By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
In June, 125 high school musicians from across the nation will perform near Normandy, France as part of the All-American D-Day Band. Great Bend High School senior August Siefkes is on that short list of musicians that will also play at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"I am doing this to thank all of our veterans and our active servicemen and women," said Siefkes. "The best way I can do that is through music."
Siefkes will be part of the first-ever All-American D-Day band. As musical ambassadors to France, the band will perform the ceremonial music for the official wreath-laying ceremonies at the Brittany and Normandy American Cemeteries and Memorials.
"When I am seated on the platform at the two American Cemeteries looking out at the hundreds of white crosses, and seated next to me are the 100-year-old men who gave their all for our freedom and Liberty, I will be proud to represent Kansas and my home community," Siefkes said in an announcement about the honor.
The trip includes a 2-night stay in Washington, D.C., three nights in Normandy, and three nights in Paris. The band will perform in Paris, and also tour many D-Day-related sites, including Omaha Beach. On June 6, 1944, the largest invasion force in history - consisting of 7,000 ships and 195,000 personnel from eight allied countries - stormed the beaches of Normandy.
Siefkes started band in the fifth grade. She first learned about the D-Day band in 2020. The band was originally slated to perform in the summer of 2022, but COVID-19 pushed the event back to 2023. "My percussion teacher, Mr. Kurtis Koch, he was the one who found out about it, and he reached out to me and said, 'Hey, this looks like something you'd enjoy,'" Siefkes said.
In late 2021, Siefkes was nominated to play in the D-Day Band and sent the organization her musical resume. The nomination was accepted in February, and Siefkes had two weeks in April to submit a video of herself playing along to music provided by the D-Day Band.
Now in the band, Siefkes will play a variety of mallet and accessory percussion instruments, including the xylophone, marimba, bells, chimes, and snare drums. She will play in a full-piece concert band and play the snare in a short marching parade, complete with uniforms.
The trip to France is not free, however. Siefkes is trying to raise approximately $5,000 that would cover all accommodations to Washington D.C. and France. She's reached out to local VFWs and other civic organizations about sharing the D-Day music and story to raise funds. She's also set up a GoFundMe page for the occasion.
Siefkes thanks all veterans and active servicemen and women for being an inspiration. She also thanks her parents, friends, and teachers that made music education possible. Siefkes plans to attend Kansas State University next year with band auditions coming up next spring.
To contribute to Siefkes' journey, visit her GoFundMe page by CLICKING HERE.