George Mason University
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George Mason University

Mason Alumnus Helps Salute the U.S. Army in Spirit of America Production

September 8, 2015

Mark Metrinko, a drum major of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and Mason alumnus, salutes during the U.S. Army’s Spirit of America show at George Mason University. Metrinko is one of only two U.S. military members authorized to give a left-handed salute. Photo by Heather Tribble

Mark Metrinko, a drum major of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and Mason alumnus, salutes during the U.S. Army’s Spirit of America show at George Mason University. Metrinko is one of only two U.S. military members authorized to give a left-handed salute. Photo by Heather Tribble

By Damian Cristodero

Watch closely when Mark Metrinko salutes during the U.S. Army’s Spirit of America show at George Mason University.

He will use his left hand. In fact, as drum major of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, Metrinko is one of only two U.S. military members authorized to give a left-handed salute. That is because when he performs, his right hand carries an espontoon, a 7-foot staff with a metal point on top.

“They would hold it up in the Revolutionary War so soldiers could find their commander,” said Metrinko, a sergeant who in 2005 graduated from George Mason with a music education degree. “If [an enemy] got too close, they used it as a weapon.”

The Spirit of America, Sept. 18-19 at EagleBank Arena, uses 300 active-duty soldiers to tell the story of the U.S. Army. There is music from the Fife and Drum Corps and the U.S. Army Band and live-action dramatizations, including four horses.

It’s free, and with plenty of George Mason connections.

In the Fife and Drum Corps, Sgt. Melissa Dyer, a junior history major, plays fife, as does Sgt. Heather Tribble, who in 2012 graduated with a master’s degree in music. Sgt. Russell Smith, who in 2013 graduated with a music education master’s, has been with the Corps since 1994.

In the U.S. Army Band, Sgt. Janice Kim, a 2007 music performance graduate, plays oboe. Marcus Truelove, a 2008 music production graduate, is the senior stage manager and a 22-year veteran of Spirit of America.

Portrait of bugler Mark Metrinko of the 3rd Infantry Division Drum and Fife Corps stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia. Department of Defense photo by Marvin Lynchard

Portrait of bugler Mark Metrinko of the 3rd Infantry Division Drum and Fife Corps stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia. Department of Defense photo by Marvin Lynchard

But it is Metrinko, 33, who holds the spotlight—not because of the espontoon he uses to give silent commands to the 26 members of the Fife and Drum Corps, but because the drum major is the corps’ heartbeat.

“I’m in charge of making sure the corps is prepared to execute the performance,” Metrinko said. “I am responsible for the product the public will see, though it’s more in terms of logistic and preparations.”

That includes setting practice schedules, ensuring performers learn the show and leading rehearsals. It’s a demanding job, but one Metrinko, who also studied trumpet at Mason, is built for, said Anthony Maiello, Matrinko’s conducting professor.

“Most people when they stand on that [conducting] box, they become intimidated,” Maiello said. “He got right up there and took command of the podium.”

Most important is balancing leadership with camaraderie.

“When I am leading rehearsals or performances, I try to create an atmosphere where we know when it’s time to put our game face on and perform, and when it’s time to relax a little bit,” Metrinko said.

“He’s got great leadership skills,” Dyer said. “I’d follow him anywhere.”

For Metrinko, Spirit of America, one of the Army’s premier outreach events, is part of a resume rich with high-profile moments. He has performed at the White House several times and was a bugler for the 2007 visit of England’s Queen Elizabeth II.

And don’t forget that left-handed salute. Only a boatswain’s mate, whose instrument is in his right hand when he pipes a senior officer aboard a ship, is similarly permitted.

As for performing at Mason, it will be a thrill, Metrinko said.

“I hope the students come out and see it.”

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