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UofGH Justice Studies Student Luke Marta Performs at Juno Beach D-Day Ceremonies

When he took his first piano lesson at six years old, University of Guelph-Humber Justice Studies student Luke Marta couldn’t have predicted that music would later take him around the world. As a saxophone player and drum major with the Burlington Teen Tour Band, Marta travelled to several destinations to commemorate important historical occasions and special events – which culminated in an emotional journey to Juno Beach in Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day ceremonies this past summer.

Justice Studies student Luke Marta black and white photo

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day

Over 10 days, the Burlington Teen Tour Band spent a few days in England before heading to France. There, they visited Paris, the Juno Beach area, and Mont Saint Michel. They performed at two D-Day ceremonies and at a parade in Courseulles-sur-Mer. They also watched the international D-Day ceremonies, attended by several world leaders. However, Marta says a big highlight for him was meeting several veterans and hearing their stories first-hand. “It was great to see how many veterans were able to be there, and a lot of them were coming back to the beach for the first time since they originally landed, because it’s a hard thing for them to see,” Marta says. “It was really eye-opening, because you hear about D-Day growing up, but you don’t really understand what it was like for the soldiers who were there – when you’re there and talking to soldiers who were actually on the beach at the time, and who were under heavy gunfire it’s unimaginable, you can’t imagine it.”

The band also visited the Canadian War Cemetery, and the Juno Beach Centre (which honours 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the Second World War, including 5,500 that were killed during the Battle of Normandy, and 359 on D-Day). “Going to the Juno Beach Centre itself and seeing some of the artifacts there was eye-opening, and actually going onto the beach and seeing for yourself what they went through, running up the hill, running up the sand, seeing the bunkers, it was crazy to see for sure.”

Each band member was also given a tag with a soldier’s name that they had to research. Marta researched a 19-year-old from Toronto – his age during the trip. “It was surprising to me because I was 19 at the time, so if you take it back 75 years, that could’ve been me, so it was really cool – it was eye-opening for everyone, because when you look at a headstone you just see a name and an age, but by being able to do your own personal research into your soldier you found out a lot more, which was really meaningful and emotional.”

A lifelong love of music

Although his mother signed him up for piano lessons at age six, Marta started to play the saxophone for his school music class when he was 10 years old. “I got put on the saxophone, and I enjoyed it – I took lessons, and started getting better,” he says. He discovered the Burlington Teen Tour Band through a friend he met through school band practices. “He told me about the Teen Tour Band, and I thought it was really interesting, so I joined in when I turned 13,” says Marta. “It’s a great experience to meet a lot of people who have the same mindset as you – I met all of my best friends through there, and I see them all the time. It’s great to be able to travel around the world with 200 of your friends.” Over the years, Marta has travelled with the Teen Tour Band to Ireland for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to the Netherlands for the anniversary of their liberation, to Hawaii for the anniversary of Pearl Harbour, and to California for the Rose Parade.

Justice Studies student Luke Marta

Marta played saxophone for several years in the band before being promoted to drum major, where he led the band at parades and other events. “You get a whole new experience as drum major – drum majors are usually the go-to people, so you get to be the face who gets to represent the band. It’s a great experience.”

During his first year at UofGH, Marta commuted to Burlington to attend the weekly band practices, but after the Juno Beach trip, he decided to step away from playing. However, he has continued his involvement in a different way, as he works with the City of Burlington to help run their summer Concerts in the Park series – which includes the Burlington Teen Tour Band, Burlington Concert Band, and other local musical acts.

Now in his second year at UofGH, Marta is focused on excelling in the Justice Studies program, and says he’s enjoying the experiential learning the program offers. “I like that UofGH is more practical, it’s a lot more hands-on, and you can actually experience what you’re learning in the classroom,” he says. He says he also loves the experience his instructors bring. “The professors here have a lot of experience; for example, Dr. Glenn Hanna was an RCMP officer for 30 years – you can’t beat that when it comes to experience.”