Music and the drum major experience help a student overcome awkwardness, bullying and introspectiveness.
Photo by Joe Dowling
As a graduating senior of Lemont (Illinois) High School, I have taken the time to reminisce about my years there. High school life was filled with ups and downs, but one activity in particular made my experience just right: band.
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” – Aldous Huxley
The transition from middle school into high school was a difficult time for me. Everyone found their cliques and their activities while I sat not knowing what I wanted to do or where to go.
In 8th grade at Old Quarry Middle School, also in Lemont, I contemplated quitting band because I started losing interest in it. I had multiple people try to convince me to pursue music as an activity. Long story short, I decided to try high school band and get a taste of what that life was all about.
I remember walking into the band room and looking at the collection of medals, plaques and trophies. I remember how smiley and convivial the people were. I remember when Aaron Gory, a senior at the time, approached me and cracked a joke as if he and I had known each other forever.
“This is really amazing. Since when are people so good to each other? I think I’ll get used to this,” I remember telling myself.
Prior to high school, I had a difficult time communicating with others. I was bullied and put in many tough situations, but my freshman year served as evidence that things do indeed get better. My freshman year was full of introspection. My sophomore year was when my social life boomed and friendships were established.
The Lemont Band has given me a place to go, a place that made me feel like I belonged. It has also given me the gift of friendship—family. Little did I know that the Lemont Band would be what would give me everything I needed today.
As I grew in my second family at Lemont High School, I began to be more passionate about the band activity. The more passionate I became, the more my parents did not approve. They thought it was either another thing I would quit or something I was wasting my time on.
“Chris, you must focus on academics and place importance upon your studies,” my mother would tell me.
“Chris, stop dreaming about things that don’t matter and are a waste of time,” my father would tell me.
My mother would tell me stories of her upbringing and why she always pushed me to be excellent in school. She wanted the best for me and for me to be better than they were.
I was never good enough, it seemed. I thought I couldn’t do anything right.
My parents eventually began to understand how music impacted my life for the better when I was honored with the role of drum major for the marching band.
I will admit that I didn’t audition to become drum major for the right reasons. I thought of it as an opportunity to look like I worked hard and that I was better than other people in band. It didn’t take long for me to finally realize what this job really entailed.
Band camp at Whitewater, Wisconsin, was when I began to realize how much responsibility was expected of me. It was because of me that people were able to reference a reliable source of time. It was also because of me that they understood how things should be played, how loud or how soft.
As the season progressed, I evolved as a conductor and leader. The most valuable characteristic of a true leader is altruism. It is imperative that a leader places his team before himself, to think about the best results for the entire group as opposed to one person or a small group of people; otherwise the group won’t excel.
I also learned how to work with people that I couldn’t get along with and to communicate in a way that didn’t misrepresent my intentions. I gained the bravery to speak unscripted to a large group of people on the spot, without hesitation.
I inspired people—I gave them hope and courage. People who struggled with things that I struggled with became strong as I did. People who didn’t think they could do something right or thought that they would never be able to be good performers became more confident.
In my opinion, a strong leader is one that doesn’t necessarily have to apply force and incredible effort into instructing. Rather, a leader must be influential to others. A leader can talk normally with his members because his presence is respected. A leader can do minimal conducting yet still maintain appropriate time and style because people trust him.
The Lemont Band has a history of some of the finest conductors, and I was so fortunate to have gotten so much value out of this opportunity.
Power of Music
Through music I was able to express my inner thoughts, sometimes not even knowing it. Music helped me to forget all the sad things and pay attention to the good. Music was there for me to get away from reality and focus on something I’ve grown to be passionate about.
Music is a beautiful, universal language. Music has and always will hold a special place in my heart.
“For we have been promised a land of our own.” – from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
About the Author
Chris Alcantara is currently a senior at Lemont (Illinois) High School. He has participated in the marching band as a baritone for two years and conductor for an additional two years. Chris plans to pursue a future career in kinesiology under nursing and to pursue music through Drum Corps International.