Photo Information

Sgt. Coutrney R. Lawrence, Houston-native who served the role of drum major for the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, leads in front of the D&B as it marches onto the field at the start of a Tuesday Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., July 24. Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, served as the hosting official for this parade, which featured noncommissioned officers in positions traditionally held by officers and staff noncommissioned officers. The drum major, a position traditionally held by a gunnery sergeant or higher, is the senior-billeted Marine in the D&B and leads the musical unit in its ceremonies by both directing the Marines as they march and conducting them as they play.

Photo by Sgt. Austin Hazard

Houston-native directs music, marching for Marine Corps' Sunset Parade

31 Jul 2012 | Sgt. Austin Hazard

A Houston-native served as the drum major for the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps during a special Tuesday Sunset Parade July 31.

Sgt. Courtney R. Lawrence, a former student at the University of Houston, led and directed the musical unit for hundreds of spectators, including the sergeant major of the Marine Corps and more than 100 other Marine sergeants major. Every week from mid-June to mid-August, Marine Barracks Washington conducts its prestigious Sunset Parades for thousands, including such notables as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Criminal Minds” actor Joe Mantegna and top leaders from all branches of military service.

The D&B’s drum major is the highest billeted enlisted Marine in the unit, and commands the D&B as it marches on the field using a ceremonial mace and conducts the musicians as they play.

This parade featured noncommissioned officers in positions traditionally held by officers and staff NCOs. Numerous corporals and sergeants vied for the prominent positions, but only 17 were selected.

“I’m glad I did it,” said the 2005 graduate of Clear Brook High School. “It was a great experience, especially with me as the assistant drill master this year. I got to first coordinate and design the drill, and then I got to conduct it. It gave me a much broader understanding and appreciation for our unit and what we do.”

Lawrence conducted the D&B performing “American Salute,” “El Cumbanchero y Cumana,” a medley from “Grease,” “Rocky Top,” an original piece inspired by the Montford Point Marines titled “Shall We Gather,” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“Learning to use the mace took attention to detail, but the hardest part was the sequence of events,” noted Lawrence, who joined the Marine Corps in 2008 and has served with the D&B as a euphonium bugler since January 2009. “If there was a rain delay, if the parade is shortened due to weather or cancelled altogether, that changes the sequence.”

This is more significant for the drum major because the D&B plays musical tunes and commands that direct the other units on the field, which includes marching on and retiring the colors, the call to attention and fixing bayonets.

In her regular duties, Lawrence creates the drill sequence the D&B uses for its concerts and performs as a bugler in most D&B ceremonies and parades. With exception to “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Lawrence choreographed the marching for each of the songs she recently conducted as drum major.

Though many Marines wanted to audition for the position, only six sergeants were able. After months of practice and preparation, Lawrence was announced as the drum major for the NCO parade after the June tryouts.