Memorial Day: Honoring with Music
Today we remember the men and women in our military who made the ultimate sacrifice – giving their lives in service of our country. From parades and ceremonies to funerals and memorial services, music is woven into the fabric of this holiday and military musicians play a vital role.
During a 2013 visit to the 36th Infantry Division Band, Texas Army National Guard, in Austin, Texas, we met Sgt. First Class James Boski, a French horn player who also bugles. We contacted him recently to ask his perspective on the bugle call “Taps” – closely associated with military funerals – and Memorial Day.
YPP: What’s your first memory of performing “Taps”?
Boski: My first bugle performance was in middle school. I was honored to be selected, but nervous. Being from a military family, I knew “Taps” was very important. It was a warm day and I was positioned for everyone to see, unfortunately in the direct sunlight. I played great…then passed out from the heat! I didn’t get to march back with the rest of the band.
YPP: How do you prepare to play “Taps” at a funeral?
Boski: It’s a very serious and important bugle call. As a musician, your mindset is more important than your musical preparation. I’ve played bugle at over 100 funerals. Sometimes you can just focus on the rifle squad and doing your job. Other times the funeral can touch your heart and you have to play through the emotions. I remember struggling when nobody showed up to one homeless veteran’s funeral. That day I probably gave my best performance for him, the funeral director and the rifle squad because the emotion flowed through my horn.
At times, I thought it was too sad to perform at so many funerals; it seemed like I just made people cry worse when I played. But often a family member came up later to thank me. I learned that they need to cry, they need to grieve. I was the first step in the healing process.
YPP: What should people remember on Memorial Day?
Boski: Remember our history, the battles, and the soldiers who gave their lives. Remembering all of that makes the small problems we have even smaller, and our appreciation of what we have that much greater. It’s wonderful seeing crowds still gather for Memorial Day events. Most importantly I always want to see children there so I know history will not be forgotten.
YPP: What does patriotism mean to you?
Boski: Patriotism, of course, means loving my country. But more importantly, it means loving my fellow countrymen no matter their political, religious or differentiating viewpoints. That’s American patriotism.
Throughout Memorial Day weekend, the 36th Infantry Division Band supports several events, including an annual concert Sunday night and ceremony Monday morning. Smaller ensembles, including buglers and vocalists, are involved in other local events.
For more information, check out Army Bands online, or Army Music online at www.music.army.mil/performances/.