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The National Anthem Under Attack

A recent Harris poll found that two out of three American adults don’t know all of the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” – and many don’t even know which song is our National Anthem or why it was written. But where did the people who do know the words say they learned “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other patriotic music? At school!

Sadly, budget cuts to school music programs in recent years have led to dwindling opportunities for students to learn an important part of their cultural heritage – patriotic music. The members of The National Association for Music Education (MENC) – our nation’s music teachers – want all Americans to know our National Anthem and to take pride in singing it together … and for all children to have access to music in school. We’ve launched the National Anthem Project to raise awareness about the importance of supporting and funding school music programs. We believe every child deserves a complete education that includes music and all the benefits it brings to their lives.

This exciting campaign is supported by some of the country’s leading organizations and individuals. Mrs. Laura Bush serves as Honorary Chairperson, music legends the Oak Ridge Boys are Official Musical Ambassadors, and the Jeep® brand is our national presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include NAMM – the International Music Products Association (our national music industry sponsor), The History Channel, Bank of America, Gibson Musical Instruments, ASCAP, and Conn-Selmer, Inc. The official student travel and concert provider is the American Musical Salute. Our supporters include Girl Scouts USA, the Walt Disney Company, the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the American Legion.

Our nation’s music teachers want to get America singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” again! Please join our effort to restore America’s voice and ensure a quality music education for all of our children.

The History of the Star Spangled Banner

The song of our nation was penned by Washington attorney Francis Scott Key at a dramatic moment during the War of 1812. On the night of September 13, 1814, Key watched as our country was attacked by the British navy at Fort McHenry. After watching the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air throughout the night, dawn broke. Key was expecting to find Baltimore firmly under British control, but was stunned to see a battered but still flying American flag waving in the sunrise. So inspired was Key that he wrote the poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Set to a tune attributed to John Stafford Smith, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” it became America’s national anthem in 1931.

Note: Early manuscripts of the lyrics have many inconsistencies with punctuation and even spelling. The lyrics reproduced on this site use punctuation and spelling found in very early versions. As for whether to use a hyphen in the title or not, most sheet music you see will have “The Star Spangled Banner” as the title. However, in recent years, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has become the preferred spelling for usage within text. Therefore, when printing the lyrics, we use “The Star Spangled Banner”, but when writing about the anthem, we use “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Why Should Students Learn and Sing the National Anthem?

“Every student in the nation should have an education in the arts.” This is the opening statement of “The Value and Quality of Arts Education: A Statement of Principles,” a document from the nation’s ten most important educational organizations, including the American Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, the National Parent Teacher Association, and the National School Boards Association.

The basic statement is unlikely to be challenged by anyone involved in education. In the sometimes harsh reality of limited time and funding for instruction, however, the inclusion of the arts in every student’s education can sometimes be relegated to a distant wish rather than an exciting reality.

It doesn’t have to be that way! All that’s needed is a clear message sent to all those who must make the hard choices involved in running a school or school system. The basic message is that music programs in the schools help our kids and communities in real and substantial ways. You can use the following facts about the benefits of music education, based on a growing body of convincing research, to move decision-makers to make the right choices.

The benefits conveyed by music education can be grouped in four categories:

  • Success in society
  • Success in school
  • Success in developing intelligence
  • Success in life

When presented with the many and manifest benefits of music education, officials at all levels should universally support a full, balanced, sequential course of music instruction taught by qualified teachers. And every student will have an education in the arts.

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