Music therapy binds family, veterans

Kasey Walker, father of freshman Evan Walker, sits with his trumpet that has led him to become a full time musician after serving in the Army.

With the lights dimmed in the gym at Peet Junior High and a crowd gathered for the Veterans Day assembly last month, freshman Evan Walker stepped up to let his trumpet sound its first notes of Taps for the veterans. 

“It was an honor to be able to play for the veterans who were present that day. It definitely meant a lot to me to not only have had the opportunity to play for my dad, but to be in front of all of those soldiers that have sacrificed their lives for our country. The energy was amazing, and you could feel the message in the room,” Evan Walker said.  

In the audience, Evan’s father, veteran Kasey Walker, listened to him play.

“That was one of the best things ever as a father and a veteran to see my son playing trumpet on that day. It was outstanding. Myself and his mom got to be there as veterans, and it really tripped me out,” Kasey said. 

Kasey’s pride in seeing his son play was not only as his father and as a veteran, but also as an accomplished horn player himself.

A native of Evansdale and current resident of Tennessee, Kasey has been a musician all of his life, and has melded his military background into his love for sharing music for the benefit of other veterans like himself.

“I got involved with music therapy with other veterans, and it has is just allowed me to share with other people. I have gotten to co-write a song with a Nashville songwriter, Mark Elliot. The song talks about playing trumpet in all of the funerals in the military and a lot of the pain that comes with it,” Kasey said. 

He served from 2001-2014 in the United States Army and played in Army band. 

“It is really life changing when you are in Afghanistan or in Iraq and you are playing on the flight line as the guys get loaded into airplanes. That is really an honor, and it is a great gift to be able to give to people,” he said.  

Kasey’s musical work with veterans brought him to the attention of Christian singer Amy Grant and the Challenge America organization. 

“What caught her eye about my story was me playing bugle in the military and how much pain that seems to bring when you play that many funerals. She really loves that I can still be a musician and still open up your heart. It makes you think about all of the other veterans that have been through much worse,” he said.  

Kasey took his trumpet skills to Grant’s music therapy retreat in Nashville, and from there an opportunity blossomed to play on the annual Amy Grant Tennessee Special on the Hallmark Channel, which aired on Dec. 3. 

“Being able to participate in the Amy Grant music therapy retreat with a whole group of veterans was amazing. Everyone wrote a military related song, and when we played, I got to play my mom’s cornet,” Kasey said. 

His mother had passed away not long before that. “I had a really good experience being able to accept all of that stress and still be able to talk about radiating positivity,” Kasey said.

Challenge America is an organization that connects service members and veterans and their families to resources that help build community. 

“I have been able to volunteer for Challenge America, and I am getting a chance later this month to go play a benefit concert and raise money for them to pay for all of the veterans to go to the retreats and donate instruments for them,” he said. “It is a really cool community for these people coming together,” he said. 

Driven with a positive outlook, Kasey has chosen to pursue a career through studying at Middle Tennessee State University in the music recording management program. “Once you feel that passion for something that you want to do, that is where I am at in life, and I am getting to record music. When you get to do something you love every day that pays the bills, you never have to take a vacation,” Kasey said. “The biggest thing about going to school is networking with people who have the same interests as you,” he said. 

Kasey’s musical career has inspired his son Evan, who now has a passion for trumpet and music just like his father. 

“When I was younger, he would always show me a bunch of cool songs he would play out on the porch and start going off on a little solo. In that moment I knew I wanted to be just like him and be able to play next to him,” Evan said. “With all of the time apart we have had in my life, it is crazy how alike we are.”

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