The children in the crowd,hailing from 15 different states from as far away as California,sang with their high school and middle school music groups. Many were to perform again in the afternoon at monuments around town.
A crowd of parents and tourists gathered around the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial,sang along and waved miniature American flags to honor Flag Day,which is Saturday.
Also performing was the Cactus Cuties,a Texas-based singing group made up of four middle school girls.
Beauty pageant winners from Nevada,Arkansas,Delaware,Virginia,the District of Columbia and Rockville, Md.,also attended the event,as well as staff members from the offices of Rep. Randy Neugebauer,R-Texas; Sen. Johnny Isakson,R-Ga.; Sen. Blanche Lincoln,D-Ark.; and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry,R-Ariz.
Aida Haile-Mariam,17,of Arlington,Texas,sang with her school's band,the Sam Houston High School Mariachi Tejana. She said the band was the only mariachi group to attend. The students,who raised money for the trip through several fundraising gigs last year,was to perform again at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument.
For 17-year-old Angela Ruvalcaba,another Sam Houston High School student,performing at the Flag Day celebration meant visiting Washington for the first time.
“It's really pretty,and the historical buildings are really amazing,” she said.
Friday morning's performance marked the beginning of a series of weekend music events scheduled to celebrate the national anthem and raise awareness about music education. The events are part of a national education initiative called the “National Anthem Project: Restoring America's Voice,” created by The National Association for Music Education.
The project began after a 2004 survey revealed that two out of three Americans did not know the words to the national anthem.
“Knowing our common musical heritage is one way to come together as a nation,” Mahlmann said.
“I think it's cool we all got to come together,” Aida said of the National Anthem Project.
“It's really helpful,” Angela added. “We're going to learn a lot from various cultures.”
Mahlmann stressed the many benefits of music for children,saying that it provides more than just fun – it can also teach children discipline.
Parents whose children's schools don't have adequate music programs should start asking why,Mahlmann said,and those with good programs should consider themselves lucky.
Mahlmann said the next big step for the National Anthem Project is a performance at the Lincoln Memorial next year to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. He sees it as an important event in continuing the National Anthem Project.
“The fight's not over,” he said.