They've Got Rhythm

7th Company

Music at Massachusetts Maritime Academy can be traced back to the 1930s, when cadets gathered aboard their school ship and played music in their free time. It wasn’t until 1945, however, that a ceremonial band was formed. It was then that the Academy leaders called upon student musicians to organize and provide music during the observance of morning colors. The newly established MMA band made its first public appearance during commencement exercises in 1945, and a band has been representing the Academy ever since.

WHO IS 7TH COMPANY?

Members of MMA’s band, Honor Guard, and drill team compose 7th Company, a professional cadet-led and managed organization. Currently, more than 160 cadets are part of 7th Company.

The largest component of 7th Company is the Honor Guard, or “Ceremonial Guard,” with more than 100 members. Members are volunteers who are selected when they raise their hands to serve the Academy, the country, and the maritime community during time of celebration, memorial, and mourning. The Honor Guard is student-trained, led, and managed.

Going strong with 45 members, the larger band is broken into numerous smaller ensembles. In addition to playing at morning colors and Academy events, various segments of the band will play at Academy-sponsored socials and local events. For example, the Academy’s premiere jazz and contemporary music ensemble, First Watch, entertained the crowd gathered aboard the TS Kennedy for the 125th birthday party in Boston.

 

ANSWERING THE CALLS

7th Company Officer in Charge Lieutenant Wayne Magee has served as director of bands and Honor Guard since 2008. He says it is because of the dedication of the 30-member cadet leadership team that the organization has achieved success and national recognition. “7th Company is the most visible representation of the Academy, performing more publicly than all of MMA varsity athletic teams combined,” Magee says. “Each year, on average, 7th Company will wave the MMA flag and perform in front of one million people, not including television viewing audiences.”

While three groups make up one 7th Company, there are times when each unit performs separately. Sometimes that means all three groups are working at the same time, on\ the same day, but in different locations. The band and Honor Guard are asked to serve at all kinds of events, all year round — even when the Academy is not in session. 7th Company has been called to serve at such events as funerals, memorial services, galas, and military balls, as well as at parades and sporting events. Magee says, “We have had our share of strange requests over the years.” For example, the field band’s drum line once played drums at a hotel opening in Boston, and the group has been asked to provide cadets as dance partners for the elderly at a local nursing home. “It’s all in the spirit of service,” Magee says.

A COMPANY OF TALENT

Listening to the MMA band, it is easy to recognize the vast musical gifts among its members. “The Academy’s band program is full of some of America’s top collegiate musicians,” Magee says. In some cases, cadets opted to turn down scholarships and opportunities to attend some of the country’s most highly regarded music schools in order to enroll at the Academy. “In my nearly nine years at MMA, I have been amazed by the musicianship, experiences, and scholarship of the band’s membership,” he adds. 

Given the level of talent within the ranks of the band, when it comes time to prepare a performance, music selections are aptly made by the ensemble’s leadership team, with final approval by Magee. The type of event and audience are top of mind, with selections chosen to showcase the band’s flair while entertaining the crowd. When playing live on parade before 300,000 or in a more intimate setting, such as the Admiral’s Gala, talent and poise are key — and both shine through.

More than entertaining people, 7th Company’s mission is service. They have a Company slogan, “Not for you, not for me, but for us,” to remind them why they do what they do; and a Company motto, “Striving for perfection, settling only for excellence,” to remind them how they go about it. Magee says, “This is 7th Company’s secret sauce to our continued organizational and personal growth of our membership and our alumni.”

Each year, the cadet leadership team has the opportunity to lead, operate, and manage 7th Company, a fully functioning, nonprofit organization. The cadets are responsible for all aspects, from budget and travel to production and merchandising. It is yet another way that the Academy affords its students unique opportunities for leadership development. After seven decades, it’s safe to say that 7th Company has found its rhythm.

The band, Honor Guard, and drill team have been honored to perform all over the world at, on average, 60 events per year. They are keeping pace this year with scheduled stops all along the East Coast. Next up: St. Patrick's Day Parades in Providence on Saturday, March 18th at 1200 and in Boston on Sunday, March 19th at 1300. To learn more about 7th Company and their scheduled events visit their website.

Article originally published in the Winter 2017 Enterprise Magazine