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Pomp and Circumstance-inspired Musings

by Kimberly on May 13, 2017 · 0 comments

I am fresh off the annual academic tradition of the commencement ceremony. With its academic regalia, inspirational speeches, decorated caps, air horns, and (of course) music, this event marks a concrete moment in life when one transitions into a new role—student to professional, student back to (law/medical/grad) student, student scholar to professional academic.

I enjoy the pageantry and ritual of the ceremony itself. And like many ceremonies, a common thread you’ll find is music. For U.S. graduations in particular the tune associated with this rite of passage is the trio from Edward Elgar’s March No. 1, known as “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Inspired in large part by teaching Psychology of Music this spring, I spent time this week outlining some of the subtly important functions this trio has in the U.S. graduation ceremony. Though the focus is on a commencement-specific tune, the role of music translates to other ceremonies as well.


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