Skip to main content
  • sound►culture
    The Star-Spangled Banner (Folklife Remix)

    Blog post main image

    sound►culture is a Folklife Festival podcast series featuring stories, songs, and fieldwork gathered on the National Mall and around the world.

    The Star Spangled Banner (Folklife Remix) from a Citizenship Ceremony at the 2017 Folklife Festival

    We often talk about “magic moments” at the Folklife Festival: an impromptu performance, a serendipitous discovery, an unexpected encounter, or any occasion that reminds us why this annual event is so important. For me, that moment came during the Citizenship Ceremony on July 7, 2017.

    My colleague and our resident banjo expert Greg Adams had just finished performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a rendition so beautifully sparse compared to the marching bands and wailing divas I’m used to. Before the young American citizens-to-be took the Oath of Allegiance, Natalia Tomczynski from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asked each to stand up as they heard their countries of origin called. To see them pop up, one by one, representing nations from almost every letter of the alphabet, inheriting the legacy of countless waves of immigrants to this continent before them, I felt so proud—to be there with them, to be part of the Festival, and to be in this country.

    Ringmaster Timothy Mack rounded out the ceremony, echoing a lesson heard throughout both Circus Arts and On the Move programs: hold onto your traditions, your languages, and your cultures, because that’s what makes each of us, and the United States, unique.

    Folklife Festival Citizenship Ceremony
    New young citizens stand for the National Anthem in the historic Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.
    Photo by Daniel Martinez, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Folklife Festival Citizenship Ceremony
    Upon their official confirmation, new citizens wave their American flags.
    Photo by Daniel Martinez, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    Elisa Hough is the editor for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Dave Walker provided additional audio mastering.

  • Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.