AUBURN — Longtime music teacher Susan May has been putting together musical tributes for America's veterans for over 20 years.
May — the mastermind behind Sunday's "With an Attitude of Gratitude" musical tribute to veterans at the Willard Memorial Chapel — said she started doing the shows when she was a music teacher at Herman Avenue Elementary School. The students would learn "The Star-Spangled Banner" and perform for around 60 veterans.
Now, May encourages her private lessons students to perform in the show she hosts at the chapel.
"I just strive to get the kids to use their talents for the benefit of the community," May said. "They always seem to be game for it."
Half of the money raised from this year's show will be donated to the non-profit organization Home for Our Troops. The other half will be donated back to the chapel.
There were several veterans present during Sunday's show. Lou Patti, Jerry Fulmer and Nick Valenti, who all served during the Vietnam War, presented the colors — an American flag, a Vietnam Veterans of America flag and a POW/MIA flag — at the beginning of the program and retrieved them at the end.
"We just like being able to represent our fellow veterans," Valenti said. "It's a time when we represent all veterans, regardless if they're living or dead."
"What branch, when they served, what county — it don't matter," Patti added. "We're all veterans."
In between saluting the flag, May, five of her young students and several of her friends performed a variety of musical numbers. Some performed solo songs, while others played the piano or guitar. Others sang duets.
At the end of the show, those in attendance were invited to join the performers in singing the National Anthem. Then, May, along with Maurice Reynolds and Jack Speno, sang Billy Ray Cyrus's "Some Gave All."
"My father was a veteran," May said. "He served in World War II and we grew up with patriotism in our family. I appreciate what the veterans have done and I'm returning it in some small fraction anyway I can."