By Jonathan Weaver
A pair of high school musicians will make their bugling debut during this Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Kittanning Riverfront Park.
Kittanning Senior High School Trumpeters Sophomore Hannah Walker and Freshman Christian Woodside volunteered to play “Taps,” the minute-long somber musical piece, on a bugle during the annual ceremony.
Walker originally played the French horn in the junior high band, and learned how to play the bugle from her father, former U.S. Army National Guard instructor James Walker.
“A bugle, you use more of your embouchure to produce the notes and the sound (whereas with) a trumpet, you use a little less of your embouchure and more of the valves,” Walker said. “Within those three or four notes, it’s very emotional and you have to play “Taps” with that emotion.
You have to be able to honor those people who gave their lives for you.”
Walker’s grandfather, who is also named James, also served in the U.S. Navy and her sister, Shannon – a 2011 Kittanning graduate – currently serves in the U.S. Air Force and is stationed in Maryland as an intelligence linguist.
Even at a young age, Walker has followed the family tradition – participating in the local Civil Air Patrol, which meets at the Ford City Armory, for three years.
Woodside (whose father, Sean, and grandfather, Robert, both served in the military as well) will play through the song once before Walker echoes.
Both musicians – who are from Worthington – will also perform with the Armstrong Senior High School band this fall and said they are nervous, but looking forward to Monday.
School Band Director Pat Cavanaugh said the beginner trumpets have been practicing for a few weeks with two other school trumpeters.
Cavanaugh, who has marched in Memorial Day parades since the age of 12 and is retiring after the current school year, praised the two students for the responsibility they undertook.
“For one of the easiest things to play, it’s one of the hardest things to do,” Cavanaugh said.”To play it and have it at the right tempo so that it’s respectful and you’re playing all by yourself.”
Senior Band Drum Major Cassie Clouse (whose grandfathers both served in the military) could hear Walker and Woodside practice in the school’s auditorium.
“It’s a really nice thing for (Walker and Woodside) to do. The echoing effect is always really effective,” Clouse said.
While Walker and Woodside practiced for their debut, the rest of the band’s musicians rehearsed “Patriotic Parade Sequence” (a mixture of “America, the Beautiful,” “My Country, Tis of Thee” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic”) for the holiday parade.
Clouse said musicians have been practicing for the parade – the schools last – for about two weeks.
Cavanaugh classified it as the band’s “civic responsibility” to perform Monday.
Decorated Vietnam War Veteran SSgt. Richard J. Kunselman will be the featured speaker Monday.
Kunselman – who is the designated caretaker of the Vietnam memorial in Riverfront Park with wife, Pam – has earned many decorations during his nearly-12 year military service, such as the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal for Valor and the Security Police Combat Badge.
The parade – which begins at 10AM Monday – and ceremony will be aired live on WTYM 1380 AM. Both will also be rebroadcast on Family-Life TV (Comcast Cable Channel 23) at 7PM.