West Brook, Lamar grad a witness to history

West Brook, Lamar grad a witness to history

Not everyone gets to experience a timeless moment of American history in person.

But Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Scott Gearhart of Beaumont does on a regular basis.

The 1987 graduate of West Brook High School is a lead trumpeter in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band, and Gearhart will be playing his fifth inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013.

This marks the 54th consecutive inaugural appearance of the historical band, going back to its first year in 1801.

Gearhart, who joined the band in June 1996, earned his bachelors in music from Lamar University in 1994 under Professor Raul Ornelas. With a music career now spanning several decades, Gearhart said he couldn’t be more proud to represent Southeast Texas at the president’s inauguration.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

After many years in the band, Gearhart said working with his fellow colleagues is second nature.

“I’ve been working with them for 16 and a half years and know them very well,” he said. “I know them personally. I know how they play. When I sit down next to them, I know exactly what to expect. Everything is locked in. Everything is where it should be.”

With his high-profile career comes high-profile events Gearhart said he  never thought he would attend.

Gearhart has played taps at Congressman Jack Murtha’s funeral and for numerous social and historical events.

One night at a dinner party with former President Bill Clinton and the president of China, Gearhart said  Clinton — an avid sax player — specifically asked to add a horn in an otherwise trumpet-less string song.

As lead trumpeter, Gearhart was given the task.

“As I stood to play this melody, they were both looking directly at me. Everyone’s attention was there. They both had these grins on their faces,” he said. “I couldn’t help but think as I’m trying to play everything right ... if I’m not doing something positive for this nation, I don’t know who is. It was such a grand moment, and you felt really immersed in the history.”

Other events included the memorial service at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“A month after 9/11, there was a Pentagon memorial and I was told, ‘You’re playing taps for that,’” he said. “When they first told me I thought it was gonna be like people at the Pentagon, maybe 400 or 500 people, and turned out to be 15,000. ... I played taps for that a month after the terrorist attack. I’ll always remember that.”

Gearhart said he’s unlike some of his colleagues in that his broad range of styles he learned in Southeast Texas are uncommon in professional music circles.

“Instead of doing what a lot of people in the Marine band do ... go to these music conservatories. I went from West Brook to Lamar University. And instead of being an orchestral trumpet player, I did everything I could — band, orchestra, marching band, jazz band, brass quintets,” he said. “And I get to the Marine band and that’s what I need to do. I need to be able to play big band, then I need to turn around and play symphonic band, then I need to be able to do brass cornets. I need to be able to march. So the education I received in Beaumont as a musician completely prepared me for my job in the President’s Own United States Marine Corps Band. Very, very well prepared because of that.”