By Cpl. Demetrius Morgan | 1st Marine Division
Staff Sgt. Alexander Jason Panos, a trombone player with the 1st Marine Division Band, was recognized as the Marine Corps Musician of the Year Award for 2015, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Two Marine Corps musicians are recognized for superior skills and accomplishments annually. One of those Marines is a non-commissioned officer and the other a staff non-commissioned officer in a competitive field of world-class musicians. He will be awarded formally in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in December.
Although this is Panos’ first time winning the award, it’s not the first time he has attempted to achieve the accolade.
“I have submitted for it many times and have not got it,” Panos said. “This is my first time actually winning it and it feels really good. It’s an honor and a privilege.”
Panos’ journey as a musician started long before his decision to defend the nation. He graduated from Christian High School in El Cajon and San Diego State University, where he studied to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Music Performance. After earning his degree, he moved around playing for the San Diego symphony, local groups, brass quintets and various bands.
“I decided I wanted a career in music,” Panos said. “I met up with a Marine recruiter who was a musician and he opened that door for me, told me the good and the bad and it all worked out for me. I joined two years after college and I’m glad I did it.”
Musicians in the Marine Corps are not simply judged for their musical talents. Each individual is a Marine first, trained as a basic rifleman. Panos embraces both the role of being a talented musician within the band and upholding the standards of a Marine.
“I love it,” he stated. “I like being both a Marine and a musician, so I get to take the talents that I honed before joining and I get to use them, but first and foremost I’m a United States Marine and there are a lot of good things that come with that.”
Panos’ hard work and dedication to his craft paid off and his leadership acknowledged the amount of tenacity it took to be recognized in such a manner.
“Panos is a proven performer in all areas,” said Chief Warrant Officer Stephanie Wire, Director of the 1st Marine Division Band. “I always go back to leadership is the art of influencing others, and Panos embodies that on the musician side and the Marine side. He just sets a superb example here.”
Inspiring Marines is one of the key components of leadership and by winning the award, Panos hopefully inspired band members to work harder. Panos’ role as a senior leader in the band is to do just that, explained Wire.
“It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of our job,” Panos said. “We will get a young lance corporal from our [military band] school and you get to groom them and teach them how a Marine band plays music.”
After winning the award, both Panos and Wire see a bright future, leading to different opportunities within the Marine Corps and other aspirations available to a musician of his caliber. Panos has his sights set on someday leading a band as a warrant officer; an opportunity only afforded to the most well-rounded and talented Marine Corps musicians.
“In the band field, you can pursue different avenues once you hit staff sergeant,” Panos said. “I’m looking into putting in a package to become a band officer.”
Staff Sgt. Alexander Jason Panos, along with his peers and subordinates, are more than just musicians in a band. They are Marines who play a pivotal part in the storied relationship between music and the Marine Corps.