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U.S. Marine Band conductor leads Gainesville musicians
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Col. John R. Bourgeois, former director of "The President’s Own" U.S. Marines Band, discusses his position as guest conductor of the Northwinds Symphonic Band.

The Northwinds Symphonic Band will have a guest director of presidential proportions on Saturday.

Col. John R. Bourgeois, the 25th director of "The President’s Own" U.S. Marine Band, will conduct the group of 90 Gainesville musicians in a special performance at Riverside Military Academy that will feature an opera overture from Wagner’s "Rienzi," as well as several lively band marches.

Bourgeois will join Ronald J. Evans, conductor of the Northwinds Symphonic Band, as well as associate conductor Mercer E. Crook, in directing the woodwind, brass and percussion band comprising local middle and high school band directors, professional musicians and community members.

The concert will be held at the military academy’s Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening.

In addition to the opera overture, the Northwinds Symphonic Band will perform their signature piece, "The Northwind March," as well as "Espirit de Corps," a piece Robert Jager composed in honor of the Marine Band that is set to tempo de Bourgeois, or bright and fast, in recognition of Bourgeois’ career.

"In our world of band music, it’s one of the top honors we can have to have (Col. Bourgeois) come down here and conduct our band," Evans said. "I have known of him my entire career, and so it was an honor to call him and ask if he could conduct the band."

The Northwinds Symphonic Band is one of only a handful of community bands Bourgeois will conduct this year.

Bourgeois served as conductor of the Marine Band for 27 years.

He began leading "The President’s Own" band with the Eisenhower administration and retired during the Clinton administration. He selected the scores and directed the band in its traditional place at the U.S. Capitol for four presidential inaugurations.

Upon his retirement from directing the Marine Band, Bourgeois was compared to one of America’s great march composers, John Philip Sousa.

Sousa served as conductor of the Marine Band during the late 19th century, and famously penned the patriotic march "Stars and Stripes," which Ronald Reagan designated as the national march in 1980.

"Col. Bourgeois is in a long line of successors to John Philip Sousa, who is the most famous band master who ever lived," Evans said. "And the United States Marine Band is one of the finest bands in the world today."