Band Program, implements “band buddies” mentoring program

Allie Schlagel, Layout Editor

“… every relationship is kind of continuous,” Band Director, Joel Bryan, explained. The “Band Buddies” program made its debut last spring during the pandemic and has impacted students’ relationships with each other and music. Even during Covid-19 and all of the shutdowns, high school and elementary school students found a way to connect and share joy in music.

Peer mentoring has always been a hope for the Stillwater band program. Up until Zoom was a part of students’ daily life, this program did not know how they were going to meet. Students began meeting over Zoom, starting spring 2021.

“So we had talked about it for years and it never really got off the ground until the pandemic last spring, when we were all trying to figure out how we can make this a worthwhile experience online,” Bryan said.

With high school student’s busy lives, finding times to meet during the week would be tricky. Luckily, an odd opportunity popped up to allow that to be simpler.

“Video chatting technology was around, but what the pandemic did was it forced the issue… I don’t think it would be off the ground had it not happened,” Bryan said.

These dreaded programs that were a part of students’ lives for just about a year, paved the way for the mentoring program. It gave these pairs ways to meet up while working around busy schedules, safety concerns, and other conflicts.

“I think Zoom worked out for the most part, especially with everyone’s busy schedules,” Senior Katie Sanderson was personally involved in the band mentoring program, as she mentored a fifth-grade student, she watched the early stages of this program play out. Oddly enough, the pandemic aided in the ability to execute this program.

Another success involving band buddies has been the growth of musical knowledge involving both the mentor and the mentee.

Sanderson explained that working with her band mentee, she was able to go back to the basics and remember that being a good musician was to focus on such.

“Going back to basic scales was very humbling…” senior Stella Cockson said.

Basic musical knowledge was able to help both Sanderson and Cockson.

Bryan observed a student who was able to gain some valuable skills while being a band mentor.

“… now Sherlyn’s off at music school and it benefited her because you don’t go into music without knowing you’re gonna teach at some point… so she’s already got experience,” Bryan said.

My band buddy, she came to me one week and said ‘Look I wrote this music,’ and she wrote it, and we played it together.”

— senior Katie Sanderson

Sanderson’s “Buddy” is a great example of how beneficial the program can be. Sanderson’s buddy came to practice every week ready to learn, and excited about music. She often made her own music that they would play.

“My band buddy, she came to me one week and said ‘Look I wrote this music,’ and she wrote it, and we played it together,” Sanderson said.

This fifth-grade student had a strong connection to a high school student who set an example and inspired her to truly care about music.

The love expressed in the program for music and others is truly special. Instead of just teaching these kids music, they were able to learn how to be a leader, and end with a lasting connection with a peer. “You know a lot of times we look at our subject as a subject, and yes, it is…. but there’s more to it than that and there’s more to the connection, there’s more to life,” Bryan said. The hope for the future is that they can make a lasting impact on hundreds of kids over the next generations.