Alumnus Reaches Pinnacle of Military Music

Andrew Esch marches into leadership role with premier U.S. Army band.

COL Andrew Esch conducts The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" in a special performance on February 12, 2017, celebrating the organization's 95th anniversary. Photo by Staff Sgt. Victoria Chamberlin.
The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" performed at the 2017 President's Cup High School Band Invitational on March 31 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia. Photo by Master Sgt. Henry Smith.
Also from the February 12, 2017 performance, COL Andrew Esch conducts The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own." Photo by Staff Sgt. Victoria Chamberlin.

Andrew Esch marched in the footsteps of his parents when he attended Michigan State University in the 1980s.

His father, Victor Edwards Esch, went to MSU in the 1950s, majoring in business while a member of Army ROTC and the MSU Spartan Marching Band. His mother, then Joyce Clark, graduated in the same year and majored in music education.

Thirty years later, Esch set out on a path influenced by both parents. He majored in music education—just like his mother—and joined ROTC and SMB—just like his father. It was a choice, he says, that set the course for a lifetime career in the U.S. Army, including his most recent appointment as the 11th Leader and Commander of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, D.C.

“Being an MSU Spartan and doing ROTC was kind-of the family business,” says Colonel Esch. “My sister Michele also went to MSU and was the first female Commander of Army ROTC’s Spartan Battalion.”

Graduating in 1986, Esch went on to earn his Master of Arts in conducting from George Mason University. He began his career with the U.S. Army as a quartermaster officer, then as a staff officer during Operation Desert Storm. Esch left the Army after Desert Storm to join the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C., as a French horn player. After three years, he returned to the Army as a commissioned band officer.

Since the mid-1990s, Esch has served the Army in a broad spectrum of assignments as a band commander and officer, the most recent as the 24th Commander of the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, N.Y. He was named to lead the D.C. “Pershing’s Own” in early 2017.

“This is an unbelievable honor and privilege,” says Esch of being appointed to lead the premier band. “This is the pinnacle of what we do in the field of military music. It’s also very humbling because there is so much legacy and tradition that goes along with this job.”

Founded in 1922, “Pershing’s Own” has served as the premier musical organization of the Army, and provides musical support for U.S. leadership and all branches of government. The band plays an important role in events of national and international significance, staging performances from the battlefields of World War II to the nation’s capital.

John Madden, MSU Director of the SMB, attended MSU at the same time as Esch, and remembers playing alongside him in the MSU Wind Symphony and Symphony Band. The two also marched together in the SMB under the direction of David Catron. Madden says he and Esch were members of the band fraternal service organization Kappa Kappa Psi and have remained in touch over the years.

“I remember Andy as a total professional in terms of his preparation, dedication and commitment to the task at hand,” says Madden. “He has clearly earned his stripes during his Army Music Career. Andy is destined for the ultimate in continued success as he is a consummate and deep musician, amazing leader, thoughtful conductor, and one of the finest people I ever met.”

Esch expressed a similar sentiment about Madden and other MSU classmates.

“So many of my classmates from MSU are doing great and glorious things and I’m just trying to keep up,” says Esch. “Those are the kind of people I was surrounded by at MSU. That spirit of excellence and achievement was evident in everyone and everywhere. It was part of the environment that made MSU.”

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