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If you were one of the nearly 40 million people who tuned in to President Joseph R. Biden’s Inauguration on January 20, 2021, chances are you enjoyed a significant amount of patriotic American music throughout the televised event. One of the pieces highlighted at two points during the ceremony—when Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama were first introduced, and again when President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden entered the White House—was composed by a George Mason University faculty member.
Dennis Edelbrock, who is an Adjunct Professor of Trumpet in the Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music as well as a retired Sergeant Major of the United States Army Band, originally wrote the fanfare “Salute to a New Beginning” for then-President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Following the excitement around his composition being re-played for an event of such magnitude, the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) team was eager to learn more about his musical work.
CVPA: Why and how did you create “Salute to a New Beginning”?
DR. EDELBROCK: When I was in the U.S. Army Band and Ronald Reagan got elected, I was excited about the possibility of writing a new fanfare for use at the White House and other historic events. Knowing his penchant for Hollywood productions, and having performed on some events that he hosted at the White House, I thought there might be a chance that an “updated” fanfare could be exciting to him and his staff. So, I got busy and imbedded some commercial pop music rhythms and contemporary harmonies into a new composition.
CVPA: How would you further describe this piece of music?
DR. EDELBROCK: “Salute to a New Beginning” was written for the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, which are comprised of 14 trumpets of all pitches and sizes (proudly displaying their tabards), as well as two field drums. The piece features rock and roll rhythms, contemporary pop harmonies, and exhilarating scale runs. I also inserted a break that includes a drum roll. This break, and its accompanying drum roll, can be extended indefinitely to get a limousine carrying a head of state around the White House driveway and up to site of the ceremony. Or, in other cases, it can be used to introduce a dignitary and can be extended until that person reaches the dais or speaker’s podium. So, in a sense, it can be used theatrically as “travelling music.”
CVPA: What is your favorite memory of it being performed?
DR. EDELBROCK: That's an impossible choice! “Salute to a New Beginning” has been used at many historic and national events over the years, including every Inauguration since President Reagan, the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, the signing of the International Nuclear Weapons Peace Accords, and at hundreds of White House arrival ceremonies.
Perhaps my most treasured memory is from when, because of my fanfare, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets were invited to the White House Rose Garden and met President Reagan in person. There, he told me a funny story from when he proudly led the band as a drum major in his middle school in Elgin, Illinois. The parade marshal approached the band—unbeknownst to him—and told the band director that the parade had changed routes. Reagan, leading the band in front, didn't get the instructions and kept marching straight as the band had been instructed to turn a corner, resulting in him marching proudly all by himself…“into the sunset.”
CVPA: What went through your mind as you heard it being played on January 20, 2021?
DR. EDELBROCK: I was thrilled and proud, as always. I think we all have a patriotic duty to do anything that helps our country, and to do it selflessly. Frontline healthcare workers, teachers, artists—are ALL included; not just those in the military, of whom I am also very proud.
CVPA: What would you say to Mason students who dream about having their music performed at that level?
DR. EDELBROCK: I would tell them: follow your dreams—head in the stars, feet on the ground!
We encourage you to check out Dr. Dennis Edelbrock’s composition, “Salute to a New Beginning,” as performed by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets in this YouTube video, below. Enjoy!