It was a dark and stormy night, but this isn’t some dark and cliche horror story: it is one of laughter and learning. Once a week at 6:45 pm at Simonds Elementary School, students of various ages meet up and hold band classes. High schoolers lead these classes of fourth and fifth graders, teaching them how to play specific instruments and read sheet music. Despite the downpour on this one night, all these kids could be seen happily bounding to their designated classrooms, their giggling echoing through the hallways and competing with the sound of the pounding rain.
While the Simonds kids were running to their classrooms and getting their instruments set up, the high schoolers were carting racks of stands and snare drums around the mostly dark school. When 6:45 hit, the music-making began. I sat and observed the Advanced Band, which was congregating in the library. The teacher opened the conductor’s score and asked the students to turn to the correlating page in their books, and they immediately began to warm up together. She did not have to coerce or beg these ten-year-olds to listen and pay attention — she declared that they would start playing, and the talking ceased and class simply began. Before moving onto the next exercise, she asked the students what the long line that connected the notes in the song were, and immediately three students’ hands shot up while two other kids shouted out the answer. They were genuinely eager to answer the question, and they were all able to articulate that they were looking at a slur and what that meant. When the teacher asked the snare drummer to follow her more closely, he apologized and explained that he had gotten ahead of the beat but now knew where he was supposed to make his hits. These kids were focused and intent on playing well, and it was all on their own accord — and this all occurred within the first five minutes of the class.
These Simonds students were determined to create the best music they could, but they were also clearly having fun. The students and teacher had nicknames for each other, and they had inside jokes to laugh about. This was a safe space for all of them, and they reveled in their music and the fact that they were being so noisy in the library; they giggled about the irony and apparent rebelliousness of it all. The teacher additionally seemed quite fond of these kids. Shaydon Bodemar, one of the Simonds volunteers who is currently a senior at Pioneer High School, stated that he helps out because, “I remember beginning where they did and it’s important to me to help give back to those who are starting off where I began.” He feels that he is expanding the kids’ and his own love for music and the saxophone, and that it is indeed “…a positive feedback loop of ever-growing passion for both parties.” This is a wonderful program for all involved, and it demonstrates the power music has. Before class started, three of the boys were snickering around a book, proclaiming to their peers that they found the “f-word” in the dictionary; these are ten-year-olds, and they can still be immature, but they have so much potential that so many people tend to overlook. As soon as they were told that class was going to start, one of them ran to put the dictionary back as quickly as he could, and we could look at this symbolically — he put his immaturity away and replaced it with his youthful passion for music.