“O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars …”

Forgot what comes next? You aren’t alone.

A recent Harris poll found that two of three American adults don’t know all of the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem.

Many don’t even know which song is the national anthem or why it was written.

An ABC News Poll showed that the issue is particularly relevant among teens.

-- One in three didn’t know the official name of the national anthem (“The Star-Spangled Banner”).

-- Fewer than 35 percent of American teens could name the author of the national anthem (Francis Scott Key).

-- As few as 15 percent of American youth could sing the words to the anthem from memory.

A group of Woodrow Wilson Middle School choral students is doing its part to promote the symbolic song by participating in the National Anthem Project, sponsored by the National Association for Music Education.

The 35 students and their teacher, Lerene Salisbury, will travel to Washington, D.C., next month. On March 4, they will perform in a concert at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where the original flag that inspired the song is located.

They will sing the national anthem and other songs with a guest conductor. About 300 students from across the country will participate.

The following day, the large group will sing the national anthem at a Washington Wizards basketball game.

The Wilson group was invited to participate, based on recommendations of other music educators.

The goal of the project is to promote the significance and history of the national anthem, and at the same time “to spotlight the role of music education in our country,” said Salisbury, Wilson’s choral teacher.

The 35 students are in grades 6 to 8 and they are planning fund-raisers to help pay for the trip.

“It should be a fabulous singing experience … and they will be on the ground floor of trying to get the national anthem back to the forefront,” Salisbury said.

Students also will do some sightseeing and visit some of the national monuments. Salisbury chose the 35 students based on attitude, effort and ability.

The National Anthem Project consists of a series events over three years that will culminate in 2007, said Chris Meeker, vice president of American Musical Salute, the tour and concert provider for the National Anthem Project.

The National Association for Music Education “saw a need for people around the country to learn the national anthem,” he said.

People tend to learn the national anthem in school music classes, but in recent years, tight budgets at many schools often force cutbacks in school music programs.

Another goal of the National Anthem Project is to raise awareness about the importance of supporting and funding school music programs, according to the project’s Web site at www.thenationalanthemproject.org.

Among the Wilson students traveling to Washington is eighth-grader Ceira Davidson. She believes the National Anthem Project is important because “a lot of people don’t really pay attention to our American history.” Americans should know the country’s history and the national anthem, she said.

Seventh-grader Collin Egan said, “It’s our national anthem, and everyone should take pride in it.”

Eighth-grader Savanna Richardson loves singing and is honored to attend. The patriotic project reminds Americans they should value their freedoms and know the country’s origins. “We are in a country that’s probably the freest nation in the world and we need to take pride in that,” she said.

Sixth-grader Adler Ingalsbe believes that taking part in the National Anthem Project concert “is kind of supporting our country.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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