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Write Now: JPS Students Perform ‘Taps’ Across Jamestown To Honor Vets

Seventh-grader Gabriella Knight gets ready to play “Taps.”

For Marc Lentsch, the pandemic was inhibiting his students from exploring their instruments. It also forced the Persell Middle School Band Director to keep his students interested in music.

So, he and Jefferson Middle School Band Director Carrie Pawelski and Washington and Jefferson Middle Schools Orchestra Director Gina Wakefield decided to honor veterans a different way. Other band students from Jamestown Public Schools also participated.

On Nov. 11, nearly 100 JPS Middle School students played “Taps” outside their houses in the first “Taps” Across Jamestown while members of the JHS Concert Band performed at the Veterans Day ceremony downtown. Jamestown High School senior Maisy Chang also performed “Taps” at St. Lukes Episcopal Church and Lake View Cemetery.

“The idea came from our three middle school band directors, myself, Carrie Pawelski, and Gina Wakefield. This year, due to the pandemic, our normal curriculum is unsafe so we have been forced to think of new and different ways for our students to have authentic and meaningful musical experiences. We have come up with a series of adventures– Holiday, Patriotic, and Jazz — that students are participating in. As part of this, students at Persell Middle School (also) put together a Halloween video that was shared with elementary students,” Lentsch said.

The band director added that there is a video of each student that participated as well as videos of the teachers playing.

Above, seventh-grader Gabriella Knight gets ready to play “Taps.” Eighth-grader Seth Ibero plays “Taps.” Submitted photo

“We have compiled a video of students at each school as a separate video as well as one that incorporated just two students from each school,” Lentsch said.

Students were instructed to play “Taps” outside their houses at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day to coincide with the official date and time of the nationwide celebration, also coinciding with the 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice of World War I, the original impetus for Veterans Day.

Lentsch said the teachers were in regular communication with parents who helped us record the performances and keep everything on schedule.

According to va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/taps.pdf, the use of “Taps” is unique to the United States military, as the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services.

“Taps” originally began as a signal to extinguish lights, which is noted on the website. Up until the Civil War, the infantry call for “Extinguish Lights” was the one set down in the Infantry manuals which had been borrowed from the French. The music for “Taps” was changed by Major General Daniel Adams Butterfield for his brigade in July, 1862.

Butterfield was not pleased with the call for “Extinguish Lights” feeling that it was too formal to signal the day’s end. With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, he created “Taps” to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia following the Seven Days’ battles during the Peninsular Campaign, according to the website.

The JPS band members, Lentsch said, along with their directors, would like to thank all veterans for their service.

“Playing “Taps” on Veterans Day was part of our patriotic adventure and a nice way to teach students about community service in a way that showcases their talents. We will be working on something for Christmas as well as something for our Jazz adventure next,” Lentsch said.

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