Recorded Taps at Funerals

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Firestas'1, Mar 10, 2007.

  1. FreshBrewed

    FreshBrewed Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Houston, TX
    Having run the funeral/memorial bugle roster at Ft. Benning, Georgia, allow me to enlighten everyone what the active duty buglers in the Army are up against. On average, an Army band has six trumpet players. Those six players also play all the gigs with the band. We covered 82 counties that went from Montgomery, Alabama, down to the Florida panhandle and most of lower Georgia. This area is HEAVILY populated with vets because of the large hospital at Ft. Benning. There was always a primary and secondary bugler for the week. I rotated the guys on the weekends to be fair to them and their families since some weekends were heavier than others. The primary was gone ALL THE TIME. The secondary would be gone if the band could function without them on the gig(80% of the time). Approximately 1000 vets die every day. There are 24 regular Army bands. I am aware of the other service bands, BAA, National Guard bands and people willing to freelance for the funerals. The odds are still against the buglers. Unless it is your job to play Taps, it is hard to make it happen because it is always short notice(usually 2 days for Army buglers). If you add the funerals for active duty military into the mix, the hill is even harder to climb. On average the services lose 500 people a year to training accidents or other causes of death. Add to that our war dead. Then there is location. I actually worked it out with a bugler that he could have Friday off if he would cover funerals into the Florida peninsula on the weekend because that was where his wife was living and going to school. I tried to never say no to a funeral but, that was almost impossible. Deeper Florida, as we referred to it, was not our area but they always called us and we tried to accomodate them out of respect for the vet's service.

    I am no longer on active duty because of an injury. I have not played Taps since my discharge in October of 2006. I probably won't play it for a few more years. In 12 years of service I played Taps close to 1000 times for one reason or another. Having seen kids lose their fathers, mothers and fathers lose their sons and daughters, and spouses lose their soul mate that many times, can you blame me? The military buglers work their butts off, as do many other volunteers. They all need a break eventually and alot of times there is no one there to take their place. Maybe that is why there aren't enough live buglers to go around.
  2. Eclipsehornplayer

    Eclipsehornplayer Forte User

    Sep 14, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    That's a great perspective Mike...

    I know that Military musicians are some busy folks. I am here in Columbus, GA near Ft. Benning and run into them every now and then.

    They always seem to be doing 20 things at once.

    Thanks for adding your perspective to the discussion at hand; and thanks for your service.
  3. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

    Jun 11, 2006
    Great post. Thank you for the facts.
    I'll try to find time to check around here to see what the funeral homes do. It might be time to put together a seminar in the summer.

    What clothing would you suggest a high school trumpet player wear?
    Is a concert band uniform acceptable?

    When I played in high school they had be stand away from the grave site when I now know that the bugler is to stand near the color guard and play toward the people.

    Please add more information as to what you were taught in the service.
  4. FreshBrewed

    FreshBrewed Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Houston, TX
    We generally stood near the color guard or atleast had line of sight to the fire team leader. The majority of the time we would speak to the fire team leader shortly before the ceremony to work the details out and be on the same page, so to speak. After the shots were fired we would wait until the fire team leader rendered a salute, then we would begin playing Taps. Due to lack of personnel, the fire team usually folded the flag as well but waited to move to the casket until after we played Taps. If you are within fifty feet of the casket I would suggest not facing the family. It all depends on how well a person projects as to which direction the bell needs to point. Just remember that it is a somber event and Taps should be heard "off in the distance". As for what to wear, I would suggest jacket and tie if not in a military uniform. Sometimes the military color guard may have affiliation issues if you were wearing a school uniform. It just depends on the situation and the people involved.
  5. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    The American Legion troupe I play most with always put me on the end of the guard farthest from the commander, but I stand in line with them, face the same direction with them and march off with them. This group has done it this way as far as I can remember - back to the 70's.

    Other squads have asked me to be off in the distance a ways.
  6. Brett Getzen

    Brett Getzen Pianissimo User

    Sep 19, 2006
    Elkhorn, WI
    Mike, thank you so much for your insight. Unfortunately, that is the case across the country. That is why we so eagerly support groups like Bugles Across America. While the funerals they cover are still only a drop in the bucket, it is something.

    We were lucky here when my grandfather, a WWII vet, passed away a few years ago. One of the guys from the factory asked if he could play Taps for us as a thank you for everything my grandfather had done. Unfortunately, not everyone works in a trumpet factory with access to players like us.

    Brett Getzen
  7. gicos

    gicos New Friend

    Mar 17, 2007
    I am surprised that I have not run into Mike in my 14 years of Army service. I second everything he said about the workload. We are some busy individuals. It's really hard to keep going sometimes, especially looking at the faces of the family members. These days all of the active duty deaths (meaning young people) are covered by active duty buglers, so at least odds are good that none of you helping out will have to experience the horror of war casualties.

    As to where to stand, as Mike stated, every site is different. Accoustics are #1 on the priority list, so no two locations will be the same. I've gotten into some "knock down drag outs" with folks in charge who wanted me to stand in a loction I knew would kill the sound. Hold your ground there--you are the expert on trumpet sound, not them. Second, by regulation, the bugler is to be in the direct view of the next of kin. Again, this sometimes gets bumped by rule #1, but should be done if possible. You are essentially sending a message through your playing to start healing, so it makes sense to be seen. I'm not a fan of hiding behind things and will never allow my folks to do that. Third is to be in sight of the firing party (least important). I always remind the NCOIC (person in charge) of the firing party that I will not begin taps until they have fired and are at present arms. Some of them get really nervous when they see you getting ready and end up blowing it for lack of faith in you. Even if you have to position where you can't see them, remind them that you will listen for commands after they fire and won't play until you hear "present arms".

    As to marching in with the firing team (never with the color guard both are present) this is avoided by military buglers for simple reasons. If a color guard and firing team are present, the firing team should be pre-positioned before the honor guard carries the casket from the hurst. Everyone in uniform is supposed to go to present arms as the hurst arrives, when the casket is moving, and during taps (right after for the bugler). It serves no purpose in this case for the firing team to be anywhere other than where they will fire from. In the more common case where the firing party and color guard are rolled into one, they will stack their weapons and be in position when the hurst arrives to transport the casket. The bugler will serve no purpose being anywhere other than in position. When they have the casket placed, they will march out, take their weapons, and wait until it is time to render honors. I realize that the business of saluting won't apply to those not in uniform, but the logistics are the same.

    Hopefully some of the above is a little clearer than mud. Army Regulations 3-21.5 and 220-90 cover the logistics for Soldiers if you are still gray about what's supposed to happen. They can be found at Army Publishing Directorate (APD) - Home Page and are open to the public. To my knowledge there is no difference in the manner funerals are conducted across all the services. I have performed taps for service members from all but the coast guard and all were the same taps-wise. Again the most humble of thanks to all who are helping out. It does matter.
  8. FreshBrewed

    FreshBrewed Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Houston, TX

    If you were stationed in Germany during that time, then you know or have seen me. God knows those first few years I was a wild child with a sort of bad rep...... All but 12 months of my career I spent in Germany. Those 12 months I was at Ft. Benning. Chances are we do know each other or know the same people. I was at the SOM in SEP 94 and again in FEB 06.

    The artist formerly known as SGT Mike Daly.
  9. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    Well, I'll just put in a few random thoughts. BAA sounds like a good organization, but I never got a call. Not only that, but the site dropped my password twice making me re-register twice and each time having to provide yet another e-mail address. I ran out of addresses, and patience, and gave up on them!

    The VFW and Legions, as has been noted, just aren't interested in a bugler--been there, tried that.

    My first experience with the electronic bugle was interesting. I'm a civil war reenactor, and at the end of a dusk battle there was supposed to be a bugler sounding taps. Taps sounded, but it was odd. The sound didn't project although the notes were perfectly spaced and in tune. I asked my 1 sgt. if the guy playing was new to playing bugle, as the bugle sounded odd.

    He laughed and said 'no, that's a recording--you know, an electronic bugle'. The next day I had a chance to really look the thing over. They are expensive at over $600! It was a bugle with a large bell, pitched in 'F', with this electronic gizmo stuffed down the bell. The surprise was that I could take the electronic gizmo out, and I had a bugle in 'F'---and that bugle could really ring!

    I told the guy with the bugle he should buy a Getzen or Kanstul bugle, and invest the difference in lessons! He just laughed and put the bugle away....

  10. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    Well, that's a big drawback with the electronic bugle. If that guy wants to do much of anything else at a reenactment, what will he do? I know some of the "fake" ones will play a few more calls, but not many, and some of those may not be correct for the period. He may not get the last laugh.

    I just recorded about 20 Civil War bugle calls (in uniform with a Civil War-era bugle) on video for an interactive display at the Confederate Memorial Park Museum north of Montgomery, Alabama. Guess who gets the opportunity to do things like that? A REAL bugler, or a pretender?

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