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High School Graduation Pomp and Circumstance

Updated on July 29, 2015

Now, some of you may find my ideas outrageous, maybe even sacrilegious, and I understand.

Pomp and Circumstance at American High School Graduation Ceremonies:

Has the time come to put aside the nostalgic traditions of the past?

Should graduation from high school spotlight a coming of age in this new technological era we live in rather than the pomp and circumstance of the past?

History of Pomp and Circumstance:

In America today the tune of the trio from Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 is just as familiar as it is in Britain, but the words are virtually unknown. The tune has become virtually synonymous with school graduation exercises in North America. How did this come about?

Transatlantic involvement with the March began on 28 November 1902, when [Sir Edward] Elgar’s great American champion, Theodore Thomas, conducted the Chicago Orchestra in its U.S. première at the Auditorium Hall in Chicago. Several further performances followed, but it was not until 1905 that the work was first heard at an American graduation.

The ceremony [at Yale University] concluded with Martin Luther’s Eine Feste Burg and the Benediction before the guests left the hall to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 played by the orchestra. The impression that the work had on the assembled audience led to its gradual adoption by other prestigious American universities: Princeton in 1907, Chicago in 1908, Columbia in 1913, Vassar in 1916 and Rutgers in 1918. By the mid-1920s it was being performed by many others, and today it is heard at graduation ceremonies throughout the country, both at colleges and at high schools.

The reason for the popularity of the march ha[d] to do with Elgar's ability to invent melodies that convey[ed] a complex of emotions. The tune manage[d] to sound triumphant, but with an underlying quality of nostalgia, making it perfectly suited to a commencement that mark[ed] the beginning of one stage of life, but the end of another.

In this day when employers are looking less at a high school degree in favor of a specialized college degree, is high school graduation really a beginning “of one stage of life [and] the end of another?” High schools all over the country are partnering with community colleges and college universities in order to offer those on the university track the opportunity to get a step ahead of their peers by allowing them duel-enrollment. Students who favor technical career paths are graduating with certifications in welding, construction, auto mechanics, and cosmetology, just to name a few.

High School no longer represents the traditional ideological high school experience. The teenagers who attend high school today are tech-savvy. They have grown up in a tech-savvy driven world. Educators have been given the task of preparing students for jobs that have not even been created yet. High school graduation ceremonies should be regarded as obsolete.

In order to make the high school graduation more meaningful, I offer the following suggestions:

1-Make the occasion a celebration instead of the typical long drawn out ceremony.

2-Do away with the caps and gowns and replace them with costumes designed by the individual graduates to represent where their interests lie. If a future auto-mechanic dreams to one day work for Nascar, then allow him or her to design a Nascar-inspired outfit.

3-Instead of lining up and marching in and out to the traditional Sir Edward Elgar’s version of Pomp and Circumstance, play a jazzed up version at the conclusion of the celebration.

4-Instead of the same speech year after year, have booths set up in the gym where the graduates display projects and describe to guests the explanation of the project.

5-Recognize parents/guardians of the graduates by giving them a badge to wear whilst they weave their way around the booths looking for their special graduate.

6-Allow the teachers to intermingle with the students and parents. Give them a special teacher badge to wear.

7-Finally have a place set aside for refreshments donated by local businesses and served by undergraduates.

Now, some of you may find my ideas outrageous, maybe even sacrilegious, and I understand.

Change is hard, but it is inevitable.

© 2013 ocfireflies


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    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina



    • profile image

      Greg 4 years ago

      But what would happen to all the camcorder sales. Great ideas.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Benton!

    • profile image

      Benton Arnschluke 4 years ago

      Some traditions die hard, but I think you're right...let's jazz graduation up a bit!

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Ann for your comments.

    • profile image

      Ann 4 years ago

      This is a very interestion idea. Why not have two night of graduation. The one you purposed and one where they just walked across the stage say their name and get their deplomia.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina

      It has been over 100 years since American educational institutions began using Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance as part of the graduation ceremony. Having worked as an educator for close to 20 years, I can say that from my own experiences, the expectations placed on educators has changed: teaching kids for jobs that have not yet been created is a challenge. Thanks for stopping by. Kim

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Has it been that long ago? Things have really changed