When the Corcoran Cadets were assembled in 1883, it would have been impossible to foresee the longevity of their service in the District of Columbia. The militia that inspired John Philip Sousa to compose a march of the same name has since grown to the 257th Army Band, District of Columbia Army National Guard.
In 1918 the DC National Guard organized a militia titled “The 5th Infantry Regiment”. In June 1920, a band was formed to support the new regiment and on August 8, 1920 (wearing borrowed uniforms from Company C, 5th Regiment), the unit received the Formal Federal Recognition of “Headquarters Company”. The Band was drawn together and began their assembled performances, and in February of 1924, by order of the War Department, the 5th Infantry Regiment then became the “Band Section, Service Battery, 121st Engineers”.
The 1922 enlistment of renowned bandleader and violinist Meyer N. Goldman afforded the band increased visibility as Warrant Officer Goldman used rehearsals and performances to tie the band to the civics of the District of Columbia. The professional concert in November 1925 at the Washington Auditorium proved enlightening to military and public audiences alike, since the 34-piece unit clearly outnumbered many other military bands of the time.
The Band of The 121st Engineers continued to perform and flourish under the command of WO Goldman, the “Band Section of the 260th Coastal Artillery” was Federally Recognized in 1939. This new band consisted of only 7 members; however, its multifold growth would prove instrumental over the next seven years. During World War II, something happened that has not happened since: both bands were inducted into Federal service. On 3 March 1947, under the command of WOJG Mayor T. Cousin, the two bands consolidated and Federally recognized as the “257th Army Band”.
Although the Band continued to grow over the next several years, consolidation with yet another ensemble was imminent. In 1953, under the constraints of segregation, the “91st Army Band” was formed and Federally Recognized. CW2 Arthur Smith directed the 91st Band until March 1959 when the end of segregation gave way to the band’s consolidation with The 257th Army Band. At the time of CW4 Alfonso R.C. Esposito’s 1959 retirement, CW2 Arthur E. Smith assumed command and, in 1963, was promoted to CW3.
The heritage of The 257th is honorable and includes performances such as Inaugural Music Support for the Inauguration of President Obama, burial of the Unknown Solider in 1921, musical support for the state funeral of Presidents Harding and Kennedy and overseas deployments to Greece and Panama. Annual trainings in 2003 and 2004 included unprecedented, consecutive performances at The Great American Brass Band Festival and community relations performances in the national capital region. Concert tours conducted from 2001 through 2013 include the north eastern and eastern regional states, central Texas, Jamaica (2012) and the US Virgin Islands (2013).
Although centrally located among the finest military bands in the world, The 257th Army Band is officially recognized, by the Center for Military History as “The Band of the Nation’s Capital”.