On Sunday, retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jari Villanueva will perform “Taps” on a 150-year-old Clairon bugle at White Point Garden.
“Audiences will hear the same exact sound people heard during the Civil War,” Villanueva said.
Despite flunking history in college, Villanueva has dedicated his life to the music of the Civil War. In 2007 he became the first active-duty military bugler inducted into the Buglers Hall of Fame.
Villanueva will join Georgia's Eighth Regiment Band Sunday for Piccolo Spoleto's Echoes of the Civil War. The program will feature songs of the Civil War performed with period dress and instruments.
Villanueva will play “Manual of Arms Polka,” “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground,” and “Taps” with the band, in addition to their robust lineup. Though written for Union troops, such bugle calls were adopted by both armies.
During the Civil War, the North alone had more than 28,000 enlisted musicians, many of whom were buglers. Today, the bugle's use is primarily ceremonial — it's been decades since it was used to assemble men in the field.
In the mid-20th century, military bands began adopting new music to reflect cultural changes, starting with Glenn Miller's big band swing in the 1940s and continuing with jazz and rock in subsequent decades.
Today, the Navy even has a country ensemble called Country Current.
Georgia's Eighth Regiment Band is one of many bands seeking to keep historical military music alive. It plays songs of the Civil War and members typically wear the South's gray uniforms, but founder John Carruth insists they are not a Confederate group.
“We're a living museum of 19th-century emotions,” he said. “The music of the time was not solely Union or Confederate; the armies used the same songs. In order for people to believe what we're all about we need to show both sides.”
At Sunday's performance the band will wear blue and gray uniforms.
Villanueva directs a similar group — Maryland's Federal City Brass Band — that plays Union music, so he plans to wear his Union blues Sunday.
“Music brings people together, even during war,” Villanueva said.
At the Battle of Cold Harbour in 1864, for example, a “competition concert” broke out between bands camped on opposite sides of the front. Confederates played “Dixie” and Union musicians responded with the “Star Spangled Banner.” Eventually, both bands began playing in unison.
“They played ‘Home Sweet Home' together and sang from the hilltops all night,” Villanueva said. “Then they retired to their camps only to wake up and start killing each other.”
Music served as a reminder of the nation's united roots. Officers on either side graduated from West Point together, and both armies used the same tactical manual. The bugle calls, like the uniforms and battle methods, were the same for both camps.
In addition to “Taps,” Villanueva and the Eighth Regiment Band will play William Kittredge's “Tenting Tonight,” one of the nation's earliest protest songs. Though Kittredge was a Union soldier, the North and South adopted the song for its anti-war theme.
“Music transcends war,” Villanueva said. “It brings soldiers a reminder of home.”
Chris Baker is a Newhouse School graduate student.