Right at 3 p.m., trumpeter Adam Matejek stood in his driveway in northern Columbia and sounded taps. The 24 notes were clear, the familiar tune somber. As soon as he finished, it rained.

Matejek was taking part in the first “Taps Across America.” The program, created by CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman and retired Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva, was a way to mark Memorial Day when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of traditional parades and services.

Veterans, musicians, teachers and students were invited to play taps at 3 p.m. in their respective time zones. Some even joined Facebook Live events.

Matejek, a music teacher at West Middle School, heard about the program from his brother, also a musician.

“I’ve had a tradition for myself of playing it for Veterans Day or Memorial Day,” he said. “And when I read that article (about the program), I thought I’ve got to be part of this.”

Over the years, Matejek has played taps at many funerals — for a 90-year-old and a 20-year-old, for strangers and family. He tries to bring respect to every performance.

“Families are so appreciative,” he said. “They have probably heard it a dozen times, but when it’s played for their loved one, it adds a lot of meaning.”

Matejek began to learn taps in middle school, shortly after he started playing the trumpet.

“It’s a simple melody,” he said, “but it’s probably the most powerful piece of music that I have ever played.”

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • General reporter, summer 2020 Studying data journalism Reach me at jlx4y@mail.missouri.edu

  • Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Columbia Missourian. She oversees coverage of education. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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