2005 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • February 9, 2011

SUBJECT: What the National Anthem Means to Me…

Winners receive a $1,000 scholarship to help further their music education. The winning students’ schools will receive matching awards in the form of musical merchandise from Alfred Publishing Co., C.G. Conn, Yamaha Corporation of America and Avedis Zildjian Co.

Ryan Laschober Grade 12, Age 18 Blue Valley North High School Overland Park, Kan. Instrument: Tenor Saxophone Director: Dr. Marion Roberts My school band and I were fortunate enough to have been requested to play at the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion commemoration in France.


We arrived June 6th, the day of the actual anniversary, in a small fishing town called Port-en-Bessin. This was the first town that had been liberated by the allied forces during the D-day invasion. The town was amazingly beautiful, and we were set up to play right on the main pier. Our concert went just as we had expected and we finished with the National Anthem. Immediately, with the start of the drummer roll, the thousands of people in the crowd became silent and all that could be heard was our playing and the waves crashing against the shore. In the middle of the song I looked up to see hundreds of World War II veterans, on their feet, saluting the United States flag. These weren’t just American veterans; they were French, British, Dutch, and from every other country involved that day.

In seeing all those courageous men saluting in harmony and respect, I realized what the National Anthem really means to me. To me, the National Anthem means unity and friendship. These veterans were all saluting together in reverence and companionship together. They weren’t saluting out of routine or politeness, they were saluting in comradeship. It was amazing to see so many people, with so many backgrounds, all brought together by such a great work.

Rachael Sammet Grade 12, Age 17 McComb High School McComb, Ohio Instrument: Flute & Bass Guitar Director: Andrew Honse There is no feeling like standing on a football field on Friday night and playing the National Anthem to the home crowd. Your pride is evident in the way you hold your head and the way you play each note. ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ is a song that receives the same reaction every time: a standing ovation and wild cheers. Even when played badly, our National Anthem is always received wonderfully by the crowd. Sometimes I wonder, ‘How could such a simple song create such a strong reaction?’ The answer lies in the pride that each and every American holds in his heart for his country.

Playing “The Star Spangled Banner” is more than just a tradition; the song stands for freedom, hard work, patriotism, sorrow for the lost, joy for what has been won, companionship, and everything that is American. When Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner,” he wrote it as he saw a symbol of hope (the American flag flying strong) in a time of adversity. Since the writing of the words to this hope-filled song, “The Star Spangled Banner” has become a song of hope and pride, a song that has been turned into the symbol of the American attitude. Our National Anthem is more than a song, it is a symbol of our great and wonderful country and it can not mean just one thing. The singing and playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” is a way for all Americans to show their love and respect for a country that will always stand loyal and strong.

Laura Clark Grade 12, Age 17 Covenant Home Academy (homeschool) Eureka, S.D. Instrument: Violin Director: Alexander Fokkens October 24, 2003 was a very special day for me. For the first time in my life, I could place my hand over my heart and feel a thrill of hope as I joined in the strains of the National Anthem. You see, I became an American citizen that day.

I studied the history of this wonderful anthem numerous times in school. I will always remember how Francis Scott Key watched his nation’s flag rally the troops at Fort McHenry as the British attacked them. After the American fort survived the night’s attack, Key penned the words to what would become our National Anthem. I am amazed at how Francis Scott Key could write such a hopeful song during a depressing time of war.

Events such as the attack on our nation on September 11, 2001 and the current conflict in Iraq have given me an even deeper understanding of how full of hope the National Anthem really is. Even during difficult times, this nation is united under the American flag and spreads its message of freedom around the world. The American flag has become a symbol of hope, even in seemingly hopeless situations.

Francis Scott Key wrote those timeless words of hope commemorating a significant feat in our nation’s history. Now, every time I sing the National Anthem, I think of the lasting hope this song represents. For me, America truly is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Katie Turkiewicz Grade 11, Age 16 Temple High School Temple, Tex. Instrument: Oboe Director: Brent Colwell The sound of the National Anthem takes me back to Normandy, when I walked the rows of white crosses looking for my great grandfather’s grave. He was among the first to land on the shore and he never came home. The crosses only served to remind me of the importance of the words, “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

When I play the music or sing the anthem’s words, a lump always works its way into my throat. I remember the sacrifices that members of my family have made. Not only did my great grandfather die for this country, but his son – my grandfather – also served in the military for 25 years, fighting in Korea and Vietnam. My cousin, while on duty in Vietnam, also lost his life while serving his country. Singing the anthem is only a small tribute and thanks for such sacrifices.

From the time of our founding fathers to the current conflict in Iraq, the anthem has led our country through many trials. With the contributions of my relatives matched by thousands of others through the years, the meaning of the words has become more important. The meaning is colored with red from the blood of those who have died defending the United States, white for the hope of lasting peace, and blue from hearts that are true to the United States. Our national Anthem is truly a song for and about the people who have made this country wonderful.

Prateek Kumar Grade 10, Age 14 Phillips Academy Andover, Mass. Instrument: Cello Director: Elizabeth Aureden When I hear the National Anthem, I hear the bells of freedom, toiling for those who died in the defense of liberty, who knew that freedom is not free. From the American Revolution to the War on Terrorism, American soldiers have always been prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the greater cause of liberty and justice for all.

When I hear the National Anthem, I see the red, white, and blue of the American flag, standing tall and resolute in the face of all forms of adversity. Glimpses of American Marines at Iwo Jima and firefighters at Ground Zero flash through my mind.

When I hear the National Anthem, I taste the turkey that Americans enjoy as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. Cranberry sauce stains the clothing of relatives excitedly watching the annual football game.

When I hear the National Anthem, I smell the flowers that grow in the many beautiful green meadows and forests hidden in our beautiful land. The fresh aroma of the oak trees reminds me of the many nights that I have spent camping in our nation’s great outdoors as an Eagle Scout.

When I hear the National Anthem, I feel a pride for my nation, knowing that we have always been the beacon of hope for the impoverished people of other nations. The National Anthem is a representation of all parts of America, from our beautiful landscape to our wide and varied culture to our faith in freedom.

Margaret Babb Grade 8, Age 14 Irving Middle School Colorado Springs, Colo. Instrument: Viola Director: Christie Anderson “O, say can you see…” The National Anthem reflects on America’s past and the future it holds. Every time I hear those first words of the anthem, I think about how privileged I am to live in such a beautiful country, where I can go to school and practice my own religion. I also have the freedom to play the National Anthem on my viola and hear the beautiful sound of freedom and liberty.

The National Anthem also reminds me of how so many military personnel have died, so that I could live in a safe and free country. I know firsthand what it takes to serve this country; my dad has been in the military for 27 years. I have moved from Germany to Montana, and now live in Colorado Springs, so I know that it takes a lot of sacrifice to provide for this country and I know it is even harder for a family that has a member in the army, who could possibly be deployed at any given moment. Fortunately I have never had to deal with the absence of my father for more than a month. The anthem always reminds me of the families who don’t know where their family members are or when they are returning. So if anyone asks me what the National Anthem means to me, I would say to the world: we truly are “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Justine Sequeira Grade 8, Age 14 Williamsburg Middle School Arlington, Va. Instrument: Alto Saxophone Director: Adria Hoffman “The Star Spangled Banner” is symbolic of the challenges Americans have endured and overcome to spread democracy and justice, not only throughout their own country, but throughout the entire world…

Following the Revolutionary War and during the War of 1812, when the anthem was written by Francis Scott Key, Americans were battling against oppressive and unjust British tyranny. With the defeat of the British their dreams of independence eventually came true, though it took Americans many years to reach total equality. Women and minorities, especially African-Americans, were denied suffrage and other basic rights for many years. When I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner,” I remember all of the history that marks America’s road to equality among all races and religions.

Today Americans continue the legacy of spreading democracy to other countries. When I hear “The Star Spangled Banner,” I think of the men and women in the armed forces, particularly in the Middle East, who believe in the importance of justice and equality so much that they would put their lives on the line.

It also reminds me of how fortunate I am to live in America, where there are so many opportunities to succeed. Though I tend to take my rights for granted, I am reminded that most countries do not have even basic freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. “The Star Spangled Banner” represents America’s journey from thirteen colonies to 50 states.

Brett Anders Grade 8, Age 13 Williamsburg Middle School Arlington, Va. Instrument: Trumpet Director: Adria Hoffman To me, America’s National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” represents unity. “The Star-Spangled Banner” reaches out to all Americans, reminding them that no matter what their skin color, no matter what their ethnicity, no matter what their religion, they are still American. Whenever I hear this song, I am deeply touched, and I feel a strong sense of community, a sense that I am part of something bigger and better than an individual. In any situation, whether I am stressed or hurried, frustrated or angry, I am always calmed and feel a surge of patriotism when I hear the beautiful chords of our national anthem ring out.

This wonderful song also reminds people of the importance of respect. It is played at many times and places, such as prior to sports games and other events involving many people. Not only do I feel that “The Star Spangled Banner” is a magnificent musical composition, but I also value the lyrics. Though depicting a battle, they inspire people to always hope for the best, just as the author, Francis Scott Key, had faith that his country would prevail.

Many people associate “The Star-Spangled Banner” with unity, respect, and hope. Our national anthem means much to me, but overall it reminds me that I am part of a wonderful country, America.

Elle Matthews Grade 7, Age 12 Marshall Middle School Marshall, Va. Instrument: Viola Director: Debbie Price “The Star Spangled Banner” is a beautiful and inspirational song. The lyrics describe a flag flying free over a fierce battle, which symbolizes our country’s courage and determination to preserve democracy and freedom, whatever the cost. “And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” – the message of this metaphor is that, through the worst of wars, terrorist attacks, and other devastating events, America will pull through and work together to make everything all right. It is trying to convey the thought that America is a strong nation that can overcome adversity.

“In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream; ‘Tis the star-spangled banner: oh, long may it wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This is a lovely verse from the National Anthem, which describes the nation as the center of democracy and the world’s best hope for freedom and equality. America, in our hearts, will endure and our flag continue to wave through the best and worst of times.

Katherine Young Grade 6, Age 12 Marshall Middle School Marshall, Va. Instrument: Violin Director: Debbie Price The National Anthem is very special to me. When I hear it, I think about the freedom I and other people who live in America have; we are very lucky to live here.

I am very proud of the country and the brave soldiers who fight for it. One of these soldiers is my dad. He is in the National Guard and is now in Afghanistan, helping people to enjoy their freedom. I think of the National Anthem as “my dad’s song” because it is played at all the ceremonies he is involved with for the National Guard. So whenever I hear [the National Anthem] right now it makes me a little sad because I miss my dad, but I know the job he is doing is very important – I am very proud of him. He is trying to help the people in Afghanistan, so that when they hear their own national anthem they feel happy about their country, like I do about the United States.

I am much honored to be an American and to sing and play my National Anthem

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