K. Archer composes musical fanfare for Biden's presidential inauguration

Mendota born gets honor of a lifetime


MENDOTA – Dr. Kimberly K. Archer recently received the honor of a lifetime when she was selected by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band to compose a fanfare to be played during the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony of President Joseph R. Biden.

Archer, who was born in Mendota in 1973, is currently a Professor of Music Composition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She was tasked with creating a three-minute fanfare, which she titled “Fanfare Politeia.”

“Politeia is the Greek word for republic – it’s the word Plato used when he wrote his treatise on justice and democracy, which we think of as ‘The Republic,’” she explained. “I wrote in the program notes that I intended ‘Fanfare Politeia’ to celebrate our traditions of a free and fair election and of a peaceful transfer of power.”

Archer’s mom, Mary Cole, daughter of Ed and Dorothy Cole, grew up in Mendota and her dad, Kerry Archer, son of Richard and Rita Archer, grew up in Compton. “My dad sang and played the piano for the Mendota High School choir, and my mom played flute in the band,” she said. “My dad still plays for his church, now in North Carolina.”

Dr. Archer holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Florida State University, a Master of Music in Composition from Syracuse University, and Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition from the University of Texas at Austin. She currently teaches composition, music theory, analysis, counterpoint, and 20th century music at SIU Edwardsville. Her past appointments include Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Western Carolina University in North Carolina, and Southeast High School in Florida.

Archer first learned that she would be asked to compose a piece for the inauguration on Jan. 2 when she got a call from Maj. Ryan Nowlin, assistant conductor of the Marine Band. She and Nowlin first met at Bowling Green, when he was a graduate student and she was a first-year professor and they remained friends over the years.

“Ryan called me informally to give me a head’s up that the request to compose a fanfare would be coming from his boss, Col. Jason Fettig, the conductor of the Marine Band,” she recalled. “Col. Fettig called later that night to extend the formal offer. They said I could have until Jan. 12 to deliver everything – the completed score and all the parts for the individual performers. Normally, I would say work like that would take me 6-8 weeks, so wow, 10 days. No pressure!”

In offering this opportunity to Archer, Col. Fettig explained the band’s role in the inauguration, as well as his goals in commissioning living American composers, so she had a general idea how the fanfare would be used.

“Most of my work is writing for bands of the same size and instrumentation as The President’s Own, although it’s widely accepted that the Marine Band is the best band in the world. Again, no pressure!” she said. “I’ve been working as a composer for about 30 years now, so I’ve done a few fanfares in that time. Most of my work lately is in the 20-25-minute range, so a three-minute fanfare felt manageable once I got into the flow of doing the work.”

Although Archer was actually able to deliver everything in only eight days, she said it took intense work and not much sleep. Now, she joins the ranks of iconic composers such as Leonard Bernstein and John Williams, who also previously penned works for the executive branch.

“It was stunning to hear ‘Fanfare Politeia’ performed,” Archer said. “I knew what the gravitas of the occasion was when I first started writing, of course, but there’s something very different about being present in the moment.”

As she watched the inauguration ceremony on TV, Archer noticed that her piece began playing just as President Biden’s motorcade was pulling into the Capitol grounds.

“It was coincidental but I was glad they happened to play my music just then,” she said. “Col. Fettig talks about the Marine Band’s playing for the inauguration as ‘providing the soundtrack to history,’ and it felt like that to me, hearing my music as the soundtrack to the arrival of the next President. Also, I have to admit, my first thought when I heard the announcer read my name at the Capitol grounds was, ‘Wow. My dad just heard that.’ And then, of course, there’s the thrill of hearing my music played perfectly by such an amazing band!

“This is an incredible honor,” Archer added. “If you had told my 20-year-old self that someday the Marine Band would play my music, much less for a presidential inauguration, I would never have believed it.”