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Local Trumpeters Reflect on the Emotional Power of "Taps"

Memorial services across the country on Monday will feature a short serene tune that dates back to the Civil War.  Taps is generally played by a bugle or trumpet at military funerals or flag ceremonies.  Some area musicians say this uncomplicated tune- with only 24 notes - comes with more than 150 years of emotional history.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s Michael Sachs has played Taps at many memorial services, honoring soldiers ranging from World War II to Afghanistan and Iraq.  He says it never fails to move him.

"There’s so many layers of the meaning of what it means historically and the meaning of what it means in the moment," he reflects.  "It's really a sacred honor it is to offer that to a grieving family."

Trumpeter Theresa May plays trumpet for a local brass quintet called Cleveland Brassworks.   May says she's confident in playing a variety of styles on her horn, from pop to jazz to funk.  But, a simple tune like Taps can be intimidating

"Yeah, I think there is a bit of pressure," she says.  "I feel like I want it to be the best performance, to be able to add that special piece of music that the family really wants to hear."

Michael Sachs notes that one of the most famous renderings of Taps actually had a notable mistake.  It came during the funeral of assassinated President John F. Kennedy when bugler Keith Clark cracked one of the notes.  Sachs adds the mistake has since become a moving part of the tune's legend.

"You want it to be as pristine and beautiful and lyrical and as perfect as can be," he says.  "But, it's the sentiment that's offered that's the most important part of it."

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