EHS Betsy Band returns to honor Vietnam veterans
Last year, the Elizabethton High School ’Betsy Band marched to the state championship with a show celebrating its hometown.
This year, the band hopes to bring home another state title by celebrating and honoring the nation’s veterans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
The 140-plus members of the ’Betsy Band recently spent a week in band camp learning all the steps to go with their new show, “To Build A Wall,” which Band Director Perry Elliott described as a celebration of the Vietnam War Memorial.
“When I am thinking about ideas for our show, I try to think of things that are uplifting and inspiring,” Elliott said. “I don’t want to have a negative show. I want the students to learn something from the show and for the crowd to be inspired after watching it.”
Elliott said he thought back to Vietnam, which was the focus of intense debate as it was being fought. After the war, the idea to build a memorial to those who had died was met with animosity and at that time, any permanent tribute to the war would have been regarded as a “scar on the landscape.”
He noted there would be no controversy about Vietnam included in the show.
“This is simply and purely a celebration of what it took for our men and women to get on that wall,” he said. “This is about their sacrifice.”
The show will feature four songs, each telling a different part of the story. The first part of the show will tell about walls. Elliott said there would be no mention of Vietnam at this point, just about how walls can keep things in or block them out.
The second song will reveal there is one special wall that has been called a “healing wall.” The third song tells about the sacrifice of the soldiers, and the fourth will be a celebratory song.
The students will also wear a memorial to former EHS students who were killed in Vietnam, and band members’ T-shirts will feature the names of former EHS students lost in that war.
The ’Betsy Band will participate in four competitions this year. They will take part in Bristol’s Music in the Castle on Oct. 4, the Admiral Cup in Knoxville on Oct. 18 and the Hilltopper Invitational in Johnson City on Oct. 25. They will also travel to the Nashville area to be a part of the Tennessee Division II state championship on Nov. 1.
The ’Betsy Band will be the defending state champions.
“I am pleased with all we did last year,” Elliott said. “Our goals for this year, is as always, to make the city of Elizabethton proud. I want for us to perform the music and do it to the best we can do and be proud of the effort. Trophies come and go, but the pride of being a part of something larger than yourself stays.”
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