A 2004 Harris poll showed that two out of three Americans don't know the words to the national anthem. This prompted the National Association of Music Education to launch a multi-year campaign called the National Anthem Project.
Thursday's event kicked off the three-day grand finale of the project,which aims to re-teach Americans to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and focus on school music programs.
John Mahlmann,executive director of the music education association,said the project has touched millions of Americans.
“The underlying path is to call attention to issues with music programs,and that's what we've done,” he said. “We've been all over America,at radio stations,schools and local events.”
The project went on a 62-city tour in 2006 and was featured in the 2007 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena,Calif.
Project spokeswoman Julie Bruhn said the campaign improves music education.
“Research shows that kids who study music education also do well in their other core courses,” she said. “But when budget cuts come around,music education is often the first to go.”
“That was my favorite part,” Jacob Keneipp,11,said. Jacob and the rest of his fifth grade music class from Horace H. Epes Elementary School traveled from Newport News,Va.,to join the thousands of students at the Flag Day celebration
Epes music teacher Jane S. Jones was all smiles at the commemoration.
“We're just really glad to be here,” she said. “We left Virginia at 7:30 a.m. As soon as we got here,we had a little picnic in front of the Washington Monument.”
The festivities started with the “President's Own” United States Marine Band performing its annual Flag Day concert.
“I had never seen the U.S. Marine Band before,so that was great,” Arionna Miller,10, said. She is also a student at Epes. “I especially liked the trumpets. They were good.”
Country and gospel band Oak Ridge Boys and Mrs. America Marney Duckworth,backed by the Marine band,helped the crowd of more than 5,000 people sing the national anthem.
Mahlmann said he that's exactly the reaction he wants.
“A lot of times,especially with the singing of the national anthem,there are too many watchers and listeners,and not enough people actually participating,” he said. “Children are being denied music as part of their education,and they aren't learning the history behind their heritage.”
Mahlmann remembered the cold day in 2005 when his group kicked off the National Anthem Project on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. “It has been a most spectacular journey,” he said. “From the beginning of the campaign to the commencement here today,we have had nothing but exceptional support. It's been all positive.”