Press Coverage


Solana Beach psychiatrist continuing fight to change National Anthem key

GARY WARTH - Staff Writer
North County Times - Jan 2005

While everybody else is still thinking of the holidays, Ed Siegel already has July 4 on his mind. The Solana Beach psychiatrist made national news in 2004 for his push to have the National Anthem's key lowered whenever it is sung in public. His efforts again made news last month when The New York Times Magazine included a "Singable National Anthem" in its "Year in Ideas" article.

"This is something that is a vision of mine," Siegel said. "I won't give up."

The North County Times in July reported on the origin of the "Star Spangled Banner" and Siegel's quest to have the song's key lowered.

The "Star-Spangled Banner"s official key is B-flat, which is ideal for marching bands but difficult for the typical vocalist. A pianist who plays by ear, Siegel leads a weekly song group and said he has found the key of G ideal for groups singing the song.

The War Department in 1942 adopted B-flat as the song's official key whenever played by bands, but recognized that the song indeed was too difficult to sing in such a high key. The War Department resolved it should be played in A-flat whenever the public is singing, although that seems to have been forgotten over the years,

Siegel wants to take things a step further. Or half a step, anyway, and lower the song all the way to G. In 2004, he persuaded the Solana Beach City Council to endorse his idea.

Since then, the campaign hasn't exactly ignited a wildfire. Siegel himself said he has deliberately toned down his efforts since July while awaiting the outcome of the presidential election.

"I wrote a letter to 'President-elect Kerry,' but I'm glad I didn't send it," Siegel said.

With the election settled, Siegel requested Solana Beach Mayor Joe Kellejian write letters to Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham already has supported the idea.

"I sure have been getting a lot of people asking me what's going on," since July, Siegel said. "I think the main thing is to wait for a response from the president and our senators and to see if 'Duke' Cunningham will move forward to introducing it to Congress."

Siegel said a congressional aide is helping him research whether he could be allowed to lead legislators in singing the National Anthem at the opening session of Congress.

"I think the most dramatic way to get it done is to have our members of Congress experience it," he said. "All the news and clippings aren't going to make an impact unless they actually experience it. Our wish that this grassroots effort would create a wave across the country hasn't happened, but again, it's because most people haven't experienced it."

He also hopes to be invited by the Padres to sing the anthem before a game at Petco Park.

The psychiatrists also believe that people may develop a lifelong aversion to singing in public because their only experience is when they attempt the "Star-Spangled Banner."

"Because of the National Anthem and other songs that are hard to sing, people become very shy at an early age about singing in front of everybody," he said. "I think it is a national tragedy, because in other cultures, people love to sing."

Contact staff writer Gary Warth at gwarth@nctimes or (760) 740-5410.