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Harpist Taylor Fleshman

Harpist Taylor Fleshman

Taylor Fleshman, a Kernersville local, recently
earned the only harpist position on The President’s
Own United States Marine Band.
“The President’s Own United States Marine Band’s
mission is to provide music for the president of the
United States and the Marine Corps,” Fleshman said.
“That is our sole mission in the organization. We also
provide music for public concerts, all of which are free
to the general public. We also do a lot of educational
outreaches in the public schools.”
This band is the oldest and most consecutive professional
music organization
to run since its
inception in 1798.
“We provide music
for the president and the Marine Corps and we also play for the ceremonies, which includes the presidential inauguration and full honors funerals at Arlington National Cemetery,” Fleshman explained. “We do evening parades at the barracks. So, we do a lot of different things, wear a lot of hats, but our sole mission is to provide music for the president and the Marine Corps.”
Fleshman began playing harp nearly 20 years ago when she was only seven years old. However, she first began her “musical adventures” when she was just five years old.
“I started on piano at around age five. Many people in the school system I was in had started taking a second instrument,” she said. “My parents thought that maybe I should also go down that path, but they weren’t sure what instrument because neither of my parents play any instruments.”
Fleshman lived in Kernersville from the time she was in second grade until high school. Before university, she studied harp with Julie Money. While attending North Carolina School of the Arts’ high school program, she studied with Jacquelyn Bartlett. During her undergraduate at University of Cincinnati, she studied under Dr. Gillian Benet Sella. Then, during her graduate degree, she studied with Florence Sitruk.
After school, she landed a job with Orchestra Now in New York, which is a job for pre-professional training to help prepare musicians to transition from collegiate life to their profession.
The story about how Fleshman began playing the harp came from a troubling tale of a young girl named Elizabeth Smart who was abducted when she was only 14 years old. After Smart was found and went on to pursue her career, she began playing the harp. Fleshman explained that while her parents were watching this documentary, they recalled how unusual it was to play harp and had never even seen one played in person.
“One day on the way home from church, my dad asked me if I would be interested in playing the harp and all I knew about the instrument at the time was that David played the harp in the Bible,” she said. “I just really enjoyed it and it came to me rather quickly. So, we just did that and here I am now.”
Two months before the audition, Fleshman was sent music to practice for the audition. Her audition was on March 13 of this year. She had to drive to Washington, DC with her instrument at her own expense, like most auditions.
It was a blind audition where the judges were not able to see who is playing. Both rounds were done in one day and she found out the results the same day.
“In addition to winning the audition, the person who wins must be capable of passing a medical and mental screening because the band is part of the Marine Corps,” Fleshman said. “I am an active-duty enlisted personnel and I am in the Marine Corps. So, everybody who’s in the band must be able to do more physical requirements.”
She continued, by sharing the story about her family’s reactions.
“I called him (Fleshman’s dad) and told him, and he was in tears. Him and my mom both were very excited and very proud and had their fingers crossed for me to be a part of this organization.”
She enlisted on June 8th of this year and took the oath to be a Marine.
“It was really important to me because I found it was a very unique way to serve my country. I’m very small. I’m about 4’11” and being on the combat side would never really work for me,” Fleshman said. “I’ve always really enjoyed the harp and I really wanted to pursue that interest. So, when this audition opened up, it was a unique chance for me to have both of them to be able to serve my country, doing something that I really love.”
Fleshman shared that when she realized she had won the audition, she could not believe it.
“I’ve taken many auditions. Some of them have good outcomes, some of them don’t. You never know because you have good and bad days, but I went into the process feeling very comfortable with the music,” Fleshman said. “Of course, I had high hopes, but when they called my number out, it was kind of surreal. I was number 12 and when everybody looked at me, I was like, ‘oh, that’s me.’ It was definitely a surreal moment, and it didn’t hit until much later. I called my parents and my friend. It took a while for it to settle in that I won the job.”
Prior to Fleshman taking the position as the only harpist for The President’s Own United States Marine Band, Harpist Master Gunnery Sergeant Karen Grimsey held the position for almost 30 years. According to Fleshman, she retired last week.
“She (Grimsey) had come to the School of the Arts many years ago when I was probably in middle school and she had talked to a group of us local harpists about her job, what it looks like, what it entails and neither me nor my family knew that any of these bands had a harpist and we thought, ‘that’s so cool,’” Fleshman said.
She recalled that after the school experience, she thought it would be an “awesome job” that does not come around often.
“When I heard that it opened, I knew I really wanted to give it my best and try to be a part of this organization,” Fleshman said.
The President’s Own Marine Band has about 160 members and is located at the Marine Barracks Annex in Washington, DC.
“My favorite part about this job that I’m looking forward to is the versatility and the diversity. As part of the mission of the band, I will be able to provide music for the president of the United States,” she said. “I will also get to play for the Commandant of the Marine Corps, so I’ll play for different state dinners and whenever they request it. I will also have opportunities to do educational outreach and bring my instrument as a representative of the Marine Band to those students. I will also get to perform public concerts with the Marine Band and the Marine Chamber Orchestra. It will have a nice variety and every minute will be exciting. It’s not like your regular 9 to 5 job where you’re doing the same thing every day. It’ll be new music, it’ll be new people, seeing new faces, being in new venues. That’s what will be most exciting.”
Fleshman relocated from Kernersville to Washington, DC in early July and is still considered to be new to the program. Once there, she entered a six-week training program to get acclimated to training, learning customs and courtesies.
“The Marine Band was established in 1798 by President John Adams. It is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization, which is really neat. So, there’s a lot of history behind it,” she shared. “We played at our first inauguration in 1801 for President Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson is credited with giving The President’s Own its title because he was a big musician himself and he was a big fan.”
To learn more about The President’s Own Marine Band or to find a schedule of public events, visit

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