To the beat of his own drum

Question: What do you get from the unconventional trio of a military drummer, a Broadway sensation and the president of the United States? Answer: A viral freestyle rap video from the White House’s famed Rose Garden.


Master Gunnery Sgt. Chris Rose ’91 performs at the White House.

“Drop the beat,” said President Barack Obama as he presented the first of a series of politically relevant words written on cue cards to Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the recent hit musical “Hamilton.” Master Gunnery Sgt. Chris Rose ’91, an accomplished percussionist and graduate of Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, sat behind his drum set under the executive mansion’s portico. With drumsticks in hand, Rose was more than happy to oblige.

As Rose, combo section commander of “The President’ Own” United States Marine Band, laid down the rhythm, Miranda took to the mic: “He’s throwing up some words, I’m getting to say some freestyling that you never heard …”

And on it went. The rapper riffed on everything from the Federalist Papers to the first family’s beloved dogs to immigration, all while Rose accompanied with a steady beat. The resulting video has garnered more than 13 million views.

Rose, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Shepherd School, joined the Marine band in 1997. He has performed with the Houston Symphony and the New York City Opera and is the principal percussionist with the Harrisburg Symphony. As a founding member the Continuum Percussion Quartet, he was nominated for a Grammy for the group’s debut album in 1990.

The video is available on the White House Facebook page at

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.