Kim Archer, professor of composition at SIUE, was asked to compose a piece for the U.S. Marine Band, also known as “The President’s Own.”
Archer said her involvement in the project began the year after she got her doctorate and received a one-year position to fill in for another instructor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. While she was there, she made good friends with the graduate assistant.
“He and I would get together at one of our places and watch Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, stuff like that. We were just friends and then I got a second job and moved on and he graduated. I had kinda lost track of him, but he went on to The President’s Own,” said Archer.
Archer said that due to COVID-19 and the problems the Biden administration had with transitioning to office, The President’s Own was unaware that they were to be part of the inauguration until just a couple weeks before.
“My friend Ryan, he's the assistant conductor, went to his boss and said ‘I know this composer and she can write really well and she can write really fast. Why don’t we give her a call and see if she can write us something for this?’” said Archer.
Archer’s friend was able to persuade his boss into giving Archer a shot. He gave Archer a call on Jan. 1 to deliver the news. The catch was that the piece needed to be done in eight days.
Archer said she was visiting her dad in North Carolina at the time. When she hung up the phone, her dad asked her why she’d gone so pale.
“It really was about seven days of me just getting up at 6 in morning and my dad would walk around about 9 a.m. and slip a cup of coffee under my nose. Come by around 1 in the afternoon and leave a sandwich next to me,” said Archer.
Archer was able to get the piece done, but the next step was figuring out a title. The U.S. Marine band doesn’t associate with politics, just America, so Archer was instructed to give her work a title that didn’t allude to her political perspective.
Archer said she had to go far back in history to come up with a conceptual title that wasn’t partisan. She went back to Plato’s The Republic, the Greek word for that being “politeia.”
“For the rest of my career, I will have to explain to people how to pronounce politeia,” said Archer.
Archer said that due to social distancing, they couldn’t have her out for the inauguration. That year, only about half the members of the band were able to play.
In August of 2021, Dr. Archer was asked to go to Washington D.C. to be a part of The President’s Own formal indoor concert and recording session for a CD that will be distributed internationally.
Archer said that they want her to hear what the band is playing and to make comments and suggestions.
“If you would have told me when I was a baby composer that one day I would stand in front of the best band in the world and be asked for my opinion and to make music with them, I would've never have believed it,” Archer said.
Archer will get there on Thursday, April 7 to prepare for a rehearsal the following day. The performance will take place on Sunday, April 10 and the recording sessions will be the following Monday and Tuesday.