Participation by Culver Academies musicians and vocalists in the Military School Band & Choir Festival has been an annual event for several years, but the 2014 trip was special on several fronts.
The Academies were represented by 12 members of the Concert Band (half of them girls) and a dozen choir members (four of them cadets). The festival was at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, Va., Feb. 20-23. But the final concert of combined musicians and choir was performed Sunday in Alexandria, Va., at the annual conference of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
After several days of 10-12 hour rehearsals, Kathryn Burke ’15 (Plymouth, Ind.) earned the first chair flute (and piccolo solo in “Stars & Stripes”) and Sam Baldwin ’15 (Plymouth, Ind.) earned principal timpanist. Katie Giacobbe ’15 (Ormond Beach, Fla.) sang the long alto solo in the choral piece “A Soldier and the One I Love.” Culver Band Director Maj. Bill Browne administered the placement auditions.
Assistant Band Director Chad Gard conducted a percussion clinic that the festival chairman called a “truly outstanding and educational experience for our young people.” With 17 schools using very different drumming styles and a range of instruments, Gard wrote a manual, “Getting a Traditional Grip,” to bring them together. The performance was a “Drum Static” and a cadence for the drum majors as they marched.
As with many off-campus trips for Culver students, there are often educational and/or cultural side trips, if time allows. After the Sunday concert, this group went into D.C. for a whirlwind tour to view the Capitol, White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam, Korean War, and Martin Luther King Jr. monuments. On the way home, the group overnighted in Pennsylvania and visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. “These visits helped cement the values of gratitude and service to others exemplified by many of the selections we performed,” Browne said.
That gratitude was exemplified by sophomore Hannah Boland (Culver), who was observed standing before a panel of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial for several minutes.
Boland explained that she was struck by “the simplicity and power of the names on the wall. It is quite humbling, and (the names) go on and on.” She stopped at Panel 48 and read through the names, which took about 10 minutes. Then she got to the name Goodnight, and the symbolism of the word.
“I started to cry. It was very sad,” Hannah said. “The soldiers died so young because of their selfless sacrifice. They never got the chance to live their lives. I thought how, though their names were on the wall, they can be seen as one instead of as individuals. I wanted to read their names to specifically give them my time and say ‘I remember you.’ Even if only for a few seconds, they were my focus and had my undivided attention.”
For Gard – after an exhausting, exhilarating, and enlightening weekend of social activity and outstanding musicianship – observing Boland at The Wall became one of those moments that makes teaching at Culver so worthwhile.