonies, the Marine Band provides music for the inauguration swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, leads the second division of the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and performs at various inaugural balls throughout Washington, D.C. "The President's Own" is the only musical unit to participate in all three events.¬
Cripe said his involvement entails a pretty intense practice schedule leading up to the ceremony.
The swearing-in ceremony will take place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday and the president-elect will be sworn in by noon EST.
The Marine Band's musical involvement in the ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. EST with two hours of pre-recorded music. At 10 a.m. EST, the band will take their place directly beneath the inauguration platform to begin live music, including the trio strain of Edwin Eugene Bagley's "National Emblem,"¬ "Four Ruffles and Flourishes," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Hail to the Chief" and other ceremonial music dictated by military protocol. Cripe said that the band also will be accompanying Beyonce, as she sings "The National Anthem," and Kelly Clarkson as she sings, "My Country 'Tis of Thee."