Four Students Honored for Writing On Sousa, National March - TribPapers

Four Students Honored for Writing On Sousa, National March

Student local essay winners are, L-R: Lia Martinonis (5th grade), Susannah Dannals (6th), Zia Cartrett (7th), and Zoe Ihde (8th). Flanking them are DAR Regent Charlotte Walsh, at left, and Melinda Holt. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hendersonville – The local winners of the American History Essay competition were further honored in the “Stars and Stripes Forever” contest. Lia Martinonis won the state award for fifth-grade students. Susannah Dannals and Zia Cartrett won in their respective sixth and seventh-grade categories. Eighth-grader Zoe Ihde was also recognized. The four winners, accompanied by their families, attended a DAR luncheon at Champion Hills on Jan. 12 where they received a $200 cash award, a DAR bronze medal, and an award certificate.

The Joseph McDowell DAR chapter, based in Hendersonville, has sponsored the essay contest for local students in grades 5-8 for 80 years. The purpose is for “historical preservation, education, and patriotism.” There were 91 entrants, American History Essay Committee Chair Melinda Holt said. McDowell (1758-1795) was a Revolutionary War colonel.

Each winner read her essay to luncheon attendees. They also answered questions from the Tribune.

Their contest assignment was to write about Sousa and his peppy, flowing “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Congress authorized it in 1987 as the official National March, separate from the national anthem.

Inspiring Tune

When asked what they feel whenever hearing the march, they went beyond its invigorating energy to symbolism of the flag it is about. Ihde said that she feels “proud and hopeful” for the nation’s future. Martinonis has utmost “respect” for the country. Cartrett said it is inspiring for Americans to “do something to make a difference.” Dannals also feels a will to “help others.”

Their stylistic challenge was to write the essay as a review or editorial, as a make-believe Philadelphia Times report on May 14, 1897 when the march publicly debuted. The object was to act as if they first heard the march, to tell about Sousa’s life, on the “story behind the song,” and audience reaction. Contestants were provided a suggested website research list, including via the U.S. Library of Congress.

Sousa, “The American March King,” was 42 when writing the march in 1896. He reportedly penned first the lyrics, then the music a half-year later on Christmas Day of 1896. Lines include “the flag of Freedom’s nation.” The march is normally heard as an instrumental. Pianist and violinist Sousa conducted the U.S. Marine Band for 12 years. His later 80-member Sousa Band first performed the march.

‘Awe,’ ‘Freedom’

Martinonis, a Bruce Drysdale fifth-grader, chronicled the march’s debut in a Philadelphia park sparking “thunderous cheers” and outright “awe.” The march was part of a dedication of a new statue of George Washington, attended by then-President William McKinley.

Sousa reportedly revealed that his inspiring image was seeing the Stars and Stripes (“the grandest flag in the world”) flying at public functions his band played at. He paced along a ship deck for hours, in working up the march in his mind.

Martinonis emphasized the public’s gut reactions at the time. They include listener comments about national “pride and loyalty” and feeling “how lucky I am to live in this country.” She also quoted Pres. McKinley: “This is a true march that defines our amazing country, and shows how much we appreciate our freedom.”

‘Patriotic Spirit’

Dannals called the anthem the “Absolute American March,” with much “patriotic spirit.” She wrote, “The music told a story of a breathtaking nation that sone with the beauty of freedom; a place where a common person could expect justice and liberty for their hope, opinions and love.”

Dannals is in sixth grade in Hendersonville Middle School. She described such musical details as “The trumpets, trombones, and French horns started out with a cheerful melody.” Next were “clarinets, oboes, and flutes,” xylophone and picolo solos, drumming, and drama when “cymbals crashed.”

Baking an Ambition

Ihde, from Fairview, studies in Mills River at Classical Scholars for home-schoolers. She pointed out that Sousa nearly died of pneumonia at age five, wanted to become a baker, and learned violin at age six. He grew up in Washington, D.C. His ancestry is Portugese. He wrote 136 marches.

Interestingly, Sousa did not write down the tune and words he created while aboard a ship until getting on shore, Ihde noted.

‘Genius’ Sousa

Sousa is a “genius,” Classical Scholars student Cartrett briskly wrote. “A truly talented, perfectly passionate, all-around awe-inspiring genius.” The Mills River resident told the Tribune that she was very intent on editorializing about “what I thought of” Sousa and his march. She boldly vowed in her essay that the song will “change history, mark my words.”

As Cartrett among others pointed out, Sousa is quoted as saying that as he first imagined the tune it was “crashing into my very soul.”

Sousa invented the Sousaphone, a trombone-like instrument, Cartrett noted. She described him as a creative man of faith with “such talent, loyalty, and passion.”