By: Doug Pileri
Chairman, Music for All
My parents gave me the gift of music. They paid for clarinet lessons when I was in seventh grade.
Dad thought it would help me learn to listen better; my teacher, Bill Mosher at Benjamin Franklin Jr High School, thought I should practice more; my grandparents thought I was wonderful from the beginning. For my first public performance, only one year later, I played “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” at my grandpa’s retirement party.
What I’ll always remember is the applause.
A Musical Journey
And so, my adventure in music began. In high school, I took up the tenor saxophone and played in a wedding band––and was a drum major in our school marching band. By college, I was in a jazz band and, when I was hired by Eastman Kodak Company for my first full-time job, I helped start a company band for holiday parties.
For my wife’s fortieth birthday, I gave her the gift of a grand piano and she gave our family the gift of her musical talent––and we found that when there is music in the home, it becomes contagious; our three daughters all played instruments in the Carmel High School (IN) Marching Band on their path to becoming remarkable young women.
At some point, I put my instruments away––and my passion for music evolved. I became a band parent; I took band pictures; I was elected chairman of Music for All. Along the way, I found––as so many others have––that music is one of those rare gifts that enhances the life of everyone it touches. Forever. And while I love music in its many forms, I discovered, also, that nothing captures music’s power and precision quite like the sound and beat of a marching band.
The Magic of Music
In a world where so much technology separates our youth––and encourages and enables them to be on their own––I’ve found that if you give a child an instrument––and put them together with a gifted teacher––in so many cases, the result is indistinguishable from magic. Music is a gift that changes lives. No child has ever said: I wish I didn’t play in a band.
Music helps kids to blossom, to mature, to grow up in an unselfish way. It teaches them to depend on each other, to realize what a difference practice and persistence make. It enables them to stand tall in a uniform, to take satisfaction in group accomplishment, to earn and to feel the love that’s always embedded in applause. It shows them that there are no shortcuts to enduring success––but that there’s a unique sense of pride that comes in knowing that they’re getting better all the time.
The Power of Educators
In every band, those who play the instruments––and carry the rifles and flags and execute the drills––attract the attention, but it’s also the dedication and talent, the artistry and craft, the experience––and the caring––of the instructional staff who make the difference. Gifted teachers create an experience that can be incredibly demanding, but ultimately becomes an extraordinary journey for everyone involved.
They’re the ones who arrange and design––and instruct and polish; who encourage and guide––and direct and help. They share learnings that may not be fully understood or completely appreciated until long after band season is over, because they are not just instructions for a season or a band––they are lessons for life.
The Power of Supporters
With every band, also, there are others who show up with unfailing enthusiasm to lend a hand, to handle a detail, to offer a word of encouragement. They stand on the sidelines of the field, wait in the wings on the stage, and walk alongside at the parade. They are the parents and supporters and friends.
They pack and repack instruments, they wash and rewash uniforms, they sew rips and dry tears; they remember to bring the ice and the sunscreen and the Gatorade. They organize food drives––and drive trucks and trailers laden with band gear––and open their hearts and their homes to hungry kids after a practice. And whenever there’s a performance, if they’re not working, they’re somewhere out of the spotlight, cheering for the kids in the band.
While they always don’t get the recognition they deserve for the sacrifices they make, they need to know this: no band could accomplish what it does without them.
Sharing the Gift of Music
So, on this day when we salute marching bands, we at Music for All celebrate the whole community of participants, instructors, and supporters involved. Together, they make a huge and positive difference. And we also applaud bands in every part of the spectrum––from those that thrill us with their ability . . . to those with kids struggling to find the right notes–-and sometimes the right page. There is joy at every step for everyone on a musical journey; it’s one more reason why we smile when we hear the sound and the beat of a marching band.
Music brings out the best in us––and it helps us to bring out the best in each other. Because music is a universal language, it’s a gift that can unite us, that can teach us to share the spotlight, to step back graciously when it’s time for someone else to solo. It can help us understand that harmony takes work, time, and patience––but that something wonderful happens when we’re all willing to listen and learn from each other––and to play from the same sheet of music.
That’s why Music for All is not just our name, it’s also our goal: to enable everyone to enjoy the benefits, the peace, and the magic that music brings. Because, more than ever, in our world today, we need to share the gift of music.