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A Campus of Service: Sixth Annual TAPS Performance Honored Local Veterans

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Freshman Dylan Campbell plays taps on UTC's campus for Veteran's Day. Friday,  November 11, 2022. Mason Edwards, Staff Writer

Thirty-one local trumpeters braved a dreary, drizzle-soaked morning to participate in the TAPS Project this Veterans Day.

At 9:45 a.m, a resonating trumpet call drifted through UTC’s campus. If one listened from a stationary perspective, the song circled campus, moving from Vine Street to Oak Street before coming to rest at Chamberlain field.

For the past few years on Nov. 11, the UTC Music Department has honored fallen servicemen, servicewomen, and active veterans with a community-involved event: the TAPS Project.

Every year, the project organizes an ensemble of students, faculty, veterans, alumni, and local trumpet players to play “Taps” at UTC. The event’s organizer, UTC trumpet professor and U.S. Navy Band veteran Dr. Erika Schafer, did not start the project with the song– but feels it’s appropriate nonetheless.

“Taps is what is performed when someone passes, in honor of them when they pass,” Schafer explained. “It can be very intense for service members, particularly those that have lost peers...”

In 2016, the former UTC band director, Craig Davis, organized the first “TAPS Project” at UTC. When he left, Schafer inherited the event. In following the tradition, she organized musicians in a “contagion” pattern, letting the music flow across campus in dramatic and symbolic fashion. 

“It’s kind of a nice effect when the trumpeters are spread apart,” Schafer explained, saying she organized them “far enough that it’s aesthetically pleasing but close enough to where they can hear each other.”

Freshman Emmett Davies started the procession from the corner of Vine Street next to the Maclellan gym. Davies, who has played trumpet for eight years and is studying music education at UTC, learned about the event through Schafer.

“I am not sure why I was chosen to go first, but it was an honor,” Davies said. “As a trumpet player, I see [playing Taps] as a tribute that we just do.”

Similar to a relay race, when Davies was halfway into the song, the next trumpeter sounded his first notes. By the time the third musician lifted his trumpet, Davies had finished. With this pattern, the musicians handed off the song to each other, sharing Taps’ solemn tribute. 

Further down the line, father and son Ryan and Griffin Webb played near the Power “C” and University Seals. Griffin’s father, Ryan, served in the Marine Corps as a Sergeant, E5.

“Music is a big part of my life, and my dad is a veteran,” Griffin said, discussing how he shares a passion for music with his father. “Getting to play Taps– with him also playing [Taps–] is really cool.”

Despite the inclement weather, Schafer felt the event’s turnout ranked as one of their highest yet.

The office of Veteran and Military Affairs will host an event from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. outside the University Center in service to veterans from UTC and the local community, according to Robert Dorsett, its associate director.

“Our purpose is to honor veterans and to give back to them,” Dorsett said in his office, which displayed a flag representing his years in the Marine Corps. “For today, we’re doing free meals; we got food truck vendors and there’s a bunch of giveaways.”

The Echo recorded part of the TAPS 2022 project for listening. 

Taps’ unofficial lyrics indicate the tune’s original purpose— to call lights out— and why soldiers adopted it for veterans’ funerals:

“Day is done, gone the sun,

From the hills, from the lake, from the skies.

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”

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