For ESYO musicians, their love for music and their instruments extends beyond the ESYO stage and into their school community. Whether in the classroom, on stage, or at a pep rally, ESYO musicians are leaders in their school.
When not on stage with ESYO Symphony Orchestra, flutist Chris Connors can be found courtside in a crimson blazer and Tartan swag leading the Scotia-Glenville Pep Band. His mission? To read the game, call out songs, amp the crowd, and rally the SG Tartans to victory. "It's a completely student-led ensemble," said Chris. "It's not very formal, and I can't understate how much fun Pep Band is either. So many hilarious things have happened to my friends and me," he recalled.
The band was started in 2012 by a group of students who felt that their school's sporting events needed more spirit and energy. The early years were a bit rough, but once the student-led band started to rehearse together after school, they earned a reputation in school and on the road as a tight, spirited, and raucous ensemble with the musical chops to bring a college-like atmosphere to their schools sporting events. The band has also influenced the price of concessions after Chris and his bandmates played a song that inspired a group of fans to buy hundreds of Airheads to use as confetti. The increased demand for Airheads led to a sudden price increase in Airheads at future games.
Connors, a senior, joined the Scotia-Glenville Pep Band his Freshman year and is proud to continue its legacy. It's a source of pride. "I play in the pep band because of how energizing and fun it is. Some of my favorite high school memories are from Pep Band, and I couldn't be more proud to be the leader of such an amazing group," said Connors.
Being a bandleader has its challenges; it demands leadership. Pep Band Leaders like Chris are responsible for keeping the band together. They count them in, keep the beat while playing their instrument, cue the entrance, and abruptly cue a cut-off at a moment's notice. When their not in the bleachers, bandleaders also support teammates responsible for managing the logistics, like scheduling, transportation, and equipment. Chris admits that patience is a required attribute for bandleaders. "I needed to learn that not every song I hand out will sound amazing on the first run-through, or even sound good at all," said Connors. "Sometimes you need to be able to go with the flow and adjust to the game," he continued.
Chris credits ESYO with helping him become a more effective bandleader. "ESYO helped me to understand how to work with people, especially people I might not know very well," Chris said. ESYO has also helped Chris fine-tune his ear and learn how to conduct an ensemble rehearsal. "If a section is off in a Pep Band rehearsal, I an listen to them and help them figure it out," he continued.
While ESYO gave Chris a set of tools to help navigate the ins-and-outs of being a bandleader, Chris's career as a flute player began in Fourth grade when he was nine-years-old. He chose the flute because his elementary school music teacher arranged a field trip to the high school for a concert. At the performance, students from the high school band and orchestra played their instruments and talked about what they loved the most about their musical instruments. Chris remembers one of the high school musicians saying that flute is one of the hardest musical instruments for beginners. Always being up for a challenge, Chris decided to go with the flute. He later joined ESYO Wind Orchestra in 2019 at the recommendation of his music teacher and several classmates.
School music programs give young musicians like Chris the opportunity to grow as leaders. When given a chance, young musicians take what they have learned from their school's music teachers and find ways to share their love of music within the school community and the community-at-large. Music uplifts and inspires. Pep bands, like the ensemble led by Chris, are important to schools like Scotia-Glenville High School. They energize students and alumni, help build a sense of hometown pride, and create memories that last a lifetime.
How can you help empower young leaders in your community? Music teaches young people to listen more and talk less. It teaches the art of communication and focused discipline. When a young musician picks up an instrument to perform with their classmates, they use their creativity to find solutions to challenges, while leading by example.
You can best support school music programs by encouraging a young person in your life to freely explore music in school. Show young leaders that their musical voice is valued and attend student-led concerts and performances. Lastly, make sure school leaders in your community understand the value of school music programs.