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BHS graduate joining elite military band

A career in the U.S. Marine Corps Band sounds like music to theears of a Brookhaven High School graduate, one of only a handful ofyoung men nationwide selected for the prestigious posting.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Jamie Williams, 18, who hasbeen playing and making music since fifth grade.

Williams, the son of Howard Williams, plays the euphonium. Theinstrument is like a smaller version of a tuba.

Staff Sgt. Benji Landry, who recruited Williams for the Marines,said he knew of his ability by his reputation.

“It’s really, really hard to recruit for the band,” Landry said.”It’s the hardest position to recruit.”

In the selection process, Landry said a staff sergeant fromSouth Carolina first listened to Williams over the telephone. Avisit for an audition was then scheduled for several monthslater.

“It takes a lot of hard work and preparation to get ready forthe audition,” Landry said.

In the last three years, Landry said, 12 musicians from hisrecruitment area of Lincoln, Lawrence, Amite, Walthall and Pikecounties tried out for the Marine Band. Only Williams made it.

“It’s a phenomenal thing for him to make Marine Band,” Landrysaid. “For this area, also, it’s a great accomplishment.”

After completing boot camp like other new enlistees, Williamswill be assigned to one of nine, 50-member Marine bands around thecountry. It’s likely he will be stationed with the band atQuantico, Va.

“That’s what I want to do in life, to make music,” Williamssaid.

Landry said the Marine Band includes probably the best marchersin the corps. He said they have their own uniform, which includes ared coat and white pants.

Marine bands perform at parades, festivals and a variety ofother events.

“They go all over,” Landry said. “They represent the U.S. andthe Marine Corps everywhere.”

Williams said his goal is to eventually become part of thePresident’s Own, which plays at presidential functions.

There are no service limitations on that band, meaning somemembers stay and play into their 60s. That also means there are fewopenings.

“You’ve got to wait until that spot becomes open and hope you’regood enough,” Williams said.

As a band member, Landry said Williams will not be activated togo overseas. He will also start at an enlistment grade higher thatother servicemen.

Landry said Williams will receive an extra $50,000 to applytoward college. Regular servicemen receive $36,400 through theMontgomery G.I. Bill.

The Marine Band is the latest honor for Williams. He is one offour BHS band members selected for the Mississippi Lions All-StateBand.

Williams leaves June 17 to go to Ellisville to prepare and thenon to Hong Kong to compete against bands from other states andcountries during the Lions International Convention. Afterreturning, he will leave Aug. 15 for the 13-week boot camp atParris Island, S.C.

“I’ve had some really good teachers,” Williams said of hismusical talents.

He mentioned taking private lessons from Cecil Trantham andcredited BHS Band Director Zachary Harris for helping to furtherdevelop his abilities.

“They have really helped me,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t be asgood as I am without their help.”