Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Alumnus Represents SDSU in The President's Own

Alumnus Represents SDSU in The President's Own

By Teresa Monaco

Founded in 1798, The President’s Own United States Marine Band is revered as America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. This ensemble is known for exemplifying the pinnacle of musical excellence, and has performed for every U.S. President since John Adams. SDSU alumnus and clarinetist Master Gunnery Sergeant John Mula joined The President’s Own United States Marine Band in 1996 and has participated in six Presidential Inaugurations.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Mula earned a master’s degree in music from San Diego State University in 1987. “I loved my time at SDSU. I was fortunate enough to be a graduate assistant teaching Woodwind Methodology and working with the bands,” Mula explains. He cites his most influential professors as Dr. Marian Liebowitz, and Harold Warman and Dr. Charles Friedrichs in the band department. “All of them were wonderful teachers for me. They helped me adapt to California and even helped me with the practical things—like Dr. Friedrichs teaching me to drive stick shift! I felt cared for and challenged as they guided me into the beginning of my career as a musician and teacher.” Mula also mentions Dr. Terry O’Donnell as a special and favorite teacher. “Some of my most favorite playing was done under his baton playing for musicals. I cherish my memories at SDSU.”

The lessons learned at SDSU played an integral role in Master Gunnery Sgt. Mula’s career moving forward. “I felt I was learning from people active in the musical world. So many teachers were examples of how to live the musical life I wanted to live.” During his time at SDSU, Mula had the opportunity to freelance and teach in local schools, which continued after graduation. “My time in San Diego post-graduation was a great period of my life where I taught and performed regularly. As an elementary school teacher in the Santee School District, I was free most evenings and freelanced with the San Diego Symphony and Opera, gave recitals, played chamber music, and took lessons. It led me to pursue a doctoral degree in clarinet at Florida State. I was living there when the position in the Marine Band became available.”

Master Gunnery Sgt. Mula has nothing but good things to say about his extensive career in The President’s Own. “It has been exciting, challenging, and fulfilling. As a clarinetist, I play in the largest section of the band (26 clarinetists), and am most often part of the clarinet team, as opposed to playing solo. I couldn’t be more proud and happy to be working with my colleagues in the clarinet section.” He continues on to describe the uncommon work ethic and selflessness he has encountered and learned during his time in the band. “I will always remember it when I leave. These traits are common through the band and support staff. We are a fantastic team that works well to accomplish our mission.”

The President’s Own holds a versatile performance calendar, including honors funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, welcoming dignitaries from around the world, a concert series, and a multitude of other ceremonial and civic functions in the Washington D.C. area.

Mula plans to continue his career in the Marine Band for the time being. When asked about other future plans, he responds “I am looking forward to my life after the band to continue teaching, playing more piano, and staying involved with music.” Master Gunnery Sergeant Mula will continue to carry on the SDSU legacy throughout the remainder of his career in The President’s Own and beyond.

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