Hidalgo native serving his country in the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps
POSTED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 3:04pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 3:09pm
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS — Ramiro De Leon, a Winter 2012 graduate of The University of Texas at Brownsville, serves and represents his country in a special capacity – as a member of the prestigious United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, the only active duty drum and bugle corps in the armed forces.
The past 18 months for De Leon have taken him from Marine Corps recruit training, or “boot camp,” to his new home at Marine Barracks Washington, known as the “Oldest Post of the Corps.” As a member of the Drum & Bugle Corps, he has traveled about 50,000 miles and performed in around 500 events across the nation and abroad. Recently, De Leon was on stage at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, New York, for three days of Fourth of July concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
On Tuesday evenings throughout the summer months, the unit performs regular Sunset Parades at the Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. On Fridays during the summer, the traditional Evening Parades take place at Marine Barracks, always with a guest of honor in attendance. One Friday evening in June, President Barak Obama was in the stands; the Friday before that, one of De Leon’s UTB music professors, Dianne Brumley, sat proudly in the bleachers.
“When Ramiro was a music student in my class at UTB, I knew he was an exceptional young man,” said Brumley, Professor Emeritus, who retired from UTB in 2013. “Seeing him perform with the United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corp, I was assured my perception was correct. It was such an honor to watch him and to know he is my former student and a UTB graduate.”
De Leon began his long march to becoming a part of this Marine unit, referred to as “The Commandant’s Own,” when he joined the school band in sixth grade at Ida Diaz Junior High School in Hidalgo, Texas.
“I guess I picked out the trumpet to be my instrument because it was ‘loud and shiny,’ and I liked it immediately,” De Leon said.
From that moment on, De Leon was a band member, continuing in the marching band at Hidalgo High School.
“My band director at in high school, Mr. Jorge Lozano, wanted us to attend competitions as much as possible,” De Leon said. “With Mr. Lozano’s encouragement and a good band booster club, I was able to travel in high school before graduating in 2007.”
De Leon enrolled at South Texas College and started his freshman year with his sights set on studying optometry.
“I kept hearing good things about the UTB Music Department, and I was finally honest with myself and admitted I wanted to make music my career,” he said. “My family is very traditional, and no one had ever been connected to the music profession; at first, I know my parents were a little hesitant, but they understood and have always been very supportive.”
De Leon transferred to UTB and began the regimen of a music education major.
“Everyone in the UTB Music Department is so talented, and all the professors put such passion and heart into their teaching; I was fortunate to learn from all of them,” he said.
As a music education major, De Leon spent his last semester student teaching at three Brownsville schools: Pace High School, Manzano Middle School and Peña Elementary School.
“Student teaching was a challenging, yet a gratifying and fulfilling experience,” De Leon said. “It made me realize that after so many years of being a musician, I was finally equipped with the knowledge and ability to leave a positive impression on young minds, very much like my teachers once did with me. It was really eye-opening to realize that I was becoming like the people I most admired.”
De Leon’s three summers while at UTB continued to be filled with music as a member of non-profit drum and bugle corps organizations open to musicians worldwide ages 14-21. He performed with Revolution Drum and Bugle Corps from San Antonio during the summers of 2008 and 2009; and in the summer of 2010, he was a member of Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps from Rockford, Illinois.
These competitive corps perform across the nation, culminating at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the corps compete in the Drum Corps International – World Championship Finals.
“I wouldn’t give anything for my time with Revolution and Phantom Regiment,” De Leon said. “Physically, it is a rigorous summer commitment, a great way to develop self-discipline, grow musically, and make plenty of friends across the country. Rehearsals were exhausting and consumed your entire life for the summer, but it was so much fun and everyone loved the competition. Being a part of Drum Corps International helped prepare me for what I am doing now.”
Acceptance into the United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps is a highly competitive and lengthy process. Well before graduating from UTB in December 2012, De Leon went through his first audition in November of 2011; his final audition was the following spring.
“I had been working very hard all year with Dr. Brownlow for my senior recital, and I felt confident by the time the final audition came around,” he said.
Although he does not know how many years he will serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, De Leon has a long-range plan.
“Music has been good to me; among other things, it has been a way for me to see a lot of our country and the world,” he said. “My student teaching experience reaffirmed my ultimate goal of returning to the Valley and becoming a music teacher in the city of Brownsville, which was so good to me for four years.”
For more information, visit the UTB Department of Music or call 956-882-8247.
For more information on the United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, visit the official website.