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Gilbert woman participates in H.W. Bush’s memorial service in DC

(Marine band photo)

PHOENIX — A Gilbert woman will participate in former President George H.W. Bush’s memorial service in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Karen Johnson is the concertmaster of the U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra, also known as The President’s Own, which performed at Bush’s state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

The concertmaster is the leader of the first violin section in an orchestra and the instrument-playing leader of the orchestra.

“We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging,” Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig said in a statement.

Johnson has been playing since she was 4, but she joined the orchestra in 2011 and was appointed concertmaster in 2015.

She graduated from Highland High School in Gilbert in 1996 and earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from The Juilliard School in New York.

Before joining The President’s Own, Johnson served as the concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony and guest concertmaster of the Phoenix Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and the Oregon Symphony in Portland.

(Marine band photo)

Bush’s memorial service is the 14th such event for which the band has performed.

The President’s Own has also performed at the state funerals for former presidents Gerald Ford in 2007, Ronald Reagan in 2004, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1969, Herbert Hoover in 1964, John F. Kennedy in 1963, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, William Howard Taft in 1930, William McKinley in 1901, Ulysses S. Grant in 1885, James Garfield in 1881, Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Zachary Taylor in 1850 and John Quincy Adams in 1848.

The President’s Own was founded in 1798 by Congress, making it the oldest of the military bands.

It also includes the Marine Chamber Orchestra and Marine Chamber Ensembles.

It has performed for every president since John Adams invited them to perform at the Executive Mansion on New Year’s Day 1801.

The band has also played at every presidential inauguration since Thomas Jefferson.

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