Col. Michael J. Colburn Named Honorary Alumnus at SUNY Potsdam


Col. Michael J. Colburn, director of the U.S. Marine Band, was presented with Honorary Lifetime Membership in the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association at the College’s 2012 Reunion Weekend.

The SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association recently honored Col. Michael J. Colburn of Burke, Va., by granting the former Crane School of Music student Honorary Lifetime Membership.

Honorary Lifetime Membership is presented to non-alums who have made exceptional contributions to the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association and/or the College. Colburn was recognized for his honorable career in service as the 27th director of the U.S. Marine Band.

While Col. Colburn did not graduate from SUNY Potsdam, he did attend The Crane School of Music during his freshman and sophomore years of college. He also attended Crane Youth Music summer camp at the College while he was in high school. During his visit to campus for Reunion Weekend, Colburn conducted students in a CYM concert on stage.

As director of the U.S. Marine Band, known as “The President’s Own,” and the Marine Chamber Orchestra, Colburn serves as music advisor to the White House and music director of Washington’s Gridiron Club. As both artistic and executive director for the performing group, Colburn conducts the Marine Band regularly at the White House and at all Presidential Inaugurations.

Col. Colburn is the 27th director of the Marine Band, now in its third century. During his 24 years with “The President’s Own,” Col Colburn has served as principal euphonium, assistant director, and since July 2004, the director.

As director of “The President’s Own,” Col. Colburn is music adviser to the White House. He regularly conducts the Marine Band at the Executive Mansion and at all Presidential Inaugurations. He also serves as music director of Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Gridiron Club, a position held by every Marine Band director since John Philip Sousa. He also oversees the band’s concert season, summer season, concert tours and international clinics and conferences. Colburn is a member of the Alfalfa Club and the American Bandmasters Association.

After joining “The President’s Own” in May 1987 as a euphonium player, Col. Colburn regularly performed at the White House, in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, and throughout the country during the band’s annual concert tour. He quickly distinguished himself as a featured soloist, and in 1990 was appointed principal euphonium. In addition to his euphonium duties, Col. Colburn was active as a conductor for “The President’s Own” chamber music series. In 1996, he was appointed assistant director and commissioned as First Lieutenant. He accepted the position of senior assistant director and executive officer in 2001, and in 2002 was promoted to the rank of Major. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel one day before he assumed leadership of “The President’s Own” on July 17, 2004. He was promoted to Colonel on July 3, 2007 by President George W. Bush, in an Oval Office ceremony and awarded the Legion of Merit on July 11, 2008, the Marine Band’s 210th birthday, by Marine Corps Commandant General James T. Conway.

As director, Colburn has welcomed prominent guest conductors to the podium of “The President’s Own,” including Leonard Slatkin, José Serebrier, Gerard Schwarz and renowned film composer John Williams. Col. Colburn is deeply committed to seeking new works for the Marine Band, and has been directly involved in commissions from composers David Rakowski, David Chaitkin, Melinda Wagner, Jennifer Higdon, Michael Gandolfi and Laurence Bitensky. Col. Colburn has worked to expand the Marine Band’s educational outreach efforts by increasing master classes at schools throughout the nation during the band’s annual concert tour, and by initiating Music in the High Schools, a program that sends musicians from “The President’s Own” to perform in Washington, D.C., area districts.

Col. Colburn is a native of St. Albans, Vt., where he graduated from Bellows Free Academy in 1982. Following high school, he attended The Crane School of Music at The State University of New York in Potsdam for two years. He continued his education at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he studied euphonium with Daniel Perantoni and earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance in 1986. In 1991, Colburn earned a master’s degree in conducting from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he studied with Anthony Maiello, who taught at Crane from 1972 to 1987.

For more information about SUNY Potsdam’s dedication to alumni, visit

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.