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Published: Friday, 5/18/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Father, daughter to play anniversary 'Taps'

SE Michigan duo part of 170 at Arlington National Cemetery

Mitch Steils and daughter Emily will play 'Taps' at Arlington National Cemetery. Mitch Steils and daughter Emily will play 'Taps' at Arlington National Cemetery.

As American bugle and trumpet players raise their instruments Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the 150th anniversary of "Taps," a father-daughter team from southeast Michigan will participate in the once-in-a-life-time event.

Mitch Steils and his daughter Emily, 18, of Ida, Mich., will be among the 170 buglers and trumpeters who will play the widely known 24 notes of "Taps." The occasion in Arlington, Va., is set to celebrate the music and bring attention to the need for live buglers to play the song at service funerals.

"I am so excited. It's such an honor to do this," said Miss Steils, a senior at Ida High School, who recalls first hearing "Taps" at the funeral of a relative who served in the military.

"It was so emotional that it gives you goose bumps. It's just 24 little notes, but the emotion it provides is so healing and comforting to families. It's nice to give back to the people who protect us and who have given so much for our country."

Miss Steils and her father each began playing the trumpet when they were in fifth grade.

"I took band in the fifth grade and loved it and never stopped," Mr. Steils said. He is a social worker at Monroe County Intermediate School District and also teaches at Monroe County Community College.

The father-daughter team perform at Peace Lutheran Church in Ida and at various other venues in their community. Miss Steils will attend Eastern Michigan University in the fall to major in music education.

"I just love music; it's my life and what I have chosen for a career," she said.

She also plays the trombone.

"Our band director has encouraged us to learn new instruments, and they needed a trombone player and I started out on trombone," she said.

Mr. Steil's wife, Linda, and twin sons Zach and Sam, 12, also are going to Arlington. The family's experience springs from father and daughter joining Bugler Across America about two years ago. The organization tries to ensure that "Taps" players are available to play at military funerals. Saturday's celebration is sponsored by TAPS 150, Bugles Across America, and Arlington National Cemetery.

"Being trumpet players, we play as often and at as many things as we can. Fewer and fewer people are willing to be live 'Taps' players at funerals," Mr. Steils said.

Therefore, a mechanical bugler is sometimes used.

"It's a good thing to have if you cannot get any 'Taps' players, but it's prestigious to have live players at a grave side," he said.

The Steils expect to perform at the final resting place of Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, who died in 1992. Though she had a distinguished career as a professor, in the military, and in her work with computers, she is commonly known for originating the use of the term "bug" in reference to computer programs with defects. The story is that a moth caught in a computer caused it to stop working. Thus, it needed "debugging."

As Miss Steils plays "Taps" at the admiral's grave side, she will display on her love of music.

"Music is not only something I hear, but something I feel as well," she said.

And as "Taps" is played, marking its 150th year, members of the military and others will feel the weight of the sacrifice that so many of our troops have made.

Contact Rose Russell at rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.

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