United States Merchant Marine Academy Regimental Band

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The band during a 2016 performance in New York.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy Regimental Band, designated as "George M. Cohan's Own",[1] is a United States military band and college marching band that currently serves as the official marching band of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. The USMMA is the only service academy outside of the six senior military colleges, to maintain a cadet-staffed band for musical purposes. The band, unlike other musical units of service academies, is a co-located full-time ensemble. The band mainly provides ceremonial support for protocol ceremonies and athletic events. It performs A Life on the Ocean Wave, the official march of the USMMA and the Star Spangled Banner at all ceremonies. The modern band succeeded a full-time band that was deactivated following World War II.[2] The band is currently led by Lieutenant Commander Bob Nixon, succeeding Captain Kenneth Force who served with the band from 1971 – 2016.[3][4]

The band was given the designation "George M. Cohan's Own" in 1999 by two of composer George M. Cohan's grandchildren, in recognition of the band's assistance in saving Cohan's former residence from demolition.[1]

The 35-piece band maintains the following ensembles at its disposal:


The band performing "A Life on the Ocean Wave"

In recent years, the band has represented the academy at all the inaugural parades for Barack Obama and Donald Trump, both occasions it was led by Captain Kenneth Force.[6] The band plays an essential in the "Ceremony of Beating Retreat", which is a military tattoo based in British roots. It takes place during the USMMA parent weekend, and usually has parents of midshipmen in attendance.[7] The band traditionally performs at the end of the National Memorial Day Parade in May. The band has also historically taken part in civil parades/events, including the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Cotton Bowl Classic Halftime Show, the Miss America Pageant, and events on Cow Harbor Day.


Like its counterparts at the Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pennsylvania, it uses the same military format as the British Royal Marines Band Service. An example of this similarity is seen the most in the use of tenor drums and its location to the front of the formation. The uniform consists of a combination peaked cap with a gold chinstrap, a black tunic, and white trousers, alongside white gloves and black shoes.


  1. ^ a b "History". United States Merchant Marine Academy. December 15, 2017. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  2. ^ "Regimental Band". U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. 17 January 2013.
  3. ^ "Director". U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. 22 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Captain Kenneth Force R. Farewell Dinner". USMMA Alumni Association Port of Houston.
  5. ^ "The National Horse Show Official Program and Guide". New York Magazine. 24 October 1988 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Applebome, Peter (14 January 2009). "When Circumstance Demands Pomp". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "USMMA's Regimental Band Performs Ceremony of Beating Retreat - Captain Force Announces Retirement Plans". U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. 11 September 2015.

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