By 1st Lt. Melissa Heintz
District of Columbia Air National Guard Public Affairs
Founded in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson, the District of Columbia National Guard honored its heritage through their 257th Army Band’s 2019 summer concert series, “Of the People, For the People.”
Known as The Band of the Nation’s Capital, the concert band selected music from the award-winning Hamilton: An American Musical to showcase the historical founding of our nation through combined traditional music, spoken word and the modern genre of hip-hop.
Not only does the musical tie-in to the early U.S. history, specific parts of the production focus on the establishment of the District of Columbia. President Thomas Jefferson, who is one of the characters portrayed in the musical, established the DCNG in 1802, according to the DCNG website.
In 1801, the Seventh Congress authorized the President to organize a militia of the District of Columbia, appoint its officers and call it to service in the same manner as state governors or executives. The law was approved May 3, 1802, and President Thomas Jefferson personally selected the unit’s first officers, according to DCNG historical records.
The 257th's First Sergeant Brian Jones said selecting the Hamilton musical allowed the band to be both educational and musical.
Like many traditional guardsmen, members of the band come together on drill weekends and return to their civilian jobs. Jones explained how being a part-time Citizen Soldier or Citizen Airman played into the title of the music series.
“The National Guard is made up of Citizen Soldiers and Citizen Airmen,” he explained. “This concert is ‘of the people’ because we are also civilians, we understand that civilian experience. Presenting it to the people while in military status was a really neat bridge to connect those two worlds.”
While the summer concert series has concluded, next-up for the band is a seasonal holiday performance in December at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C. Jones describes it is a District of Columbia National Guard holiday gift to our neighbors.
Guests can expect a reading of the Night Before Christmas, rhythm and blues, and brass choir holiday music.
The 257th has historical lineage that dates back to the legendary Corcoran Cadets, the D.C. militia drill team popular in the post-Civil War era. The drill team was the first company of cadets to be mustered into the National Guard and inspired John Philip Sousa to compose The Corcoran Cadets, according to DCNG historical records.