Video: America the Beautiful with Jake Shimabukuro

All artists are familiar with that warm, flooding feeling when inspiration overtakes us. Waiting for the subway, watching loved ones part at the airport, staring into our cereal bowls — it can strike, randomly, at any time or place.

For 33–year–old English professor Katharine Bates, it was beholding the sprawling and majestic great plains from Pikes Peak, Colorado — the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains — that inspired her to write the poem that we now know today as "America the Beautiful" in 1893.

The Congregationalist first published Bates's poem two years after it was written for their commemorative Fourth of July issue. Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster, later put the poem to a piece of his music titled "Materna." The music and poem were first published together under today's title in 1910.

"America the Beautiful" blossomed from a moment of inspiration into a tune as synonymous with America as the national anthem. Watch the video above as our friend Jake Shimabukuro plays his beautiful rendition of the classic standing in the same exact spot that inspired the original poem.


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