Semper Fieramente: Do The Marines Need a $79,000 Piano?

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The Steinway Model B grand piano

Which of these, technically speaking, is not a musical term: scherzo, staccato, sequestrationo?

It’s a fair question, given the news Wednesday that the U.S. Marine Band is buying a Steinway grand piano (Thursday afternoon, the Marines said it’s used, and that they’re getting it for the “reduced price” of $78,710 instead of the $90,600 cost of a new model).

When you think of military music, it’s a safe bet brass bands – with lots of drums – first come to ear. But the Pentagon’s musical units play a lot of venues where John Philip Sousa’s stirring marches would be out of place.

That’s why Sousa’s old outfit – he directed the Marine Band for 12 years – is buying a Steinway Model B grand piano. The Marine Band includes assorted ensembles featuring strings, woodwinds, pianos and other unMarine-like instruments, that play at official functions and public concerts.

“Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements to procure Steinway Model B 6’11” Ebony Satin piano in support of United States Marine Band, Washington, D.C.,” the Marines note. “The Government intends to award a sole source contract for the above listed supply to the firm of Piano Gallery, Inc., 1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, Va.”

Added the corps, when asked: `The President’s Own’ United States Marine Band has identified a requirement to purchase a new grand piano…The Steinway Model B that has been identified for purchase is a used instrument from a local vendor that was play-tested during the market research phase of the contracting process.”

“This magnificent 7-foot grand piano is often referred to as `the perfect piano,’” Steinway says of its Model B. “When it comes to balance, beauty, and power, this incredible piano has no equal.”

Given the financial sour notes facing the nation — and its military — you’d think the corps might generate some sweet music for taxpayers by opening up the bidding to all quality piano makers.