For a group of George Washington University students, faculty and staff honoring our nation’s veterans was the inspiration for a show performed on Veterans Day, which featured songs and letters from the Civil War through World War II.
The GW VALOR Chorus—dubbed in honor of the university’s Veterans Accelerate Learning Opportunities and Rewards program— performed “At War and On the Home Front: Letters and Songs” for an appreciative crowd on Monday night at Vinson Hall—a retirement home for military officers, career government officers and their immediate family members in McLean, Va. GW has a long-standing relationship with Vinson Hall where students routinely visit and do service projects.
Each participant in the chorus had a direct connection to a service member or veteran. The chorus performed earlier on Monday during GW’s Veterans Memorial Park dedication ceremony.
“GW students’ involvement in community outreach manifests in many different ways, but to reach out as artists is particularly powerful,” said Leslie Jacobson, professor of theatre and dance. “To participate in the process of passing empathy and understanding from generation to generation, through the conduits of song and story—it doesn't get much better than that.”
The group had just weeks to pull the production together. The performance was built around authentic letters from each conflict read by GW students Delante Fludd, Hilary Kelly and Max Schwager.
Another key theme of the show was how certain types of music brought the nation together during wartimes. Student singers Stephanie Rosenblum, Mr. Schwager, Ilyssa Weingarden, Colton Timmerman, Danielle Santilli and Bill Hinman embraced the challenge of learning musical pieces from eras gone by including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Keep the Home Fires Burning.”
Assistant Professor of Music Robert Baker; Ms. Jacobson; Professor of Theatre Alan Wade; Chief of Staff to the President Barbara Porter; Director of Alumni Career Center Services Michael Steelman; Senior Director of Development Communications Lauren Walinsky; Provost Lerman’s wife, Lori Lerman; and Jerry Green rounded out the cast, accompanied by Professor of Music Frank Conlon on piano.
The finale was an inspiring military medley paying homage to all the service branches. Residents from Vinson Hall stood when they heard their anthems.
“You all had fun. I saw toe tapping. I heard you singing along,” said Associate Provost for Military and Veterans Affairs Vice Admiral (retired) Mel Williams Jr. after the performance.
Ms. Lerman praised the GW students for their commitment to the project.
“I was incredibly proud of the young men and women who are students at GW. I have been part of many different university communities at various times in my life, but I have never been a member of a university community in which service is such an integral part of daily life and where the students give of themselves with such enthusiasm and conviction,” she said.