Throughout her career, Carol O’Brien has always been exceptional. Taking up the baritone with the Methuen White Eagles in 1969 and moving on to the legendary Joanettes from ’73 through ’75, she established herself as a standout performer on the field, so much so that one of the most prestigious drum corps in existence offered her a position.
In the Bicentennial Year of 1976, Carol donned the uniform of the United States Marines. In her own words, “I was the first female in the entire United States Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps (there were 7 unit at the time. I was stationed at Albany, Ga till July 1979. I was the first woman and the first Drum Corps person to go to the School of Music in Little Creek VA to go thru the Intermediate Course.(’79). Then I was stationed at the ‘Commandant’s Own’ USMC Drum and Bugle Corps, stationed in Washington DC.” In doing so as the first female member of that unit, she broke the “Brass Ceiling” for the many women Marines who would follow.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this. She changed the Marine Corps gender landscape and mind-set forever. Only an exceptional person does that.
But Carol O’Brien wasn’t through. After her 6-year enlistment, she joined the perennial DCA Champion Reading Buccaneers, anchoring their low brass section from ’81 through ’84. In 1989, the Fitchburg Kingsmen needed a drum major. Carol volunteered and thus began a new chapter in her drum corps career, subsequently becoming conductor and field commander for, in succession, the Hurricanes (’94-’96), Syracuse Brigadiers (’03-’05), Rochester Crusaders (’06-’09), and Fusion Core (’10-’14).
Carol has also been inducted into the Buglers Hall of Fame and the Massachusetts Drum Corps and Music Educator’s Hall of Fame. Exceptional, indeed.