More than a dozen high school music students sat shoulder-to-shoulder Tuesday with members of the Parris Island Marine Band, nervously fiddling with their instruments as they waited for Chief Warrant Officer Joshua Stone to step to the conductor's stand.
But if the students were anxious about playing alongside members of the depot's band, they didn't show it once the music began in the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island rehearsal hall.
"Our first rehearsal, from the initial downbeat, was like, 'Wow, we're really not going to have to work hard here to pull this off,'" said Stone, band officer of the Parris Island Marine Band. "You have all these preconceived notions, but they can really bring it. The talent level from this year to last year has increased."
The students were selected from high schools across the Southeast by Corps officials to attend the depot's second Musician Leadership Symposium, which began Monday and concludes today with a performance at Forsyth Park in Savannah.
The four-day conference pairs the students with members of the Parris Island Marine Band, who teach the children their trade. Bands at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., have conducted similar symposiums in recent years.
About 20 students from high schools across the Corps' 6th Recruiting District applied to attend this year's symposium, according to depot officials. The district includes South Carolina and spans most of the Southeast, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Stone said the symposium wasn't aimed at boosting recruiting but was instead a chance to showcase the Corps' music program.
"If the students decide after this week that they want to join our program ... that's a thumbs-up but ultimately, it goes beyond that," Stone said. "We usually do well with recruiting musicians, but we let the product sell itself. We just want them to go home with a good taste in their mouth about the Marine Corps and the 12 Marine Corps' bands."