Jari Villanueva knows his bugle calls and the one he's intimately familiar with is Taps, inarguably the most frequently played bugle call of them all.

"That's the one call played every evening at U.S. Military bases here and around the world that unites us all as Americans," Jari explains. During his career, Jari has sounded Taps thousands of times and dedicated himself to researching its history becoming the country's foremost expert on the call.

Jari's love of music started at a young age, and along the way, he was exposed to a healthy dose of patriotism and pride starting as a bugler in the Boy Scouts.  In 1978, Jari went on to earn his Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Peabody Conservatory at John Hopkins University and his Masters in trumpet performance from Kent State. He is also a graduate of the Air Force Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy.

In addition to playing in the Air Force Band, between 1985 and 2008 Jari served as a bugler at Arlington National Cemetery playing Taps for countless military funerals, and that's how he first learned of Wreaths Across America.

"I remember being in the cemetery years ago and seeing one section, it was the World War I section, near Fort Myer that was all covered in wreaths, and I was wondering who the heck put them there," Jari explains. "I know what struck me about it. It was an old section that no family members would be coming to visit." It's really a great thing to see how it's grown and grown over the years and expanded to other national and state cemeteries across the country."

Jari's passion for the history and performance of Taps resulted from his embarrassment one day of being caught off guard with a simple questioned posed to him by his drum major on the way to a funeral at Arlington.

"He asked me if I knew the origin of Taps and I couldn't answer him," Jari chuckled. "The next day I decided to crack the books and find out what was the true history and the first thing I came across was the myth about the Union Captain and his Confederate son, but, that didn't ring true to me."

That's when he doubled down on his research.

"I went up to the huge military library at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. Then I went to the National Archives and the Library of Congress sifting through articles and talking with people who shared my interest and passion on the topic. Along the way, I met Jack Carter who had the largest collections of bugles in the country."

Jari provides a wealth of information on the origin of Taps for all who visit his website.  Some of his research took him back to the historical performance of Taps during President John F. Kennedy's Funeral and a relationship he developed with the U.S. Army trumpeter Keith Clark who hit the wrong note while sounding the call.

"When I was eight years old I remember being glued to the TV and being enthralled by all the pomp and circumstance of the funeral; the caisson, the troops, the bands and of course the trumpeter. I felt such a strong empathy for him that I decided to contact him as part of my research. He was living in Florida and agreed to be interviewed," Jari explains. "He was a phenomenal trumpet player, but he'll always be remembered for that note. He was a gracious, Christian man who was very generous with his time for me. He got thousands of letters following his performance in the Kennedy funeral one of which was encouragement from a nine-year-old boy."

In the late 90's Jari created an exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery featuring bugles and buglers and he had the responsibility of transferring the bugle Keith Clark played from the Smithsonian to Arlington.

Jari's notoriety comes as much from his historical knowledge and performances as a Taps bugler as it does from his music arranging. His arrangement of the song Going Home was featured in a full honors arrival ceremony scene in the movie, Clear and Present Danger.

"That appeared to get a lot of attention because I started getting a lot of requests for it including from President Reagan's family. When he passed away, the Air Force Band got a request for it to be played during his departure ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base. That piece of music is now part of the Presidential State Funeral Music, and it's played in Arlington National Cemetery by all the military bands there, and it's something of which I'm very proud."

When Jari retired from the military, he served for ten years as Director of the Maryland National Guard's Military Funeral Honors Program providing honors for well over thirty-five thousand Maryland veterans.

You can hear more with Jari during the Military Musicians Showcase on Wreaths Across America Radio Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 Am until Noon Eastern.

 

 

 

 

Read More