The event, orchestrated by Donna Swan, the music teacher at Shallowford whose three sons have served in the military, includes about 130 fifth-grade students, all wearing red, white and blue sequined vests, singing and meeting face-to-face with military veterans.
Fifteen years ago, Swan approached the former principal, Cheryl Clements, with an idea of honoring the military with a concert.
What began as a day performance with the second- and fourth-grade students has become an annual tradition that includes the entire school’s participation.
A number of veterans come to the event each year, Swan said, and she hopes to top 50 veterans this year.
“Kids at this age are beginning to understand the importance of what is going on in the world,” said school board member David Banks. “The concert teaches them that freedom is not free.”
Fifth-grade students Jack Mathison and Tyler Minano wrote essays, as part of a class project that described members of their families who had served in the military.
For Minano, it was his great-grandfather, who served in the Navy, he said. Minano will be involved in passing out pins to each veteran who attends Wednesday night, and shaking their hands to thank them for their service.
Fellow students Lindsay Jenson and Anna Gully will be introducing songs during Wednesday’s performance, but they said because they are involved with the televised morning announcements, they are not worried about performing in front of an audience.
Four students gathered in the music room Monday afternoon to go over some of the details for Wednesday’s concert. They were joined by 90-year-old World War II veteran George Beckham, who served on the U.S.S. Shangri-La.
Beckham was waiting for his wife to finish a hair appointment 13 years ago, when Swan entered the salon and sat down next to him. The two hit it off immediately, and when she found out that he was a veteran, she invited him to that year’s concert.
He hasn’t missed one yet, he said.
“If you are good enough to have it, I’m good enough to give ’em my time,” he told Swan on Monday.
Wednesday’s show will start at 7 p.m., and feature multiple patriotic songs, including “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” Swan said.
Students have been rehearsing for the performance since the beginning of the school year, they said, as it is one of the highlights of being a fifth-grader at Shallowford.
“It’s known that when you get to fifth grade, you get to do this,” Minano said.
The entire school has been involved with the planning of this year’s event, including fifth-grade teacher Kristen Muller, who served in the Navy before becoming a teacher.
Muller said the concert goes hand-in-hand with many of her lessons that teach students about the different branches of the military.
Families have enjoyed the concert in years past, because it “engages the whole family,” in honoring Veterans Day, “something we lose track of in this fast-paced world.”