I am the current drum major and president of the Calaveras High School Band. My job is to lead the band during school functions and community events, plan meetings and fundraisers, and work with incoming members to make the transition into high school and their “adult” lives easier. In my family, I am a third generation percussionist, being introduced to a drum kit at the age of three. However, my journey with music really began in sixth grade. I started playing clarinet under the instruction of Mr. Wise. No offense to Mr. Wise or anyone that has played clarinet, but I really hated playing clarinet. I wanted to be a percussionist.
So, when I attended Toyon in seventh grade, I signed up for the beginning band class with Mrs. Allured (then Ms. Lang). I basically demanded that I be allowed to be a percussionist. I started the year and I was kind of liking it. Being an emotionally closed off individual, no one—including my own family and my only friends—knew that I had been enduring depression. In sixth grade, we were given an assignment to do an autobiography starting from birth and ending in the present.
Because of my experiences growing up, I was not sure how I was going to complete this assignment. I had been brutally bullied growing up, I was always too tall or too fat and I never belonged. Because of this bullying, my self-esteem was already in the sewers. Financially, no one was ready for the economic crash that occurred. At home, it seemed to me that everything was worse off for us. I had always worn hand-me-downs, wearing them until I outgrew them or destroyed them. If I needed anything for school, or if I needed any clothing that I did not receive through hand-me-downs, my grandparents bought it. While my parents tried to provide for me and my little brother with what they could, they were always arguing. I cannot recall a single week where they had been able to keep from arguing for more than a day and a half.
To start, I began gathering information from my parents. My mother had told me that my conception had been an accident. Whether she regretted it or not, I have never known. But being the first child born to my parents, it immediately set in that I was the reason for all of our hardships. I believed that if I had not have been born, my parents would not have the financial troubles and relationship problems that they did have. I believed that every negative aspect of their lives related to my being born and my being a mistake.
In my depression, I became a cutter. Knowing how some people would react, I did not use razor blades, I used shards of obsidian rock, that cut and bled, but would not cut deep enough to leave noticeable scars. I contemplated suicide multiple times a day. I wanted to lie out on the highway, letting a car be my end. Making it so my parents would never again have to deal with the disappointment in their lives that was me.
I went through life, feeling this way until the Homecoming game of my eighth grade year. As future marching band students, we were invited to come to the high school and play with the high school pep band. I attended, looking for something to do other than sit at home, feeling like my life was a mistake. At the game, I met Katie Tanner. Katie was the drum major and had complete control over the band. Swinging her arms around, she looked ridiculous; but she knew exactly what she was doing. After watching Katie conduct the band and lead them with enthusiasm, I decided that I wanted to be in her position. I wanted to use the power and influence that she had, in order to impact another student’s life.
This single experience changed my entire life. Watching Katie, and seeing how communal and caring the Band was, showed me that I could have a crazy, somewhat dysfunctional family. They would always be there for me, and I could rely on them for anything I would ever need. In Band, we spend between three and eleven hours a week with our entire group. That gives individuals a large amount of time to get to know one another. Spending every day in class together, day and night bus rides, awkwardly changing in a college or high school parking lots, singing off key (which is why a majority of us are not in choir), and spending a total of four years together, creates bonds that are very hard to break. The Band is a large family that can always be depended on, and will work hard to make sure that your needs are met.
I have told this story at three points in my life. The first being in early August of 2014 at our high school’s band camp, the second being in our SAVE campaign meeting, and the third here. After the first presentation to the Band, a freshman asked to speak with me. He told me that I am the person that he looks up to most. Because of my story, he now sees how he can use his own experiences to help other students see that their lives have meaning.
Even more recently the band performed at a home football game. After the performance the band got a break, I had a feeling that pulled me to stay in the band section. A fifth-grade trumpet player walked down the bleachers to where I was and asked how I knew what to do during our show. I explained to her that I had to learn to conduct the band the same way she had to learn trumpet; then she asked me to teach her how to conduct. Having a younger band member asking me to teach her how conduct and showing her interest in music, has given me the most accomplished feeling that I have felt in my life.
I am the person I am today because of this entire experience. Without it, I would be six-feet under the ground. However, I am here; I have fought my way through depression and won. I will continue to fight my way through the rest of life, trying to aid those in need and teaching others how to respond to difficulties in their lives. Without the experience of Band, I can say that I would not be the leader, student, or individual I am today.
Music matters to me because it has the power to change lives—no matter how big or how small the task may be.