Written by: By Alison Theis
Growing up, did any of you ever have those friends that were involved in band, choir, or theater? Maybe you were too, and maybe you weren’t. Did you ever have trouble making plans to hang out with your friends that were involved in such activities? I was also one of those kids who ran around saying, “Sorry I can’t. I have a rehearsal.” In high school, I was heavily involved in the school band and theater department. Now that I’m an adult, I often get asked if any of the fine arts were worth it. Do they really pay off?
While in attendance at the Oklahoma Music Educators’ Association (OKMEA) conference in Tulsa on January 16 & 17, I had the fortunate pleasure of seeing just how much fine arts really do pay off. As an exhibitor representing OKWU by running a booth, I was joined by my fellow music majors and musicians Debra Moore, Klaire and Dalton Linick, Leah Sawyer, McKenna Deck, and, of course, our beloved Dr. Stewart, director of ensembles at OKWU.
As exhibitors, our primary focus was talking to all the high school all-state choir students. While our main goal was to hopefully recruit them into joining our student body, we also got the chance to visit the other exhibitions. Klaire and Dalton found the best treasures by going to the different booths that were giving away free loot. Klaire also showed off her skills on the classic The Price is Right game Plinko by winning a few gift-cards from the Saied Music Store.
OKMEA also hosts various concerts and seminars throughout the day. Dr. Stewart and the gang took pleasure in the ability to attend all the seminars having to do with anything choir related. As I am not vocalist, I volunteered to stay behind and run the booth. This gave me the fortunate ability to be continuously captivated by all the pretty, shiny toys put on display by the various music stores in Tulsa.
This was a difficult feat for not only was there a display by Tulsa Band and Guitar directly across from the OKWU booth, but there was a display by The Music Store to the immediate left of the booth as well. I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with Jim, an avid saxophone player like myself, and a fellow exhibitor from The Music Store booth. He invited me over to play a few of the saxophones that were on display. Alas, I had to politely decline as I was alone at my fantastic OKWU booth adorned with delicious chocolatey treats. When the others returned, I gave into my desire.
I noticed a few students gathered around an electric bass, drum set and a keyboard over at the opposite end of The Music Store booth. Without hesitation I went up to my good friend Jim, asking to borrow one of the alto saxophones that he placed on display. At his excited nod, I went over to the students who were plunking out a simple jazz groove. My fingers found their place on the pearl-coated keys, floating up and down the different note of the various chords. The sounds purred finer than velvet. It was the smoothest saxophone that I had ever had the honor of playing.
It was only at the end of our impromptu jam session that I noticed a small crowd ogling with their phones out. Once the crowd dispersed, I was able to take in the true beauty of what I held in my hands. Silver-plated neck and keys, with a black nickel body. Complete with ribbed construction and hand-carved etching along the bell. I had found my true love (as far as alto saxophones go). “She’s a Selmer AS42B Professional, and at our anniversary sale, I can order one for you if you like,” Jim said as I placed the alto back on the stand. I shook his hand in thanks and replied. “It’s a deal.”
The most valuable thing about OKMEA weren’t all the instruments on display or the talented young musicians. Rather it was the words of the keynote speaker at Friday’s exhibitor luncheon. In his talk, he made special note of how valuable music educators are in a young musician’s life. He especially talked about the importance of the connection between teacher and protégé: “This connection will have the impact of a lifetime.”
I’m not a music educator, so the effect of his words did not hit me until the car ride home to campus. If it had not been for my theater director and band director, I have no idea where I would be today. Without their influence and discipline, I can easily say that I would have dropped out of high school, run away from home, and probably would have turned against God. I can easily credit both Mr. James Ball and Mr. Stanly Dulkoski III with saving my life.
So, if you’re an educator, never underestimate your ability to influence a student. If you’re a parent, never underestimate your student and their love of their favorite school subject. If you’re a student, have you thanked an educator today?