A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Honoring Nation’s Fallen Through Music

By Jamie Rogers on May 4, 2016


For months, Daniel Boothe, MM ’08, struggled with his most important musical assignment to date—How do you express the loss caused by death?

Just before receiving his current assignment at the Pentagon, Boothe was asked by the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations to compose a musical accompaniment for video documentaries of dignified transfers, or somber ceremonies for fallen U.S. soldiers returning home through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The U.S. Department of Defense provides the videos, which are offered to the families of the fallen as a gesture on behalf of the nation.

Captain Daniel Boothe, MM Orchestral Conducting '08, at the Air Force Memorial. Photo by Alexis Glenn

Captain Daniel Boothe, MM Orchestral Conducting ’08, at the Air Force Memorial. Photo by Alexis Glenn

The military was using commercially licensed music, but sought Boothe out after it was decided the task should be supported internally with music written by a military member. Boothe volunteered his personal time outside of his Pentagon public affairs job to compose the piece.

For months he worked closely with the military to come up with 15 minutes of original music that can be edited to be longer or shorter depending on the length of the video. Boothe also asked to participate in a dignified transfer.

“That was a life-changing thing,” he says. “You understand [death] in a whole new way when you witness [one].”

While composing the music, Boothe was training for his first deployment. As a married father of three, he says the composition process included some painful thoughts of the loss his own family could feel.

“I thought about my wife and children. I thought, ‘Am I going to be the one coming back to my own music?’” says Boothe, who comes from a military family that represents almost every branch of service.

The military began using his Tribute Music for Our Fallen, which was performed and produced by the U.S. Air Force Band and Orchestra, in 2014.

Boothe also safely returned from his six-month deployment to the Middle East, which included time in Afghanistan. He served as an officer in charge of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band, leading 24 musicians on 132 performances for more than three million people in five countries.

Being a musician requires discipline, much like service in the military. Music requires an unceasing dedication,” Boothe says. “You want to do it because you believe it is worth it.”


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