Marco Island Charter Middle School recently hosted their fourth annual Salute to Veterans concert to honor military veterans of past and present ahead of Memorial Day. With the 174 members of their combined band and chorus ensemble members, they performed a variety of musical pieces from the Star-Spangled Banner to the 1812 Overture. Capping off their performance was a rendition of “God Bless America” dedicated in remembrance of Herb Savage, a veteran who served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and Korea, who passed away earlier this year just days prior to his 100th birthday.
The concert was a culmination of a year-long effort by the school to raise money for the Jeans for Troops, a nonprofit organization which aids veterans and active military service members in finding employment and housing. Over the course of the year they raised $395 internally for the organization, with the hope that they could raise an additional $400 through donations at the concert.
The free event was open to the public, with an invitation for all veterans and local families to attend. At the start of the concert several veterans arrived, treated to a procession with flags and musical accompaniment. Each branch of the military was honored with their respective melodies, which was met with applause from the audience. Early into the concert was a notable solo performance of the Star-Spangled Banner by student Sloan Wheeler, which was warmly received.
George Abounader, the school’s principal, explained that the inspiration for holding the concert sprung from a desire to combine their spring concert and a Memorial Day celebration into one. “It dawned on me one day that it’s very close to Memorial Day so why don’t we put the two together where we have a spring concert with our veterans. Also in the back of my mind was the understanding that this will help our students learn their course information,” he explained.
Civics and social studies are required classes for the middle school students, which Abounader hopes will teach the students an appreciation for military service members and the country’s history. “Several times I’ve gotten questions over the years, ‘Does your school still do the Pledge of Allegiance?’ There’s a worry that this stuff is going away,” he said. “[The concert] is a way to give back to the community, telling them that we’re still trying to instill in them the history of our country, but also some pride and appreciation for it as well.”
“It makes what they learn in history come alive,” Abounader added.
Playing to a full house that night, the concert was a success for the students and the school, and it was enjoyed by all those in attendance.