The USPHS Commissioned Corps Music Ensemble is an all-volunteer group consisting of a Ceremonial Band and a Choral Group. The Music Ensemble, known as the “Surgeon General’s Own”, performs at about 25 events each year, including promotions, retirements, and award ceremonies, along with featured concerts. Most notably, the Ensemble has performed at every USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium since 2000. The musicians and vocalists of the Ensemble are active duty and retired USPHS Officers. Ensemble membership is voluntary - members rehearse and perform on their own time outside of their assigned duties.
In 2011, the combined Choral Group and Ceremonial Band performed for the first time at a National Monument when over 100 performers supported by nearly 40 volunteers held a one-hour concert at the National WWII Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. The Ensemble has been invited back to the Memorial every year, and has performed a free concert there for five summers.
In spring, 2015, for the first time in its history, the USPHS Music Ensemble performed for the Vice President of United States of America, during the swearing in of VADM Vivek Murthy as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States. With Vice President Joseph Biden in attendance, it was a pivotal and proud moment for the all-volunteer musical group.
Operating funds help support the Music Ensemble by providing resources for the purchase of new music, the rental of musical equipment, and the rental of sound equipment.
Operating funds for the Music Ensemble have been received regularly from the Commissioned Officers Association and the Commissioned Officers’ Foundation as well as the DC Commissioned Officers Association. The ensemble has also received support from several chapters of the Commissioned Officers’ Association across the USA, and through donations from many active and retired officers and friends of the Music Ensemble. In 2014, 2015, and again in 2016, the Music Ensemble has published the PHS Calendar, a 12 month wall calendar showcasing the mission and pride of the USPHS through photography.
The current group leads can be found on the leadership page.
History of the Ensemble
The origin of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps Music Ensemble can be traced to the 23 September 1999 meeting of the Scientist Professional Advisory Committee (SciPAC). At that meeting, the idea of creating a Commissioned Corps musical group was proposed by CAPT John J. Bartko, retired SciPAC representative, and universally supported by the SciPAC membership. CAPT Bartko and CAPT Derek E. Dunn, the Chief Scientist Officer at the time, recognized that unlike our sister services, the PHS Commissioned Corps was a uniformed service without musical groups. Therefore, CAPTs Bartko (Ret) and Dunn undertook a pilot survey of officers in the Scientist Category to assess the degree of interest in forming a Commissioned Corps musical group. The survey results were encouraging, revealing that a number of Scientist officers were interested in joining a musical group.
Given this encouraging information, CAPT Dunn proposed to the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) and other Chief Professional Officers (CPOs) that a PHS musical group be established. The OSG and CPOs embraced the idea of a Commissioned Corps musical group and authorized a survey of all active duty officers to determine the Corps-wide level of interest. With the cooperation of the OSG, Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel, and Mike Lord, Executive Director of the Commissioned Officers Association (COA), the Commissioned Corps Bulletin and the COA Frontline were utilized to conduct a survey of active duty officers in the Spring of 2000. About 25 officers from the Washington, DC area and approximately 50 from the field indicated interest in participating in the formation of the musical group.
The respondents were invited to participate in a meeting to discuss establishment of a Commissioned Corps musical group. The meeting was held 27 July 2000 in the Surgeon General’s conference room of the Parklawn Building in Rockville, Maryland. Twelve officers were in attendance and eleven participated by telephone. At this organizational meeting, a welcome and charge by Deputy Surgeon General RADM Kenneth P. Moritsugu was read (RADM Moritsugu is an accomplished organist). During the meeting, there was discussion of establishing a choral group, a wind group, and a chamber group. The current group consists of a Choral Ensemble and a Ceremonial Band.