PERRY TWP.: When the first band in this summer’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Grand Parade passes by, a Stark County native will be in the forefront.

The drum major leading the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band from Cherry Point, N.C., will be Staff Sgt. Monica Richards Preston, a 1999 Perry High School graduate.

Preston, a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Akron School of Music in 2004, is only the third female drum major in Marine Corps history.

The tall, dark-haired 13-year U.S. Marine veteran and sharpshooter will lead the 50-member band at the Aug. 4 parade.

Erin Adcock, the parade’s manager, said the parade traditionally leads off with a military band; the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band also led the event in 2009.

In a phone interview, Preston said she was overjoyed that her band was selected.

“I was ecstatic to hear our band would be supporting the HOF festivities this year. It’s been [a] dream of mine, and it’s even a bigger honor to come as the band’s drum major,” she said.

“There is no place like home,” added the talented clarinetist and saxophonist. “I’m very excited to be coming back to the Canton-Akron area. “It’s a great honor to be coming back for a visit and to perform.”

After boot camp and combat training, she was stationed with the Quantico Marine Corps Band, then with the Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band before joining her current aggregation. Preston was named drum major in January 2017 while taking her senior musician course.

“I lead the ceremonial band on the march with military ceremonies, civilian events like parades, and I am in charge of all the administration, logistics and transportation for the unit,” said Preston, whose group is about to get quite busy with a full summer schedule.

Among those she hopes to reunite with while in Canton are retired Perry music teachers Roger and Chris Hall, UA music professor Ann Usher and emeritus professor Kristina Belisle Jones.

“I am so honored to speak of Monica and to hear of her success as a professional musician,” Belisle Jones said. “She was a wonderful student and person, someone I fondly remember.”

Roger Hall, now executive director of the Ohio Music Education Association, said, “While I remember Monica as a very accomplished young clarinetist, I mostly remember her as a very dedicated and serious student, who had great determination to fulfill her dreams as a professional musician. It is terrific to learn of her success.”

“I had Monica as a student in several classes many, many years ago,” Usher said. “I remember her as an extremely hard-working and serious student. I have no doubt she’s been very successful in whatever she put her mind to.”

Chris Hall said he was impressed by Preston’s work ethic.

“I always admired Monica asking these two questions: What can I do to help you, and how can I become a better performer,” he said.

“I never had a chance to thank Monica for her contributions to the Perry band program but I will now. ‘Thank you, Monica, and thank you for your service to our country as a musician in the United States Marine Corps.’ ”

George W. Davis can be reached at: mediaman@sssnet.com