From Cornell to Camp Lejeune

An image of the full Cornell High School Band in 1939. Eleanor Jones Collection, UWEC McIntyre Library Special Collections and Archives.​


 Alongside the addition of women to the war effort, the military created bands for women to join in the fight. The Marine Corps established the Women’s Reserve Band so the original all-male band could be freed to fight in the Pacific front rather than the home front. The Marine Corps set out for recruitment with the goal of making the Women's Reserve Band the most outstanding women’s ensemble in the country.​

Officers from the Marines began looking throughout the country for talented female musicians to fill the group. They inquired with many teachers, competition judges, and prestigious music schools including Julliard, the Eastman School of Music, and New England Conservatory. After many recruitment letters were sent out to female musicians with promising musical achievements, auditions were held in locations all over the country to join the MCWRB.​



I wasn't even thinking that girls didn't play trombones.

 Eleanor Jones​ 


Eleanor Jones' District Music Festival Certificate 1937. Eleanor Jones Collection, UWEC McIntyre Library Special Collections and Archives.​

At Home in Cornell 

Although the Jones family filled their home with music for as long as she can remember, Eleanor Jones did not learn to play the trombone until she started high school. Playing any instrument, let alone the trombone, was “unladylike” for the time. But her family, director, and bandmates fully supported her decision. Eleanor Jones participated in Cornell High School’s Band program, learning the trombone, marching drills, and ensemble music pieces. Eleanor competed in district and regional competitions, scoring the highest marks possible for each one of her performances. ​

The judges were so impressed with her musical ability that when representatives for the Marine Corps inquired about the most skilled female musicians to audition for their new band, they recommended Eleanor. When she first got the letter from the Marines, Eleanor thought it must have been a mistake. The marines only recruited boys, her brother was too young to serve, and her dad was too old. Her sister Jan convinced her to fish the letter out of the trash, and it was an invitation for Eleanor to audition for the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve Band.

Heading to Camp Lejeune ​

Image of MCWRB in Training at Camp Lejeune, Eleanor Jones Collection, UWEC McIntyre Library Special Collections and Archives.​


Three male marine officers traveled around the country throughout August and September to listen to women audition to join the band, looking for the best talent in the area. Eleanor traveled to Milwaukee to audition and received her acceptance letter later that year. After a tearful goodbye from her family, she left for basic training in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.​

In her hometown paper, everyone from the town was kept up to date on what Eleanor was doing in basic training Camp Lejeune, and across the country. They would post the letters she wrote to her family and to the paper itself that explain her daily life at the camp, and what the other girls were doing. These local papers memorialized Eleanor's recruitment and kept the community updated about her adventures on the road.​

“Well, here I am at Camp Lejeune too tired to write. I didn’t get a berth at all, and part of the time I didn’t even have a seat, so it really was almost a nightmare.”

- Eleanor Jones