Oh Say, You Can't Sing

FORT McHENRY, Md., July 2, 2006 — -- "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem -- but the way some people sing it, it's a national plea for help. Desperate help.

A Harris poll found that two thirds of Americans don't know all the words to the anthem. And coming out of the mouths of some that do-- Well, it's ugly.

Which is where a group of determined music teachers comes in.

"We're becoming a nation of watchers and listeners in regard to the national anthem, and we're trying to fix that," said John Mahlmann, director of the National Association for Music Education.

Founded by music teachers, the National Anthem Project is traveling to towns and schools in all 50 states to teach people the song -- a song with tough words, and high notes that cause high anxiety.

"It is a very challenging song, you are right about that," Mahlmann said. "But that is why we want music teachers helping young people deal with it."

They are also trying to teach some of the history of the song. Francis Scott key wrote the poem that became "The Star-Spangled Banner" while watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. When Key gazed over the walls of the fort, or the "ramparts," he saw the American flag still waving -- or as he put it, so "gallantly streaming."

By teaching the words and music, the music teachers are also passing on the message.

"It means that we're very kept together and our flag is very, very important to us," said Anna Brosius, a 10-year-old at Fort McHenry.

It means that in good times and in bad, we can come together and sing -- sing about "the land of the free and the home of the brave."