Donald Palmire has been an active euphonium soloist, clinician, and educator for more than two decades. He began playing the cornet when he was 11 years old, though he didn’t take his first private lesson until his junior year of high school. He switched to the euphonium his senior year. He began his career as a professional euphoniumist with The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band at Parris Island, SC in 1980. While at Parris Island, he was a regularly featured soloist. Don attended Florida Community College and The University of South Florida between 1983 and 1986.
Don served as euphoniumist with The United States Marine Band (“The President’s Own”) from 1987-1991. He was a euphoniumist and soloist with The Dallas Wind Symphony from 1992-1994. He earned a Master of Music in Church Music in 1994 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. He joined The United States Army Band in 1994 and is currently Principal Euphonium in the Concert Band and Chairman of The United States Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Conference. He is a member of The Dominion Brass and has performed with The Virginia Grand Military Band, The Maryland Symphony, The Harrisburg Symphony, and The Sarasota Orchestra. Don currently serves as Associate Minister of Music, Instrumental at Columbia Baptist Church. His main duty at Columbia is directing the Sanctuary Orchestra.
Don has been a guest soloist and clinician with high school, college and community bands. He has been a regular clinician for the Music for All National Concert Band Festival and Summer Symposium. His principal teachers have included David Dorrough, Reese Dusenbury, Don Kneeburg, Arthur Lehman, and David Fedderly. Don is a Yamaha Performing Artist and plays the Yamaha 642S euphonium. (Taken with permission from donaldpalmire.com)
Steven Maxwell: You joined The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band in 1980. What drew you to the military?
Donald Palmire: My dream as a child was to become a member of The U.S. Marine Band and I thought that joining the Marine Music Program would be a great start. I realized at a young age that becoming a military musician could be a very rewarding career, especially as a euphoniumist.
SM: When did you begin to take auditions?
DP: I began taking auditions when I was 20 years old. I learned new and useful things each time I took an audition. I found that the more I auditioned, the more comfortable I became with the entire process.
SM: You have been a member of The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band, The United States Marine Band (“The President’s Own”), and The United States Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”). How has your experience with each ensemble differed?
DP: Each of the three bands had an entirely different mission and personality. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band was primarily a ceremonial unit. We would perform for morning colors ceremonies (flag raising each weekday morning) and recruit graduation ceremonies daily. Sometimes we would perform two back to back recruit graduations which made it quite challenging in the hot, humid climate of Parris Island, SC. The band performed two sit down concerts each year, July 4th and Christmas, which was a bit disappointing to me as a young performer. The band was an incredible marching unit and performed for many annual street parades around the United States.
My time in The United States Marine Band (“The President’s Own”) was filled with great memories. I was able to perform under quite a few of the world’s best wind band conductors as well as performing for all of the major music education conferences. While I served in The Marine Band, I performed for many heads of state at the White House, which never became old. Being in “The President’s Own” was a truly unique situation each and every day. The band was treated with the utmost respect each time we performed. My fondest memories in the band were the national tour and our tour of Norway. The Norway trip needs no real explanation, but the national tour does. This was back in the era of a 52-day tour, and my tour was the West Coast tour. We bussed across the country with an average eight hour per day bus ride prior to our evening concerts. Although the bus rides were pretty brutal, I was able to experience many states I had never visited. That tour was musically interesting to me as a euphonium player because we performed the Holst Suites in Eb and F. It was a dream come true for me as a euphonium player!
My time in The United States Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”) has been filled with variety. I joined the Ceremonial Band in 1994 which afforded me some new musical experiences. At that time, the Ceremonial Band brass and percussion musicians were a part of The United States Army Brass Band. Prior to joining “Pershing’s Own,” I had spent years listening to brass band recordings and hoping that I would one day become a member of one. This was a very satisfying time for me because it gave me an opportunity to do quite a bit of performing sitting down! While I was a member of the Ceremonial Band, I was able to perform with The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. This is the official fanfare organization for the President of the United States and they perform regularly at the White House for arrival ceremonies and other official presidential events. As a euphonium player, it was still very satisfying performing on a “trumpet,” even if it was pitched in G. My greatest memory was performing with the Herald Trumpets for the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. In 2002, I became a member of the Concert Band euphonium section. Since then, I have had many wonderful experiences performing for major music education conferences as well as concert tours across the United States. In 2006, I was appointed as Principal Euphonium and in 2007, I became Chairman of The United States Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Workshop.
SM: How did each of these experiences help you grow as a musician?
DP: My growth as a musician while serving in these bands has been because of the wonderful musicians I have worked with over the years. As I sat in each ensemble, I would reflect on how blessed I was to be able to work with such world-class performers each and every day. Many times, I find myself wondering why I am where I am when I hear these wonderful military musicians perform around me. It is truly a gift to be associated with such incredible artistry on a regular basis.
SM: What kinds of things have you found yourself doing differently, stylistically, playing with military ensembles?
DP: While a member of “The President’s Own,” I was able to learn how to play in the Marine Band style which was passed down from when John Phillip Sousa was the director of the band. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had no idea how to interpret a march prior to joining “The President’s Own.” In fact, I hadn’t been a member of the band very long before I began picking up stylistic nuances that would give me success in the future. I was able to learn when and when not to use vibrato in a wind band situation. This was an eye-opening experience that has affected me since then.
SM: Do you have any duties as a member of the United States Army Band that do not involve playing your instrument?
DP: From 2002 until 2010, I served as the Concert Band Brass and Percussion Supply Liaison. I was responsible for submitting orders for anything from drum sticks to mouthpieces to instruments. In 2010, I became the Concert Band Brass Group Leader. As Brass Group Leader, I am musically and administratively responsible for all of the brass players in the band.
SM: Can you tell us about your early musical influences, even before you began playing the euphonium?
DP: My father had played the accordion when he was a boy which gave him a love for music. I can remember as a young boy watching the Lawrence Welk Show on TV each week. I believe that show had more influence on me musically than anything else in my life.
SM: What were some of your most inspirational teachers throughout your studies? What specifically did you learn from these teachers that helped you in the military bands?
DP: The most influential and inspirational teacher I had was the great Arthur Lehman. I met Art shortly after joining “The President’s Own” and began studying with him soon thereafter. He insisted that he teach me a two hour lesson each week, and he NEVER asked to be paid for his time! In fact, I would leave my lesson each week with copies of old solos and recordings. Art really helped me to learn how to play in the style of the early 20th century brass soloists. In fact, Art had studied with Simone Mantia as a young man, so I felt that I was learning from yet another master. Not only did Art help hone me into a better musician, he helped me learn how to thrive in The Marine Band as a brass player. He gave me many tricks to keep the chops in good shape and health. These tips have helped me get stronger over the years.
SM: Could you describe what a typical day is like for you?
DP: A typical day for me is warming up around 7:45 am and practicing until Concert Band rehearsal at 9:30. Normally we rehearse until noon and I spend at least another two to four hours practicing before I call it a day.
SM: What is you typical touring schedule like from year to year?
DP: The United States Army Band is the only premier band that doesn’t perform national tours. This makes the band very attractive for those of us who have families.
SM: What has been your most enjoyable piece of music to play with the group?
DP: James Barnes’s Seventh Symphony. This is a work that The Army Concert Band commissioned for us a year and a half ago. We were able to perform it under Barnes’s baton this past May and recorded it for our upcoming CD this past fall. This work is in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and as would be expected, it is powerful.
SM: What has been the least enjoyable piece of music you have played with the ensemble?
DP: Hmm. No comment!?
SM: What advice do you have for students interested in auditioning for a military band?
DP: First, I would suggest that they gather EVERY euphonium band part they can and add it to their library. Second, and most importantly, I would suggest that they secure recordings of as many pieces as possible so they know how the euphonium part fits in the music. I have heard so many auditionees attempt to perform excerpts and it was clear that they had no idea how their part needed to be performed.
SM: What other type of playing do you enjoy outside of the military bands?
DP: I enjoy doing studio recordings each year. It causes the player to perform at a whole new level in order to be successful in the studio.
SM: What is the make and model of your instrument? Is there a standard make/model for the ensemble?
DP: I play a Yamaha 642S, but there are no requirements in the band as far as make or model. My stand mate plays the identical equipment.