Music School

Charlotte Plummer Owen (1918-2004)



Charlotte Plummer was actively involved in teaching, performing and conducting for over 65 years.  She was a wonderful musician, excellent director, and a humble soul who was adored by thousands.

Charlotte graduated from Eugene High School in 1935 where she captured one of the top championship ratings as a clarinetist in the state solo contest.  In 1939 she graduated from the University of Oregon and immediately after she began teaching high school band in La Grande, Oregon then Commerce High School in Portland. 

In the fall of 1943, Charlotte enlisted in the Marine Corps women’s reserve after she had been told there was going to be a women’s band.  Charlotte’s clarinet teacher from the university wrote to the conductor of the Marine Band, William F. Santelmann, to recommend Charlotte for the band.  It was not long before Charlotte arrived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and was selected to be the conductor of this band.  During her time in the Marines she was the first woman ever to conduct the "Presidents Own" Marine Corps Band and remained the only woman to do so until 2003.


In 1945, near the end of the war, Charlotte married percussionist and fellow marine musician, Charles Owen. While living in the D.C. area, Charlotte was the principal clarinetist with the Arlington Symphony Orchestra. The couple moved to Philadelphia where Charlotte held the position as principal clarinetist with the Main Line Symphony.  Later the family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where Charlotte raised her family and taught private clarinet and saxophone lessons.

At age 67, Charlotte organized and conducted the Ann Arbor Civic Band--a 75-piece community ensemble--for 16 years until 2001. She recently was the recipient of the University of Oregon's School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award and this year she received the D.A.R. Woman of the Year Award.

Read an excerpt about Charlotte Plummer's experience in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve Band from a manuscript I have written about the women's band: "A History of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve Band: 1943-1945," Journal of Band Research, Volumne 42(1), Fall 2006, pp. 1-41.