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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

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The Music Man: He’s marched in many a big parade, played Taps at 400-plus funerals

By Pfc. Alicia Small | | July 28, 2006

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO -- Out of a sincere devotion to play the final song for a Marine who has passed away, Cpl. Aaron A. Rapp, from Marine Band San Diego, performed Taps at a funeral July 13 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.As a bugler, it was Rapp’s 400th time rendering this honor.During his three-and-a-half years with the band, Rapp has played his trumpet for numerous ceremonies aboard the depot and in support of the Western Recruiting Region.Rapp, who is originally from Las Vegas, developed a love for music early in life.Building a foundation for his career in music, he began playing piano when he was six. He also played the French horn during junior high before finding his instrument of choice, the trumpet. He said he made the trumpet his life.Performing music was always a passion for him because of the emotional effect it had on people. It provided him with the ability to speak words through his music.“Certain songs, chords and harmonies all trigger different feelings and emotions. You hear a song and can’t explain why you like it–you just do,” said Rapp.Two people provided Rapp with his musical inspiration.Rich Matta, his trumpet teacher and mentor as a child, proved to be the biggest inspiration for Rapp’s appreciation for music.During sessions with Matta, Rapp said he learned not just about music, but about life in general.One of the character traits Matta said he saw in Rapp was his ability to deal with others without creating offense. It was tact that helped Rapp become a good trumpet player in the Marine Corps as he strived to cooperate with his peers and leaders.Always willing to go the extra mile to help someone, Matta said it didn’t surprise him that Rapp volunteered to perform at numerous funerals.“Rapp is an outstanding Marine because he would take the shirt off his back at any time for anybody,” said Sgt. Ronald A. Orange, saxophone player, Marine Band San Diego.A second inspiration to play the trumpet came from Maynard Ferguson, a famous jazz musician.Rapp said Ferguson took jazz from its infancy to the popular music it is now. He said he also learned perseverance as Ferguson is 78 years old and still playing.“That’s the good thing about music,” said Rapp. “You can play until your dying day.”Using his musical talent to move the families and friends of the deceased by playing Taps, Rapp said he felt like his tour with the band had extra special meaning, because he was afforded the chance to touch people’s lives.While performing funerals at the cemetery, Rapp stood ceremoniously by the same tree, which was about 25 head stones away from the pavilion where the families gathered.Playing Taps as a lone bugler can be stressful because everyone is silent and hanging onto every note, said Rapp.Taps is the last thing families hear before the funeral ceremony ends. When all ears are at attention, nerves and anxiety about making a mistake create a lot of pressure and make it challenging to play, said Rapp. According to Rapp, his 400th funeral Taps was played perfectly. Taking it personally, Rapp has volunteered as often as possible for Taps to ensure that deceased Marines are given the respect they deserve, said Staff Sgt. Jerry A. Luczenczyn, a trumpet player with the band.“It is hard not to get caught up on who the person was or how much the family missed their loved one,” said Rapp.Motivation to volunteer to play Taps at funerals came from Rapp’s grandfather. The first funeral he played Taps at was his grandfather’s shortly after he graduated from boot camp in 2003. Rapp said he thinks about his grandfather every time he plays at a funeral and how proud he would be to know his grandson had touched 400 families in a heartfelt and meaningful way.Having grown a lot during his years with the band and through performing at funerals, Rapp has learned to appreciate the Marine Corps more because of the positive lifelong effect it has on families.

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