The Marine Band San Diego Jazz Ensemble. Photo courtesy of the USMC

The Marine Band plays again as part of the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series but this year on a different day, different time, from a different Marine base and in a different configuration.


The Marine Band San Diego’s 18-piece jazz ensemble, led by Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Bley, will play from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, July 21.

Conducting at this year’s concert is Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Bley.

Bley, an electric bassist, named in 2011 as Non-Commissioned Officer Marine Musician of the Year, said the band would feature some patriotic big band arrangement, play charts of Doc Severinsen, Arturo Sandoval, Tommy Newsom, Count Basie and sample a broad cross section of big band swing.


Featured will be saxophonist Cpl. Charlie Arbelaez on lead alto and soprano sax. Arbelaez, who came to the band after studying at Florida International University and a brief stint as a firefighter, said the common denominator throughout his life has been his love for jazz and for the saxophone. He’ll have opportunities to stretch out throughout the Idyllwild concert, including in a jazz arrangement of “America the Beautiful.”

For many years the Combat Center Band based in 29 Palms played the series. That band was deactivated recently. This year, the Marine Band San Diego is supplying the music. It has been in existence for 90 years. The 50 Marines in the band perform in seven different ensembles.

USMC music started with an executive order signed by second President John Adams on July 11, 1798 authorizing the corps to enlist a drum major, one fife (flute) major, and 32 drummers and fifers. This first corps band and its successor USMC band, the oldest organization of its kind in the country played its first public concert on Aug. 21, 1800, on a hill overlooking the Potomac River in the nation’s new capitol, Washington, D.C. On March 4, 1801, the Marine Band performed for third President Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration and has played for every inauguration since.

All USMC band members must go through basic training, just like any other Marine, at one of two Marine Corps Recruit Depots in San Diego or Parris Island, S.C. Men and women of the Marine Band San Diego are usually trained Marine riflemen who serve as perimeter security guards and in machine gun platoons in times of war or national emergency.