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A Lone Trumpeter Serenades The National Mall

Trumpeter John Thornton plays at the corner of 7th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from NPR's headquarters.
Devon Kodzis
/
NPR
Trumpeter John Thornton plays at the corner of 7th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from NPR's headquarters.

This summer, Weekend Edition Saturday is listening to the sounds of music al fresco. Today, we present an audio postcard of a trumpeter we recently heard blowing "The Star-Spangled Banner" just down the street from NPR.

It was a steamy afternoon when we found John Thornton on his corner just outside of the National Archives, seated on a plastic bucket. A few beads of sweat could be seen just under his Washington Nationals cap. Buses passed by, a few tourists dropped him some change, and the melodies drifted, from "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to, appropriately, "Summertime."

"I played in front of the Empire State once. It was fun. I like a crowd," Thornton says. "Some people play chess — you know, checkers and chess. It's a hobby, and they get real good at it. Same thing with an instrument: You just keep playin' it. You keep doin' it, man, you get good."

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