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All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In the Band

I believe involvement in the arts will help students learn in other areas.  I also believe that the arts are valuable in and of themselves and of great value to children’s creativity, social, and moral development.

I got this opinion honesty….from personal experience.  My own path of learning, academic improvement, and work-habits can be traced to involvement in music.  The following includes just a few lessons learned.  Some are valuable and others not so much.

EHS Band in the 70s

EHS Band in the 70s

All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In the Band

  1. I learned the importance of persistence:  “Again from the top, please…”
  2. I learned that self-esteem is developed by meeting challenges:  “Mr. Cooper, our band director, really believes we can play this piece?”
  3. I learned you can do almost anything you’re passionate about if you try long and hard enough.  “Yes I just love practicing the 26 snare drum rudiments.  Oh yes, scales are fun, too!”
  4. I learned the importance of flexibility.  “You want us there at what time?”
  5. I learned to suspend judgment:  “You don’t know if you like this piece until you can play it!” – Mr. Cooper, our long-suffering band conductor.
  6. I learned the importance of showing up no matter how you feel.  Every person is important.  If you’re not there, it hurts the whole group.
  7. I learned to be on time.  There is nothing like the “Cooper stare” if you hop into formation late.
  8. I learned organizational skills.  What other class requires that a student show up on time with 27 separate uniform parts, music folder, clothespins, snacks, and at least two drum sticks (hopefully a matched pair).
  9. I learned to use the resources at hand:  Sometimes a piece of duct tape will get you through a performance.
  10. I learned to appreciate the great outdoors.  I have fond memories of those early morning winter marches on the parking lot.  “I hear sound coming from my drum, but I can’t feel my hands.”
  11. I learned that success depends on how you use your time.  “The best bands are the bands that fix mistakes the quickest.”  – Mr. Cooper
  12. I learned to keep going no matter what.  I remember the roar of laughter in a Little Rock stadium after one file took a countermarch 20 yards early.  We just kept going and regrouped at the majorette feature tune.  “Take real big steps and we’ll get this back together,” several unidentified seniors were heard to say.
  13. I learned that there is more than one way to hit a drum.  “Yes, I know those are marimba mallets and you’re playing timpani, but that’s the sound I want.” –  Mr. Cooper
  14. I learned how to ad-lib.  “Forget what is written, drummers.  Just make it sound right.” – Mr. Cooper
  15. I learned the importance of consistency.  “You’re not getting better because you make new mistakes every day.” – Mr. Cooper
  16. I learned the importance of a compliment, no matter how small.  The tension and suspense after a halftime show lifted completely when Mr. Cooper turned and simply said, “Good job.”
  17. I learned to change clothes quickly and in any location.  “Just hold that blanket up for a second.”   I’m not sure why this is important but it could come in handy.
  18. I learned to travel in varied accommodations.  Experienced travelers by school bus will do fine in any third world country.
  19. I learned the importance of a group effort focused on a common goal.  “Take aim and push your sound all the way to the press box.” – Mr. Cooper
  20. I learned that it’s OK to be a little arrogant as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously.  We really were pretty awesome!
  21. I learned the power of music.  I’ll never forget the first time I heard the Symphonic Band open up on “Russian Christmas Music!”  It changed this drummer’s life.
  22. I learned that success feels good and failure feels bad.  If you take success for granted, you’re headed for failure.  If you learn from your failures, you’re headed for success.  I remember a split rating (I-I-II) we had difficulty understanding.  Mr. Cooper didn’t knock the judge; he just worked us harder.  The next ratings were straight First Divisions all the way across (I-I-I).
  23. I learned that while perfection might be the goal, you have to go with what you’ve got.  I’ve heard a lot of great imperfect performances.  Mr. Cooper once remarked as we listened to a reel-to-reel performance tape, “It’s amazing that a bunch of kids playing noise makers can make music that gives you goose bumps.”

Thank you Mr. Hal Cooper for a lot of great memories and a few musical goose bumps along the way!

A few random thoughts by Jim Warnock written in 2000 (revised in 2013)
EHS Percussion, Class of 1974
Principal at Alma Intermediate School

EHS Band 1973 - I'm behind the timpani in white socks because I forgot my band shoes.

EHS Band 1973 – I’m behind the timpani in white socks because I forgot my band shoes.

“That-a-way, Bo!” Encouragement Makes a Difference

“That-a-way, Bo!”  Those words meant a lot to this freshman, unsure about his chances of success in college.  The memory of his high school counselor’s hesitancy about his college plans were still fresh and caused strong feelings of doubt.

Now, with the words “That-a-way” from the greatest musician he’d ever been around, the possibility of success seemed real – he was going to make it! There were some discouraging times during college, but this professor helped many students perform better than they ever thought possible.

He set high expectations and was relentless in holding to them.  He had the ability to move toward goals in spite of distractions.  He was a learner with his students even as this great man taught them.  He loved his work with such enthusiasm that the lines between work and play were often blurred.

Now, as a school principal and teacher, I am thankful for his influence.  He never set out to provide instruction on how to be a principal, but he taught many lessons and gave me confidence that I benefit from today.

When I am doing my most satisfying work, I sometimes feel like he’s looking over my shoulder saying, “That-a-way, Bo!”  There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have done your best.  Mr. Wendell Evanson, my band director at Henderson State University, taught me this lesson.  I hope we can help every child learn the joy of work and a job well done.

Wendell Evanson and his former student having a visit.

Wendell Evanson and his former student having a visit.

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