Ocean City native Timothy Dugan once thought he’d find a job in music education after grad school.
On Wednesday, he played trombone at former President George H.W. Bush’s state funeral.
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Services were held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. And the President’s Own Marine Band, which Gunnery Sgt. Dugan has been a part of since 2003, played a pivotal role.
“It was a pretty startlingly neat event,” he said. “With all the former presidents being there and all the people involved, it’s clearly a very historic, neat opportunity, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.”
Dugan, 40, was appointed the group’s assistant principal in 2017. The band’s main duties, Dugan said, include providing music for official ceremonies at the White House and funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
He graduated from Ocean City High School in 1996 and from The College of New Jersey in Ewing, Mercer County, in 2000, with a degree in music education.
He later earned a master’s degree in music performance in 2003 from Indiana University in Bloomington.
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“I just started playing music, as most kids do, in public school. … I really liked it, but I never thought of it as a career option until much later,” he said. “My undergraduate degree is in music education. … Then I just got the bug to work hard and practice and try to get a job playing trombone.”
The President’s Own has performed for the funerals of former presidents dating to the death of sixth President John Quincy Adams in 1848.
The band, according to its website, was founded in 1798, making it the oldest continuously active musical organization in the United States. Members average 200 appearances at the White House a year, performing a plethora of styles, from solo pianist to country to brass quintet.
Marine Band members, because of Bush’s relationship with the Corps, saw Wednesday’s service as distinct among presidential funerals.
“We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve,” said Orchestra Director Col. Jason K. Fettig, “but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging.”
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Other New Jersey representatives reflected on Bush’s death. In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy noted Bush’s leadership and personal warmth.
“A true American leader both at war and in peace, President Bush was kind, heroic, thoughtful and of the highest professional and personal character,” Murphy said. “He lived a life in service to his fellow Americans and taught those he touched with his unwavering integrity. Having known him personally, Tammy and I were honored to claim him — as well as Barbara and other family members — as a friend.”
In a talk with Stockton University before the funeral, Ocean City resident William Hughes — former congressman for New Jersey’s 2nd District, former ambassador to Panama and namesake of the university’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy — reflected on what he remembers most of working in Washington concurrently with Bush.
“He was above all a lovely human being, which was evident throughout his many careers in public life,” Hughes said. “When he served in the House, he loved our gym, and it was not unusual for him during his presidency to show up and greet his former colleagues at least once a year.”