I remember some performances particularly for their music, others for the musicians with whom I have bonded, and still others for their memorable or historic setting. This spring the UT Tyler Patriot Singers experienced all three as we performed the National Anthem to open a Mavericks NBA game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Standing at center court with an audience of 20,000 participating with us in mind and heart, was an electric moment that I know our students will remember for many years to come, and I could not have been more proud of the way they presented themselves, our school, and their country.
When I talk to students about this song, I explain that the National Anthem wasn’t written for solo musicians to display their virtuosic and stratospheric improvisational talents, rather, it is the closest thing we have to a national hymn and should be felt and sung as such. In talking about it’s origination, I draw their attention to Francis Scott Key’s memorable lines,
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
That struggle, the continuation of the battle was proof that the cause was not lost, that the troops had not surrendered, and that hope endured through the long dark night. When we are faced with significant, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and it feels as if the metaphorical bombs are truly bursting all around, it does not mean all is lost or that one needs to surrender. It means quite the opposite in fact. It means that we are still fully alive, still in ‘the battle,’ and still striving to find meaning, truth and direction that may still yet come, “by the dawn’s early light.”