Saluting Presidential Song and Our Military

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Hail to the ChiefToday our nation elects its 45th president. Later this week we mark Veterans Day, honoring the sacrifice of our veterans, living and dead. In saluting both events, we uncovered an interesting date connection between the two.

Favorite Song. Our next president will be frequently announced by “Hail to the Chief”, the official musical tribute to the U.S. President. The song traces its roots to an 1810 poem by Sir Walter Scott, titled “The Lady of the Lake,” which later became a theatrical production with musical accompaniment.

According to the Library of Congress, “Hail to the Chief” was first performed in association with our nation’s chief executive in 1815, posthumously honoring George Washington (who had died in 1799) and marking the end of the War of 1812, which concluded that year.

Thirty years later, First Lady Sarah Childress Polk, wife 11th president James Polk, is credited with ritualizing the song’s performance, in part to compensate for her husband’s slight (5’ 8”) stature. As historian William Seale wrote:

“Polk was not an impressive figure, so some announcement was necessary to avoid the embarrassment of his entering a crowded room unnoticed…”

More than 100 years later, President Harry Truman, a music buff, is credited with some research into the song’s history. A year after he left office, the U.S. Department of Defense established it as the official musical tribute to our nation’s president. That was in 1954.

Solemn Holiday. That same year, 1954, saw the official birth of Veterans Day. The holiday had started as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, marking the first anniversary of the end of the First World War. Congress declared it a national holiday in 1938. After World War II, a campaign started to rename Armistice Day in recognition of all veterans, both living and deceased. President Eisenhower signed a bill renaming the holiday in 1954.

So the president’s song – “Hail to the Chief” – and Veterans Day were both officially named 62 years ago.

This week we have two notable occasions to exercise and celebrate freedom and to thank those brave men and women who help protect it! Get out and vote, and then thank a veteran!

Before We Go…Providing More Realistic Practice. This week we also recognize military bands; Wenger Corporation is proud of our long history serving military music organizations. One such military band likely performs “Hail to the Chief” more often than many others: the 257th Army Band in Washington, DC. They are recognized as ‘The Band of the Nation’s Capital’ and are one of the country’s busiest National Guard bands. We had the honor of visiting them in 2009, in part to see how they use their Wenger practice rooms.

Thanks to virtual acoustic technology, members of the 257th are able to hone their skills on “Hail to the Chief” or any other song in simulated acoustical environments ranging from a small recital hall to a large arena. Their five practice rooms with Wenger’s VAE® technology range from 9’ x 11’ up to 16’ x 19’.

Before adding these practice rooms, Sergeant Steven Kemp recalled practicing his tuba in stairwells, classrooms or outdoors – anywhere space was available. “These practice rooms are awesome,” he stated. “The technology is easy to work with and sounds very realistic.” Kemp said the technology gives him a better concept of how he actually sounds, including tone production.


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