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Connecticut's Coast Guard Band Goes to Hollywood

Harold Shapiro
United States Coast Guard Band

Members of the United States Coast Guard Band, based in New London, Connecticut, are scheduled to march up the red carpet Monday for the premiere of Disney's film, "The Finest Hours."

"This is a unique type of event, as far as playing in front of the premiere of a movie," said Master Chief Jonathan Towne. "It's not something I've ever done before in the band. Been in the band over 27 years, so it'll be exciting, and we're looking forward to doing it."

Towne plays clarinet, and is drum major with the band, which has performed at some of the nation's most prestigious venues, as well as internationally. Towne has marched in seven inaugural parades, five of them as a drum major.

About half of the 55-member band will be marching up the red carpet to the famous TCL Chinese Theartrefor the film's premiere.

Disney's movie, "The Finest Hours," is based on a true story about a harrowing rescue by the Coast Guard in 1952 when two oil tankers were broken in half by a nor'easter off the coast of Massachusetts.

The United States Coast Guardis the 12th-largest naval force in the world. It's a maritime, military, multi-mission service that's been involved in every U.S. war from 1790 to the war in Afghanistan.

While this isn't the first film to feature the Coast Guard, Senior Chief Andrew Grenci, who's been with the band for 21 years, is particularly thrilled about this one.

"For one thing, I think it's just exciting this movie's made featuring the Coast Guard so prominently," Grenci said. "You know, sort of showing what men and women in the Coast Guard do. That's not what the band does. We just are out there trying to tell that story with music. But, that we can go and be part of promoting that and presenting that, I think is great."

Part of the band's mission is to preserve and honor the history and traditions of the Coast Guard and the United States. So what will they be playing at the premiere?

Lieutenant Commander Adam Williamson, the band's director, said that's something they're still figuring out. "It sounds like it'll be more of a ceremonial type of event." he said. "So, I imagine that we'll probably play a lot of military marches and standard ceremonial type of music."

They do know one piece they'll be playing for sure: "Semper Paratus" (Latin: "Always Ready"), the motto of the U.S. Coast Guard, and their marching song.

"The Finest Hours" opens in most theaters January 29.

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.

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