Edward Elgar’s set of four Pomp and Circumstance marches have long been established classics of British musical repertory, but it’s the 1st March that is his most familiar work out of the set. That’s because it’s played at virtually every high school and college graduation ceremony each year! Here’s the story of how this march came to be associated with graduation. It was first played at the 1905 graduation ceremony at Yale University, where the Professor of Music Samuel Sanford had invited his friend Elgar to attend commencement and receive an honorary Doctorate of Music. Elgar accepted, and Sanford made certain he was the star of the proceedings, engaging a huge group of musicians to perform two parts from Elgar’s oratorio The Light of Life and, as the graduates and officials marched out, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. The tune soon became a tradition at American graduations, but now as a processional at the opening of the ceremony, instead of the original recessional by Yale.