Music was very much a private joy to me before high school. When I was seven, I began playing my grandmother’s baby grand from the Clark Piano Company in Chicago, IL, which has been in my family for over 100 years. My elementary and middle school, unfortunately, did not have a band or music program, so as soon as I came home, I’d drop the backpack in the kitchen, take out my Alfred books, and spend many long afternoons plugging away. I was not quite sure what music was, to be honest, but I certainly knew I liked it! It helped me relate to the world around me. And as a young person who always felt hesitant to try something new, turning the page to start working on a new song was the only “leap” I was comfortable taking.
Turning those pages at the piano sparked a curiosity in me about joining the music program that was available at my high school. A hesitant asthmatic who was not sure if the wind section was right for him, I walked myself into the first Drumline rehearsal that summer. The room was filled with "things" that looked like pianos - marimbas, xylos, glocks, crotales, and so many other instruments and “traps” to choose from. It just made sense when I picked up my mallets for the first time. Being a musician in the marching band’s pit (or front-line ensemble) gave me the opportunity to try something new with each show.
“Exploring these instruments sparked that love of learning and joy of possibility I see in many of our Save The Music grantee students.”
One Save The Music grantee student that comes to mind as I write this reflection is a young man from Newark, NJ. During a visit from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in 2019, he spent an hour talking to the visiting percussionist and was adamant about how he too wanted to be a percussionist in his school’s new band program. When I asked him why, he said, “look at all the different things you get to play! I want to play all those!” It reminded me of the time I’d spent in the classroom, and the world of opportunity that opened up for me as I began my own journey as a percussionist who was beginning to love the act of trying something new.
As schools across the country continue into this new school year, I think about the challenges students have faced being away from their music classrooms during the pandemic. So much of the joy and learning in the music classroom comes from the physical presence of sitting next to one another in a group, and producing something that is bigger than oneself. At Save The Music, we have missed seeing those moments. As we look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead in the new school year with every box we send around the country. There is no greater joy than hearing about students who stayed after class with teachers to help unpack their grant, who for the first time picked up that new guitar, saxophone, or music tech production rig, and are now “all in.” Those small moments can put a new student on a trajectory that for the rest of their life fosters a love of possibility, of learning, of and of jumping into something they have not tried before.
It would not be possible without the support of our fantastic manufacturer partners, brands, & retailers, who put such care and energy into making sure our Save The Music Foundation grantee schools have the best of the best gear- and who have gone through lengths to make sure this continues despite supply chain challenges around the world.
When students open up their delivery boxes, they really are opening up something that will help them see the potential of what lies inside of them. And with the support of our musical instrument industry partners, there are countless students across the country that with each delivery, have opened up boxes of possibility. These moments help catalyze an entire school community into a music education ecosystem- a world some students may have not experienced before, but one built around the joy of trying something new. It’s a very familiar feeling.
With special thanks to the following brands, manufacturers, & generous partners for their phenomenal in-kind & logistical support to our 2021 grantee schools:
IK Multimedia USA
PreSonus Audio Electronics
Sam Ash Music Stores
Soundtrap by Spotify
The ASCAP Foundation
West Music Company