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Music as Memorial: Washington, D.C

December 7, 2016

Whether it`s hearing a song associated with a first love, or a place that represents home, we all know that music can be profoundly linked to personal memories. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory, and in this way, music can act as a very unique dedication to both intimate and historical moments in time. Music is a major facet of Memorial Day weekend – a three day US public holiday meant to unify the celebration of deceased veterans as a national day of remembrance. There are literally thousands of Memorial Day parades all across the country in cities small and large. In Washington D.C, you will see marching bands, National Guardsmen, Armed Forces members, and military vehicles line the National Mall area accompanied by music of all sorts.


On Memorial Day weekend 2016, three Evolve Tours were lucky enough to host a band trip to the Nation`s capital and witness just how music moves people in its capacity as a living commemoration. The competition winning Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Chorus groups put on an exceptional show of mainly patriotic pieces at the Navy Memorial Plaza. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 7th and 9th Streets, the Navy Memorial Plaza, an adjunct space belonging to the Navy Heritage Center, sits across from the National Archives, and very appropriately, just along the immediate outskirts of the National Mall. In keeping with the Navy Heritage Centre`s mission to openly commemorate all who have gone to service at sea and bring their stories into the public sphere, the Memorial Plaza is a democratic space full of free, annual programming, including concerts, lectures and ceremonies. The United States Navy Memorial Plaza features Stanley Bleifeld’s famous statue, The Lone Sailor – a tribute to all personnel of the sea services. This honorific statue overlooks the Granite Sea upon which it sits, an exact replication of the world’s oceans. Surrounding the Granite Sea are two fountain pools, with one devoted to the American Navy, and the second symbolizing the Navies of the world. The southern portion of the Granite Sea is surrounded by 26 bronze bas-relief engravings, all of which aim to celebrate various events, individuals, and communities of the sea services.


It was on these very special grounds that the high school performed with vigor, drawing in a crowd and capturing the attention of visitors from all over the world, who through this moment of witness and paying tribute through music were able to pause and think about exactly what Memorial Day means to them. The personal way that people can forge connections through music, was itself amplified by the meaning of this distinctive performance venue.


Music surrounded the trip. In front of the famed Lincoln Memorial, the chorus gathered together and sang an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America,” which was thoroughly appreciated by the substantial number of visiting veterans who were in D.C. specifically for Memorial weekend. On the last day of our Memorial Day themed music trip, we ended our time with a visit to the Arlington Cemetery (on JFK`s birthday no less) where we were met with the rhythm and sounds of steps and turns as we stood and watched the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


Finally, as the kids, teachers, chaperones, and guides headed back to the buses to begin their journey home, we were all privy to the roars of Rolling Thunder, an advocacy group that seeks to create awareness surrounding the reality of prisoners of war as well as missing in action service members from all U.S. wars. We managed to catch a glimpse of the main annual event of Rolling Thunder, which is called the Ride to the Wall, and consists of thousands of motorcycles who make a pre-set passage beginning at the Pentagon, behind Arlington Cemetery, crossing the Memorial Bridge, and ending at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was the perfect send off to a very emotional and expressive four days, wherein which the soundrack of the trip acted as a symbolic measure, not only for us, but for all those visiting Washington    D.C. from across the globe during the very meaningful and music-filled Memorial Day weekend.

Written by Stella Melchior

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