Story by Sgt Taylor Morton on 10/11/2016
This vital moment occurred to Staff Sgt. Mark Pellon, the Music Technical Assistant, 12th Marine Corps District, when he was in middle school. His first exposure to music was early on in his childhood from his biological father, Roberto Lugo, who is a successful and well-known vocalist in Puerto Rico. Pellon said his father planted the musical seed into his life.
While growing up in Miami, Pellon wasn't a fan of school; he looked for classes with a chance at an easy grade. He fatefully chose band class in hopes of bolstering his report card. When his time came to declare his choice in instrument, his inspiration came from a cartoon.
"I realized I had just watched The Simpson's the night before and I saw Lisa playing the saxophone in the intro and I thought, That sounds cool,'" Pellon said. "My teacher said, Great, because we need one.'" He knew from the first practice that the saxophone would be something in which he would be greatly invested.
His step-father, Robert Buigubs, bought the young musician a CD and a book from Dave Koz, a smooth jazz saxophone instrumentalist, and it became Pellon's first big influence. Buigubs was the primary father figure for Pellon and played a major supportive role in his life.
"My step-father was always at my concerts and he was so proud of his son," said Pellon. "He would even brag about me to his friends even when I was just starting to play."
Pellon went on to become so talented at his craft he was designated the "First-Chair," or lead saxophonist for his high school band.
He knew after high school graduation that his next step should be to attend college. Although he had music and sports scholarships, he wasn't certain that he wanted to devote four or more years and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to something such as music school, and commit to a craft he may not be able to pursue his entire life.
Just a few months before his graduation, the saxophone section of the Marine band for Albany, Georgia, came to his high school to perform a concert for the students.
"The moment they walked into the room in uniform holding saxophones everyone immediately looked at me like I wasn't a bad-ass anymore," said Pellon. "I wanted to find out more about it, and I wanted to know what options I had."
Pellon took a few days to mull over his options for his future, and he decided to reach out to his local recruiter and express interest in the Marine Corps Band. He went into the recruiting sub-station looking for a job and left with a hunger for a new lifestyle.
"I told the recruiter I was interested in the Marine Band and he replied with That's great, I'm glad you're interested, but we need to talk about why you want to be a Marine first,'" said Pellon.
One week later Pellon decided to audition for the Marine Music Program and was immediately accepted. He then began his journey to not only becoming an actively performing musician, but also to becoming a United States Marine.
Pellon feels like there is much more to what he does than just playing music. He said there's a service to his country he holds dearly, and a passion to spread patriotism to others.
The Marine Music Program has offered Pellon many opportunities to tour and perform in front of crowds as large as 100,000 people in places all over the world such as Hawaii, Manila, Philippines, and Sydney, Australia, to name a few.
"Playing in so many venues has been the most significant aspect of my career," said Pellon.
He will be traveling to Puerto Rico to perform at the Marine Forces Reserve Centennial Celebration this October. This could be the first chance for his biological father to watch his son perform since Pellon was 15 years old.
The Marine Corps has offered Pellon a secure paycheck, a guarantee of consistent performances, health benefits, money for college, along with all the instruments and equipment he needs for performances.
The devoted father of two has worked diligently throughout his career, and his hard work has paid off. He has been selected to become a warrant officer and upon commissioning he will be given the responsibility of taking over and leading one of the 10 Marine Corps Bands stationed throughout the world.
The Marine Corps Music Program can offer a young man or woman with exceptional musical talent not only the opportunity to play music full-time for full-time pay in places around the world, but also a chance to earn the title of United States Marine.
Pellon wants future musicians of this country to understand what a great opportunity military music can provide them. He gives three main points of advice to anyone interested in auditioning to become a musician for the Marine Corps.
"Musicians shouldn't ignore the opportunity due to fear or lack of knowledge. Also, they shouldn't ignore it because of lofty dreams that aren't based on truth. Only about 1% of career musicians make it into a top-performing ensemble and that is a fact," said Pellon. "Lastly, have a positive attitude and continue to work hard at what you do."
If you are an instrumentalist who is interested in becoming a United States Marine and a full-time musician, contact your local recruiter or music technical assistant, or go to http://www.marines.com/videos/-/video-library/detail/VIDEO_MEOP for more information for qualifications and auditions.