By EmJ Sorensen
The marching band and music world have been integral parts of my life for 25 years now. Not only was I involved in the activity in high school, but I married into it as well! I have lived and breathed music on both sides of the fence for most of my life, and it has changed my life for good.
I am fortunate to have been surrounded by music my whole life. I was raised in a home where music was a priority, as was our [mine and my siblings] enrollment in music education at our local schools. I played the flute and trumpet and participated in marching band. My husband is a high school band director. In his role as an educator and my role as “band mom,” my eyes have been increasingly opened to the importance of music education. I have witnessed the life-changing effect and power that participating in music has had for many of our students.
For one amazing student, music education had a particularly profound impact. To say his family situation was difficult is a drastic understatement. As a sophomore, he was a primary bread winner for his family. He worked forty hours per week, attended high school full time, and was contributing to the band program in significant ways. His work ethic was incredible. He was a good kid anyway, but it was apparent that his situation was taking a toll on him emotionally and mentally. Academically, he was lucky to graduate high school.
Even facing all the daily challenges of his situation, he never missed a rehearsal or performance outside the regular school day. He didn’t have a vehicle available; rather than miss early morning rehearsals, he woke up early to walk the three miles to school. One evening he was late joining the pep band for a football game. His face was raw and covered with scrapes and his lip was split. He apologized for being late and let my husband know that he had just been released from the ER after an accident earlier in the afternoon. My husband questioned whether this student should even be playing, especially since he was a brass player, but he responded, “I’m good coach. Put me in!”
After this student graduated, we found out that the major reason he was able to complete the necessary requirements for graduation was because of his experiences and success in band. He went on to college and is currently in a management role at his work.
Band had been his lifeline and had helped to create connections with others that he needed and that provided him with a support system—even when others didn’t realize they were filling that role.
We are not always aware of the role that music education plays in the life of our students. My husband and I actively advocate for music and art education as part of a complete and balanced education because it helps students. Supporting Marching Beyond Halftime is a great opportunity to advocate for students to have these opportunities for success and accomplishment. Please consider adding your support for this feature documentary and help to focus the spotlight on the importance of music education for our students.