May the 4th Be with You ~ Part 2

There was great intentionality when the date for our “Pop of Spring” concert this year was determined. Historically, Education Week, the first week in May, is a time when schools open their doors to their community to showcase the amazing things that occur day in and day out. This year it just so happened that the Thursday (always a good night to have a show) was May 4th ~ which of course led itself beautifully to including the Star Wars Theme as one of the band’s selections.

As I reviewed the sheet music and started to play my rented clarinet, I was immediately transported back to my days in the Saunders Symphonic Band, under the direction of the one and only Gwen Beynon (pictured here on the far right. Sitting on the piano bench, also on the right is M.J. McIntyre ~ who I referred to in my previous post). We, too, played this selection ~ although when we were playing it, it had just been newly released, along with the first Star Wars movie. Now it is a classic! As I positioned my mouthpiece, my embouchure started to regain its correct position and those muscles were once again on high alert. As my fingertip pads found holes on the barrel, I started to recall how to play each note. Although I will admit that a quick glance or two on YouTube confirmed how to play B+. As I controlled the speed of air, the sound started to sound familiar. I took great comfort in the middle C range of the notes, the calm tempo, and the familiar melody for this first selection.

Keeping with the Pop music theme, the band also tackled and triumphed with Don’t Stop Believin,’ Counting Stars and Power Rock.  The early morning rehearsals quickly became one of the favourite parts of my day. For those 45 minutes, I was not the principal ~ I was simply another band member. All thoughts of unfilled assignments, meetings and emails were the furthest thing from my mind as I needed to concentrate on the music. My amazing team took care of the front office until I arrived at 8:50 am.

Just like everyone else, I needed to get there early, set up my stand and ensure that I was ready to go. My clarinet section was so supportive ~ they ensured that I had the correct order of the selections. They reminded me how many bars of rests we had before our part and were very complimentary when I played correctly.

I guess I should share how I came to join the band…. Last December at our Winter Wonderland concert, one of our educators, Marc Hodgkinson had joined the band as a saxophone player. We got chatting one day and it turns out that our musical paths had crossed in high school. He is a couple of years younger, but the joy of our bands at Saunders were that they included students from a variety of grade levels. Marc and I actually went on the same trip to Boston with the band ~ although we do not remember each other from those days.    As we were talking about it, Michelle made a comment about me joining the band as well. Once again, Michelle, who masterfully creates this atmosphere of acceptance and inclusivity, was providing me with a wonderful gift. When I penned my “ONEWORD” for 2023, I had selected “Time” and talked about spending intentional time with my students, staff, and community in my final 6 months ~ and here was a perfect way to do just that!

One of the unintended (yet amazing) outcomes of being a part of the band, was the opportunity to see so many of our intermediate students in a different light. I clearly recall one Monday when a student had been sent to the office for some infraction. As she was speaking with our VPs, her tone was less than respectful, and she was reluctant to take ownership for her actions. Another student had made the mistake of making some unkind, inappropriate comments on social media. When we met with her and her family, her manner was less than respectful with her family, and she was not too pleased with my insistence that the family take her phone away from her for an extended period of time.

Fast forward to band rehearsal the very next day and both of these students are absolutely shining 😊. They are respectful, working hard to master their instruments and absolutely adore Michelle. One of them even asked if we could practice our clarinet parts together ~ the same student whose family I encouraged to take her phone away.

We often talk about who is the best “gardener” for a situation. We know that some educators have special connections with certain students. They are the ones who can demonstrate support in conjunction with helping students who have made a poor choice.

I learned quickly that Michelle (even though she has only been with us for one short year) has become a very special, important gardener for so many of our students.  The community that she has built within the music program is one where students laugh, learn and do their best to impress her at all times.

I see that same connection with Marc as he chats with so many of the students in the band. His love of music is a wonderful way to make inroads with students.

Here is to those educators who take time to teach, to support, to garden and to share their love of music ~ May the Force of Music continue to light both your own path and the path of so many students! You are needed now, more than ever


Has music played a part in how you interact with your students?

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