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01-29-09, 08:46 AM
U.S. Marine plays for new president

January 29, 2009

By CATHRYN GRAN cgran@pioneerlocal.com

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Gina Guhl was front and center for last week's presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

"I was right below the stand," said the 2001 graduate of East Leyden High School in Franklin Park. Guhl plays clarinet in the President's Own Marine Band.

"There were millions of people," said Guhl, based in the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

As part of the President's Own Marine Band, Guhl travels to different regions four months out of the year.

"We give concerts in the (Washington,) D.C. area," she said. "We play at funerals in Arlington National Cemetery. We play 300 concerts a year at the White House. And we play the parades at the Marine barracks."

Although a long day -- 23 hours -- Inauguration Day was a very exciting for Guhl, who grew up in River Grove.

"First we played on the (U.S.) Capitol steps, then we marched in the parade and then we played at the vice president's ball," she said.

For the inauguration, the band was together the whole day.

"So we didn't get to speak with the president," she said. "Not yet, but eventually we will."

"I auditioned in 2005 with about 65 other people. It was a blind audition, where we played behind a screen. I was one of five who advanced to Round Two, then I was one of two chosen," she said.

Guhl learned about the band while attending Eastern School of Music in Little Neck, N.Y. She currently is in a four-year enlistment with the Marines, and will be able to re-enlist.

"Sixty-eight percent make it their career," she said of her fellow band members. "It's is a wonderful job. If I can, I'll make it my career."

Guhl also performs in the Marine Chamber Orchestra and the Marine Chamber Ensembles. She began musical training on the clarinet at age 10 and continued at East Leyden and Eastern.

In 2008 she was a featured soloist, performing Luigi Bassi's "Concert Fantasia on Motifs" from Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto."

Guhl is the daughter of June and Raymond Guhl of River Grove. She currently lives in Alexandria, Va.