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First Lieutenant Darren Lin of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band

SBO Staff • America's MusiciansFebruary 2022 • February 23, 2022

First Lieutenant Darren Lin, percussionist and newest assistant director

“The first time I conduct the Marine Band in the White House I think it’s going to be exciting and exhilarating,” First Lt. Darren Y. Lin said. “I’m sure I’ll just have all the adrenaline running through my veins. I’ll be lucky if I’m not overwhelmed in the moment, but I know it will be memorable for sure.”

Previously the ensemble’s most junior percussionist, Lin was recently commissioned as newest assistant director of “The President’s Own.” In this new role, he will conduct the Marine Band during events at the White House, at public concerts in the Washington area, and in cities across the country during the band’s tour, among other leadership responsibilities.

Lin’s exposure to music began in his Pennsylvania childhood home, where the sounds of his mother playing the work of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach on the piano often resonated down the hall. At the age of five he began learning piano, and by the fourth grade he started on drums.

“I was a pretty rambunctious child,” Lin said. “I liked being loud, and I remember seeing a rock drummer on TV just playing his heart out, and I remember just thinking ‘I want to do that.’”

In his early years as a percussionist, Lin recalls being a little unaware of all music could offer, but he strived for more to keep up with the energy music brought him. In addition to performing with his school’s music program, he played in youth orchestras, the Hershey Symphony Orchestra, and a few metal and rock bands.

“In college I definitely became more intense and directed in what I was trying to do,” Lin said. “I spent a lot of time practicing, a lot of time playing for ensembles, and just trying to do and learn as much as I could from my teachers and the people around me.” Coincidentally, both college music programs Lin attended were influenced greatly by former Marine Band percussionists. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance at the University of Michigan where Charles Owen brought the percussion program to prominence. At the Eastman School of Music, where Lin received his master’s degree in percussion performance and literature, John Beck remains a long-time prominent figure. Prior to joining the Marine Band, Lin performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic, New World Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Reading Symphony, and his own new music group, NakedEye Ensemble. He was also an adjunct professor of percussion at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., where he ran percussion studio rehearsals, gave lessons, and taught percussion techniques for music education majors.

As a percussionist with the Marine Band, he greatly enjoyed getting to use all the experiences he acquired over the years of studying, performing and teaching. The time he spent mastering a variety of instruments in school, like drum set, snare drum, timpani, marimba, vibraphone, and tambourine, as well as refining skillsets and knowledge of musical genres have all been put to good use.

“Rarely will you find yourself in a position to use all the skills you’ve learned.” Lin said. “Joining the Marine Band was great because there are so many musical outlets within the band. Outside of our main concert band we have a chamber orchestra, jazz band, percussion ensemble, Latin jazz ensemble, chamber music groups, and so many more subgroups to play in.”

Now, as assistant director, Lin is able to put yet another set of skills to use. “Musically, I’ve always been interested in conducting,” Lin said. “My graduate school plans changed, but during my percussion studies I continued to develop conducting skills on the side. I was lucky enough to have three really great mentors during my time at Eastman, all who helped me prepare for the assistant director audition.”

Lin believes two key strengths he brings to his new position are a strong sense of time, solidified by years of practice as a percussionist, and another less measurable, yet equally important trait for an assistant director: “I’ve long joked that my secret superpower is making people feel comfortable. In my opinion, I think the best music making comes form that place where the musicians are comfortable and able to have a fun, collaborative experience.” He also notes strength also comes from the diversity he brings to the Marine Band leadership, as the organization’s first Asian American assistant director. “Representation has always been really important for me. Growing up in central Pennsylvania I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me in the percussion section or on the podium,” Lin said. “With my being here in this position, I hope I can inspire the next generation to pursue music opportunities and maybe even someday join the Marine Band so together we can help the band better reflect the country and the people that we serve.”

As Lin takes this new, exciting direction in his Marine Band career, it also means relinquishing his duties as a musician within the ensemble. “I do have one regret,” Lin said. “I was never able to play snare drum on a Sousa march during my time as a performing member. Maybe when Colonel Fettig isn’t looking, I can sneak back there for a concert.”

Learn more about the musicians of the U.S. Marine Band at marineband.marines.mil

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