On The Yard


    USNA Tour Highlight: Anchors Aweigh Music Tour

    By Bill the Goat on July 1, 2024

    USNA Tour Highlight: Anchors Aweigh Music Tour

    Summer is a special time to visit the U.S. Naval Academy, especially because the Yard hosts events during the summer that they don’t host during other times of the year. While you can take the famous Anchors Aweigh Music Tour all year round, you can enjoy an additional part of USNA history in July and August, when the tour is paired with live concerts, right in the place that honors Navy’s own Charles Zimmerman — the Zimmerman Bandstand.


    The Anthem of an Academy

    One of the most famous people to have walked the Yard, Navy’s beloved Bandmaster and Music Director, Charles A. Zimmerman, is best known for composing “Anchors Aweigh.” He worked with midshipman Alfred Hart Miles (Class of 1907), who wrote the lyrics. This blog dives into how Zimmerman became such an important part of USNA history, and how his “Anchors Aweigh” became its official anthem. 


    Related: 13 Things You Didn’t Know About USNA History


    A Musical Military Family

    Born to Naval Academy Bandsman Charles Z. Zimmerman in 1861 at Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, Zimmerman was a Navy music man from the start. His father was in the band when the Academy relocated North during the Civil War, and the younger Charles quickly followed his father’s path, learning music from both his father and his family’s musically talented friends. He then attended the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore and joined the Naval Academy Band as a third cornetist on July 1, 1882. Two of his mother’s cousins also played in the band, and his brother became the leader of the Old Soldiers Home Band in Washington, DC. Five years later, at the age of 26, he took over the bandmaster post from Peter Schoff. Zimmerman was the youngest person to ever lead the Naval Academy Band, and he went on to serve as its director from 1887 until 1916.


    Zimmerman was so entrenched in the band, in fact, that he refused the coveted spot of U.S. Marine Band Leader (a post formerly held by John Philip Sousa) when it was offered to him. He had recently risen to national prominence when he conducted a 120-musician orchestra for President Grover Cleveland’s inaugural ball in 1893. Instead of assuming the responsibility and pressure of conducting the Marine Band in Washington, DC, Zimmerman chose to stay on as leader of the Naval Academy Band.


    Anchors Aweigh Hits the Scene

    Then came the song that cemented his place in history. “Anchors Aweigh” was a hit as soon as it was released. The first record of the song states it was performed by the Naval Academy Band as the Class of 1907 marched to take their seats during the Farewell Ball on February 12, 1906. The first public performance took place before a much larger crowd later that same year at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field, where the Naval Academy faced off against West Point for their annual gridiron grind.  


    With the new class song played by the Naval Academy Band and sung by midshipmen, Navy defeated Army 10-0, winning for the first time since 1900. It was settled: The Class of 1907 loved their song and became known as the “Anchors Aweigh Class.” Since then, it’s become the musical signature of the United States Navy and one of the most recognizable melodies in the world.


    Here are some of the rousing “Anchors Aweigh” lyrics, updated in 1997:

    Revised Lyrics of 1997 by MCPON John Hagen, USN (Ret)

    Verse 1
    Stand Navy out to sea,
    Fight our battle cry;
    We'll never change our course,
    So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.
    Roll out the TNT,
    Anchors Aweigh.
    Sail on to victory
    And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!


    Verse 2
    Anchors Aweigh, my boys,
    Anchors Aweigh.
    Farewell to foreign shores,
    We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
    Through our last night ashore,
    Drink to the foam,
    Until we meet once more.
    Here's wishing you a happy voyage home.


    Verse 3
    Blue of the mighty deep:
    Gold of God's great sun.
    Let these our colors be
    ‘Til all of time be done, done, done, done.
    On seven seas we learn
    Navy's stern call:
    Faith, courage, service true,
    With honor, over honor, overall.


    Hear the Music

    Listen to this exciting song and see it come to life on the Yard. Take our “Anchors Aweigh” Music Tour and trace the life of Charles A. Zimmerman, the story of the Naval Academy Band, and the trajectory of this famous song. Explore this fascinating USNA history in the place where history is unfolding every day. If you’re lucky, you can hear “Anchors Aweigh” in the very place of its birth. 


    The USNA Tours are approximately 90 minutes long, beginning at the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center Theater and ending with a musical-themed walking tour at the Main Chapel. After the tour is completed, you will have the opportunity to take in a free summer recital from the U.S. Naval Academy Band beginning at 11:00 am, either in the Zimmerman Bandstand, or in the Chapel (depending on weather conditions)!


    Purchase your tickets today and don’t miss the chance! There are only four free summer recitals, all performed by talented Navy musicians:


    2024 Dates:

    July 11 - Woodwind Quartet
    July 25 - Clarinet Quartet
    August 1 - Brass Quintet
    August 8 - Superintendent's Combo


    Buy Tickets


    Be a Part of Yard History

    Make sure to book a tour this summer so you can experience USNA history right here on the Yard. When you visit and take a USNA tour, dine in our restaurants, or shop in the USNA Gift Shop or online at Navyonline.com, proceeds fund the midshipmen’s extracurricular activities, like cultural arts, music, theater, club sports, and more. You make a difference for the midshipmen when you make the trip!

    Schedule a USNA Tour

    Bill the Goat
    Written by Bill the Goat | July 1, 2024


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