WLU Singers perform at Wheeling-Ohio County Airport during 9/11 remembrance event

WLU Singers with Dr. Linda Cowan, Chair, Department of Music and Theater and Professor Patrick Garrett, Music Education

The WLU Singers traveled to the Wheeling-Ohio County Regional Airport on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, to perform at Honoring Heroes, a 9/11 remembrance event presented by the Ohio County Commission and the American Legion Post 1.

Dr. Ryan Keeling, director of choral activities at WLU, had a discussion with the leader of Wheeling’s American Legion Post 1 about participating in their Veterans Day Service back in November of 2020. When the American Legion Post 1 officially invited WLU singers to perform in the 9/11 remembrance event, Keeling said “we jumped at the opportunity.”

Under the direction of Keeling, the WLU Singers performed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “America the Beautiful” and “American Anthem” by Gene Scheer. Keeling says that each three musical ensembles presented by the singers are appropriate for this type of event. “The words are about using what we have inherited as Americans to honor those who came before us not only with heroic actions but with quiet acts of dignity as well. It is a song that has been performed by Denyce Graves at several very important national events such as George W. Bush’s 2005 inauguration, for President Clinton’s Save America’s Treasures initiative and while Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lay in state. The lyrics were also quoted by President Joe Biden in his inaugural address,” explained Keeling.

Being able to perform at this particular event on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Keeling feels these types of events are especially “important to us as people and musicians.” He went on to say, “I think that music is one of the best mediums for honoring our heroes and remembering major events [such as 9/11] in our history.”

WLU Singers performed around 10:45 a.m. followed by remarks, recognitions and a ceremony around 11 a.m. The rest of the day was full of events such as food, beverage vendors, live entertainment by local bands, activities for kids, airplane rides, tour of airport terminals, firework display and star gazing. Please visit the airports website for more detailed information regarding the activities at the event.

Madison Bolyard, junior education major, says that performing at this event was very important to her. “I was able to show respect to the brave first responders who were present at the 9/11 attacks, while also paying tribute to the lives lost that day,” Bolyard said. Overall, Bolyard says the event felt “respectful and hopeful for the future of the United States.”

Emma Gragan, a music concentration major with a double concentration in voice and flute, says the performance meant a lot to her because “I wanted to honor the people who lost their lives 20 years ago as well as all the first responders and veterans. I think honoring people through song is a way we can bring others joy or serenity in times of sadness.” Gragan described the overall feeling of the event as “somber”, but also happy as people were able to gather outdoors.

Both Bolyard and Gragan described how excited the WLU Singers were to be able to perform at the event to respect current and fallen first responders.

WLU Singers is the top choir at the university with membership being open to all students of any major. If interested, students must audition with Keeling in order to gain membership. WLU Singers engage in yearly regional recruitment and outreach tours after spring commencement. The choir has toured nationally and internationally with recent international destinations to Italy, Spain and Ireland. If interested in becoming a part of WLU’s choir, please contact Keeling at [email protected].