Salute to Phillips Musicians in the Armed Forces

military bands post_archival program

(left) Dec 6, 1942 program from the Music Department permanent archives (right) Feb 21, 1943 program from the Music Department permanent archives

In honor of Veteran’s Day this week, the Phillips celebrates military musicians serving in the Army Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps Bands. Nearly 100 performances were held in the Phillips’s Music Room between 1939 and 1945, making Sunday Concerts the longest continually-running series in Washington, DC.

Of the many fine military musicians performing at the Phillips, GRAMMY-winning American pianist Earl Wild (1915–2010) was one. Wild is renowned as one of the greatest pianists and all-around musicians in history, and one Harold Schonberg called Wild a “super-virtuoso in the Horowitz class.”

We are proud to boast several Phillips Camerata musicians who presently serve in the US Marine Corps Band, including violinist Karen Johnson and cellist Charlie Powers. On our 75th season anniversary, we honor the legacy of Armed Services musicians in two concerts during our 2015/2016 season, featuring Navy Sea Chanters and the USMCB string ensemble.

Caroline Mousset, Director of Music

Group Hug

Painting by Nicolas de Stael

Nicolas de Stael, Musicians, 1953. Oil on canvas, 63 7/8 x 45 in. Acquired 1953. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

My instant answer to “what’s your favorite piece at the Phillips?” (which is often one of the first questions asked after people learn that I work at an art museum), is always Nicolas de Stael’s The Musicians (1953). When I first laid eyes on it a few weeks after starting an internship at the Phillips in 2008, I saw a group of figures involved in a group hug. This immediate association, along with the bright colors, made the lasting impression on me that this painting would always be something I can turn to for a quick dose of Happy. Even after reading the title and learning that the figures are likely meant to represent a band or musical ensemble, I’ll still always see a family embracing.

Amy Wike, Publicity & Marketing Coordinator