Making Music in the Military
Published on Oct 5, 2016 by Amy Cassell
America’s oldest and longest-running musical group (since 1798!) is “The President’s Own,” a band of United States Marine Corps musicians tasked with performing for the public and the Commander in Chief. They’ve played for Lincoln, Reagan, Obama … and when the next POTUS is sworn into office in January, they’ll be there for that. At least one Full Sail graduate will be in attendance: Jeffrey Higgs, a percussionist-turned-recording engineer who’s behind many of the group’s performances.
Jeffrey, who graduated from Full Sail’s Music Business program in 2014, is one of thousands of individuals that have found an ideal intersection between a lifelong love of music and a career in the military.
“My dad was a drummer and football player in high school so naturally I wanted to be just like him,” Jeffrey remembers. “I was accepted into the Marine Music Program as a percussionist in 2000, when I committed to join the Marine Corps. I shipped off to boot camp on September 17, 2001. It was a very memorable time for me and for our country.”
After more than a decade traveling the world and playing in Marine Corps Fleet Bands, Jeffrey applied for and gained acceptances into The President’s Own in 2014. When the band’s recording chief retired nine months later, Jeffrey stepped in to fill that role. And although he still picks up his drumsticks whenever he can, his work is behind the board now. The President’s Own performs daily – from White House appearances and funerals in Arlington National Cemetery to music clinics at local schools – and Jeffrey’s responsibility is to record and archive them all.
“Every day is different,” says Jeffrey. “We record rehearsals daily, and I run back-ups to our music and video archive every week. We’re currently editing and mastering two albums and processing footage from weekly concerts, all while maintaining equipment.”
During this recent career move, Jeffrey was juggling school too – finishing up his coursework in Full Sail’s online Music Business program, a degree he pursued after he decided he wanted to learn more about the business side of the industry. It’s been a tremendous help in his current role: “I work with musicians and producers daily and it helps to have that industry knowledge. I work with our librarians closely and it helps me understand copyright laws. I work with our Public Affairs team daily and it helps me better prepare marketing material.”
When he retires from the Marines – some five, ten years down the road – Jeffrey hopes to move out west and open his own recording studio. For now though, he’s doing well.
“Not everyone can be in the infantry, fly a plane, or be on the front lines,” says Jeffrey. “While I have the upmost respect for our professionals that do, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to serve my country utilizing the skills I have. Every Marine takes pride in what they do and strives for perfection, be it mastering hand-to-hand combat, maintaining an airplane, or playing an instrument. We are very proud of our history and heritage, and I strive to uphold and maintain that standard of excellence.”