My daughter plays tuba in the Oakland Mills Middle School Concert Band. It is the entry level band. She is in the sixth grade. She is the only tuba. She takes that responsibility very seriously. In fact, she takes almost everything seriously. I have written here before about how difficult middle school has been for her so far. What I want to talk about today is what makes it livable: music.
I highly recommend this short article as an excellent window into what makes music so crucial for middle schoolers. In particular, this quote jumped out at me:
"Providing an environment of acceptance for all students through music—even for one hour per day—is a first step toward connecting with students from all backgrounds and helping them to develop healthy life skills." --The Importance of Music Education in the Middle School Curriculum, Deborah M. Montague
Last night we came to support one tuba player in the band. But of course, one tuba player doesn't make a band, nor one singer a chorus. The combining of talents and the group interaction as they work together towards an excellent performance is as good an example of "E pluribus unum" as I can imagine.
Lori Schwartz Reichl, Band Director and Team Leader for Applied Academics at OMMS, is well known for saying, "One Band. One Sound. One Family." I can't think of a more important time for young people to learn and experience this than in middle school. Separated and fragmented by ability level or by the social pecking order, middle schoolers often feel more cut off than united. Individually they may feel torn apart by physical and emotional changes that shake their perceptions of themselves and how they fit in.
A look at Mrs. Reichl's web page shows clearly how hard she works to build and maintain the best possible program for her students. It is not surprising that she has been selected as a finalist for this year's Howard County Music Parents "Music Teacher of the Year" Award. Her positive energy is felt through all musical disciplines at the school.
As the parent of a creative, quirky, off-beat kid who plays piano, tuba, sings in the Peabody Choristers, writes poetry and loves musical theater, I know how important the Band Room is in her day. Mrs. Reichl knows, too. Next to her photograph on her web page is the following statement. "Embrace your uniqueness!"
The joy and discipline of music, shared by dedicated teachers/directors and supported by parents and the school community is a lifeline for many, many students during these extremely difficult years. For these students music is not an extra, not icing on the cake, but rather the sustenance for getting from one day to the next.