Joint Service Color Guard presents the colors at the Taps Project opening ceremony.
Major Frank Grzych,
USAF Band Deputy Commander conducts a joint-service
trumpet quartet at the opening ceremony. Members are (left to right)
Army SFC James McKenzie, Marine SSgt. Scott Gearhart, Navy Chief
Musician Kevin Dines and Air Force SMSgt. John Pursell.
Master Sergeant Jari
Villanueva receives a gold medal from Mr. John Metzler,
Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, for his efforts in connection with the
Mr. John Metzler
and Master Sergeant. Villanueva cut the ribbon to open the Taps
Exhibit at Arlington.
Taps Project Display Case, Arlington National Cemetery
Taps Project Display Case, Arlington National Cemetery
Photos by SSgt. Joan
Anderson-Brown, 11th Wing, Bolling Air Force Base
Courtesy of The United States Air Force
Photos Submitted By: Master Sergeant Jari Villanueva
Delivered By MSgt. Jari Villanueva
At The Opening Of The “Taps” Exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery May 28th, 1999
you Colonel Deal. Mr. Metzler, distinguished guests, members of
the military musical community, friends and colleagues. It is my honor
to stand here and welcome you to the exhibit on this wonderful day. A
day which we honor not only the creation of a musical traditional unique
to our nation, but those who performed this solemn honor.
like this could not have been possible without the support,
sound of the bugle made it possible to convey commands over a great
Oliver Norton in 1890 wrote, “That familiar sound echoing among the rocks where they had fought brought back, perhaps more vividly than words could do, the memories of the days when they had answered so often to its sound.”
we have on display not merely metal tubing, fabrics, and paper,
were ordinary, yet some found themselves in extraordinary
each bugler, then as today, the most sacred duty one performs is the
We celebrate the lives of some of the musicians...
Schurmann, a twelve year-old who served two Civil War generals
Cook, a fifteen year-old who put his bugle down to man an artillery
Benz, who left his homeland of Prussia to serve as chief bugler at
Norton, a twenty-two year-old who on that hot summer night in
Martin, who changed his name from Giovanni Martini so he could be
Witchey, whose bugle rendition of “Boots and Saddles” had
Titus, who during the siege at Peking during the Boxer Rebellion,
Myers, who played for “Black Jack” Pershing, Hap Arnold,
then the quiet, Christian man from Grand Rapids, who on a chilly day
instrument has undergone changes over the years as has the use of
Delivered by Chaplain (Colonel) Edward Brogan at the Taps Project Opening
Ceremony 28 May 1999
of our lives, our hope in death,
We cannot listen to TAPS without our souls stirring.
Its plaintive notes are a prayer in music - of hope, of peace, of grief, of rest.
Lord, please honor this TAPS exhibit that it might focus attention on the
reverence shown in funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and the
sacrifices of the U.S. veterans we recognize on this Memorial Day.
Prepare us too, Lord, for our final bugle call when you summon us home!,
"When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and death will be no more."
Arlington Cemetery Opens Bugle Exhibit That Traces the Origin of Taps
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 29, 1999
sad bugler's call is heard at Arlington more than any other place in the
world, an average of 30 times a day. Coming at the end of funerals and
memorial services, taps almost never fails to draw tears from mourners.
It will be sounded again on Monday, Memorial Day, when President Clinton
"There's nothing I can think of more appropriate than the notes of taps to symbolize Arlington National Cemetery," said Jack Metzler Jr., superintendent of the cemetery.
But the rendition yesterday morning was different from most. Taps was being played for the sake of the music, rather than the memory of a fallen soldier.
With a flourish of trumpets in the cemetery's visitors center, officials cut the ribbon to open a three-year exhibit that tells the story of taps, a call that originated during the Civil War and is now perhaps among the most recognizable of all American tunes.
Wood and glass display cases and information panels in the center's atrium describe taps' origins and its role in historic ceremonies. A myriad of trumpets and paraphernalia is on display, from the Civil War era and later, including a plastic bugle made during World War II when brass was scarce.
The centerpiece is the bugle played at Arlington on November 25, 1963, at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. Also featured are the sword and spurs worn by Union General Daniel Butterfield, credited with creating taps during a campaign in Virginia.
idea for the exhibit was born on Memorial Day last year by a bugler who
has sounded taps hundreds of times at Arlington. Master Sergeant Jari Villanueva,
trumpeter for the U.S. Air Force Band at Bolling Air Force Base, suggested
it to Metzler. "The one thing that is common to every
interest in taps began soon after he became an Air Force musician 14 years
ago. Questioned about its origins by a superior, Villanueva realized he
knew nothing and began researching the topic. He found a great deal of
confusion. "A lot of stories associated with it are
One of the most popular and melodramatic involves a Union captain on a battlefield who comes across his son, terribly wounded, wearing the uniform of the Confederacy. The father drags his son to safety, but the young man succumbs to his wounds. Inside his son's pockets, the father finds a sheet of music upon which the notes to taps are written. A bugler sounds it at the soldier's funeral, and the rest is history, supposedly. "It's a great story, just not true," Villanueva said.
The real story, according to research by Villanueva and historical documentation, is that Butterfield, a Union brigade commander during the Peninsular campaign in 1862, grew tired of the "lights out" call sounded at the end of each day. Butterfield thought it was too formal.
With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, Butterfield made some changes. The resulting "taps" was adapted from an existing tattoo call to notify soldiers to knock off drinking for the evening and prepare for bedtime roll call.
intended as a new "lights out" call, taps was quickly put to use at a funeral
for the first time during the same campaign in July 1862, when a battery
commander ordered it played in lieu of a rifle volley for the burial of
a cannoneer who had been killed in action. With his battery close to enemy
Sounding taps at funerals was taken up throughout the Army of the Potomac, first by custom and then by order. Even the Confederates picked it up. By 1891, taps was written into drill books as mandatory.
"There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call," Norton wrote years after the Civil War. "Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air."
Villanueva said it is never easy to play taps at a funeral. "You wouldn't be human if you didn't get nervous," he said. "The call itself is not that difficult, but given the circumstances of when you have to play it, it can be kind of trying. Every time you sound taps, you want to do your best, especially if
Dan Rodricks : SUN STAFF
May 30, 1999
The Military Bugle in History and Ceremony" features bugles, photographs,
uniforms, sheet music and a wide assortment of historical items, including
Gen. Daniel Butterfield's sword and spurs and the bugle used to sound taps
at President Kennedy's funeral. It is open every day
from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center, off Jefferson Davis Highway at the Memorial Bridge.
Sometimes mourners forget it's coming. They're distracted, of course, not really thinking about the fine points of ceremony. The 24 haunting notes are familiar: They've heard them countless times at funerals for soldiers and police officers, during Memorial Day services, in the nationally televised burials of presidents, and in the movies. Yet nothing really prepares them for the moment.
A man or a woman in uniform and white gloves raises a horn, then sounds the nation's official farewell to the honored dead. And all emotional dams break.
Last month, in a Catholic church in Oil City, Pa., few of the mourners of Airman William Joseph Mohr III noticed the uniformed trumpeter seated near the front. They were still in shock from Mohr's death a few days earlier in a car accident in Texas. He had completed basic training and was on his way to his first station, in Louisiana. He died 10 days short of his 19th birthday.
Now, in the church where Mohr had served as an altar boy, not a seat was empty. The crowd was full of young faces.
When, at last, Master Sgt. Jari Villanueva stood to sound taps -- so familiar, yet oddly unexpected -- the sobbing started with the first note and built as he played. The sound came from all corners of the church -- a deep, heavy, physical sobbing that almost distracted Villanueva from his mission.
But he hit all 24 notes perfectly. One wonders: Isn't the death of a loved one hard enough to bear without the addition of such powerful music? Does the bugler, or the trumpeter, ever feel a tad guilty?
"No," says Villanueva, of Catonsville, a trumpeter with Ceremonial Brass, a unit of the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington. "When people cry as I play taps, I think that it's probably a good emotional release for them."
A tribute to taps, perhaps the most emotionally powerful and evocative 24 notes in American music, opened Friday at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitor Center. "Taps: The Military Bugle in History and Ceremony" is a salute to the men and women who've sounded taps and other military calls over two centuries. And for Villanueva, it's the result of 14 years of research.
A passionate student of music and the Civil War, Villanueva has sounded taps hundreds of times since joining the Air Force in 1985. Like many of his colleagues in the Ceremonial Brass, and similar units in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, he has been summoned to military funerals in several states over the years. Sounding taps at Arlington National Cemetery, where the call is heard up to 30 times a day, is part of his regular duties.
exhibit he helped establish pays homage to musicians Villanueva never knew
but for whom he obviously has great respect -- men and women whose names
are mostly unknown to the public but whose bugle and trumpet calls were
heard by thousands over the years, in war and in peace, at
"I've sounded taps so many times," he says. "But I take it very seriously each time. I want it to be the best it can be. It's very important to the families of the deceased. When it's my time to play I want to make sure it's perfect."
No matter how hard the emotional environment might be. Most of the time, Villanueva and his colleagues in the military brass units sound taps without flaw. It's rare to hear a note crack.
Ironically, the most memorable sounding of taps in modern times was perfect only in some metaphorical sense.
On a chilly November day 36 years ago, at the burial of John F. Kennedy, U.S. Army Band Sgt. Keith Clark, who had played hundreds of funerals and ceremonies at Arlington, cracked the sixth note. One writer took it as a metaphor for the moment -- a sob or whimper through a B-flat Bach bugle. In the weeks following JFK's funeral, other buglers at Arlington missed the same note.
"We all thought it must be psychological," Clark, retired and living in Florida, recently told Villanueva.
Clark's bugle and an account of his role in the Kennedy funeral comprise the centerpiece of the Arlington exhibit. It also features sheet music, manuals, uniforms and a kind of bugler's hall of fame: photographs of Army Staff Sgt. Victor Christensen sounding taps in 1939 as Franklin Roosevelt lays a wreath at what was then called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; Army Sgt. Henry Screcci sounding the call in the rain; Marine Sgt. Christian Ferrari and Navy Band Musician 1st Class Patrick Puckett, trumpets raised to their lips; and, in a photograph from the 1980s, Army Staff Sgt. Tammy Leverone, the first woman to do so, sounding taps at a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Where credit is due
Taps came out of the Civil War, though the history of its origin is misty. Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield, camped with his brigade at Harrison's Landing, Va., in the summer of 1862, asked his bugler to try a new tune. The bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, did not know so at the time but the simple call Butterfield scratched on an envelope and asked him to sound came from an early version of "Tattoo," a bugle call used to alert troops to prepare for bedtime roll call. This particular "Tattoo" had gone out of use by the time of the Civil War.
"Butterfield knew the tune, however, from his days before the war as a colonel in the New York militia," says Villanueva. "It's the `Tattoo' by Winfield Scott, composed in 1835, also known as the `Scott Tattoo.' The last five-and-a-half measures are distinctly taps."
According to Villanueva's research, Norton worked out the call with Butterfield, then sounded it in camp. "The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of our brigade," Norton later wrote. "The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished. I think no general order was issued from army headquarters authorizing the substitution of this for the regulation call, but as each brigade commander exercised his own discretion in such minor matters, the call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac."
Of the call, Norton wrote: "Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air."
its use at military funerals became mandatory with the publication of the
U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891, taps might have been heard
graveside for the first time shortly after the
"A popular myth is that of a Northern boy who was killed fighting for the South," writes Villanueva, in notes for the exhibit. "His father, Robert Ellicombe, a captain in the Union Army, came upon his son's body on the battlefield and found the notes to taps in a pocket of the dead boy's Confederate uniform. When Union General Daniel Sickles heard the story, he had the notes sounded at the boy's funeral. But there is no evidence to back up the story or the existence of a Capt. Ellicombe."
Butterfield gets the credit for taps. A few years after the Civil War, he resigned from the Army and spent his retirement at a country home in Cold Spring, N.Y., overlooking the Hudson River, within earshot of West Point. He could hear a bugler at the military academy sound taps each evening.
more than a century, taps has been used for lights-out at American military
bases, and it has been heard thousands of times at funerals of military
personnel and veterans. It's not played on the bugle much anymore. (On
military bases, lights-out is usually a recording, not a live performance.)
"First time I played it?" Villanueva wonders aloud. "Boy Scouts. I guess I was 11 or 12. I was studying trumpet and my parents bought me a Boy Scout bugle."
On Scout Sunday at Augustana Lutheran Church on Manasota Avenue in Baltimore, he'd "play a military church call. I'd spend two weeks at Broad Creek Boy Scout camp in the summer and I played taps there, and I'd play it at the end of troop meetings. `Sound it,' I should say. You don't `play' taps. You `sound' taps."
Striking up the band
the last two decades, Villanueva has worked tirelessly on behalf of music
in Baltimore. He helped found the popular Peabody Ragtime Ensemble and
directed the Water Street Swing Society. He served as music director of
the Young Victorian Theater Company. He also helped the city
In 1985, he had an opportunity to become a military musician. "I had to audition, and I had to join the Air Force. I got my six weeks of basic training at Lackland, and then I was permanently assigned to the Air Force Band."
the assistant drum major and chief arranger for all the ceremonial music
performed by the U.S. Air Force Band. In fact, the band performed Villanueva's
arrangement of "Going Home" during a remains-arrival scene at Andrews Air
Force Base in the 1994 Harrison Ford film, "Clear and
He sounded taps in Arlington for the burial of Gen. Godfrey McHugh, who served as Air Force aide to JFK. He performed the same service for James H. Barrett, the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and former Annapolitan who was killed in 1994 by an anti-abortion zealot as he escorted a doctor to a Florida abortion clinic. He has traveled, too -- to Missouri for the burial of a congressman, to Pennsylvania for the young airman's funeral in Oil City.
back home, in Baltimore, he has fought the emotional pull of the music
while among friends.
"He'd been a bombardier in World War II, and as I played, I looked over at my friend and noticed that she was wearing her Dad's bombardier pin, his wings. "That really got to me." But he still made it through taps, perfectly.
Posted: 8 June 1999
Updated: 22 June 1999
Updated: 1 December 2001