Playing the piano wasn’t always Robert Boguslaw’s passion. “I started playing at the age of six,” he says. “I never took it seriously until college at the University of Miami. Then, I practiced four to eight hours a day on top of my studies, classes and other activities.”
After completing an undergraduate degree, Boguslaw came to the University of Kentucky where he received his master’s degree from the College of Fine Arts.
It was at UK that one of Boguslaw’s mentors, professor emeritus of piano Lucien Stark, left a note in Boguslaw’s mailbox that would change the course of his career.
“Dr. Lucien Stark was a brilliant teacher,” says Boguslaw. “I was working on my doctorate at UK and he left me a note in my mailbox saying that a former student of his had left a position with the United States Marine Corps Band. I was not inclined towards going to a military band but thought it would be a good job.”
So, Boguslaw began the rigorous interview and auditioning process to be part of “The President’s Own.”
The United States Marine Corps Band was founded by Congress in 1798, and is America’s oldest professional music organization. The band’s primary mission is to play for the President of the United States and Commandant of the Marine Corps. Every year, the band performs hundreds of concerts at events for the president.
In December 1990, Boguslaw auditioned for a coveted place in the band and got the spot. Since then, he has progressed to the highest rank that members of the United States Marine Corps Band may attain, Master Gunnery Sergeant.
He has had some once in a lifetime experiences as part of the band.
“Ninety to 95 percent of the jobs I play I don’t meet or talk to anyone,” he says. “I sometimes see the president coming and going. I was called the day before President Obama’s inauguration and told that I would be playing piano at a reception that followed one of the inaugural balls. The president came in, tapped me on the shoulder and I said ‘Welcome to the White House.’ Since I was playing jazz music, he said ‘I didn’t know the marine band plays this kind of music,’ and I replied ‘We play whatever the president likes.’”
At that same reception, Boguslaw was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing with the great jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Another interesting experience was playing alongside legendary opera singer Renee Fleming while President Bill Clinton listened on. He also recently had the opportunity to play at the Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards and shake John Glenn’s hand.
While not playing with “The President’s Own,” Boguslaw does freelance work in the Washington, D.C.-area.