The band has played for almost every president, including performances in 20 presidential inauguration parades, as well as at funerals for prominent generals.

It played at the dedication of the Erie Canal. It played on a runway tarmac to welcome the American hostages back from Iran in 1981. It has performed alongside the New York Philharmonic and has been conducted by musical maestros, including Arturo Toscanini and Leopold Stokowski.

During Thursday’s performance, band staff members wearing camouflage fatigues and tan combat boots tended to audio and technical needs.

“As we move into our third century,” a band announcer intoned in his introduction, as Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Uhl readied his trumpet.

Among his other duties, Sergeant Uhl, 45, plays taps at military burials — a vital role, especially because there is a growing shortage of buglers.

“Playing taps is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done as a military musician,” said Sergeant Uhl, who played it at Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s burial and at the burial of his grandfather, a Navy man.

Taps is hardly a technically demanding piece, he said, but it requires a lot of focus. Distractions include inclement weather, the emotional strains of the ceremony and the pressure of performing cleanly and seamlessly.


Left, a drummer with the West Point marching band. Right, a band member’s hat backstage.

Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

A classically trained trumpeter who also likes jazz trumpeters such as Chet Baker and Lee Morgan, Sergeant Uhl said he joined the Army as a bugler and served in basic training in a battalion called Company B.

“So I was literally the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B,” he said, referring to the popular World War II song.

The band kicked off its performance with the “Official West Point March” and finished with “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” The band’s commander, Lt. Col. Tod Addison conducted for part of the concert.

The musicians were briefed on their coming performances: Saturday at the Belmont Stakes as well as a Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Manhattan. Then, Sgt. Maj. Chris Jones, a clarinetist, gave the final command to the musicians.

“Fall out!”

Continue reading the main story