Sanford Junior High Band

June 2, 2015

Everyone doing their part

Joe Doiron and Sara Nason with the Sanford Junior High School band students

Joe Doiron and Sara Nason with the Sanford Junior High School band students

This year the Sanford Junior High School 8th Grade Band joined a larger project in town called the Sanford Fallen Veterans Project. A gentleman named Joe Doiron had a dream last year of honoring WWII veterans from Sanford who died during that war. His idea was to create banners with each man’s picture (or a picture of his grave/marker if no picture could be found) to hang on Main Street for Memorial Day. He had seen something similar when vacationing out west. He put out a call through our service learning coordinator and I read a description of his project. It coincided in my head with something I had just shown my students a video from a town in Holland where families have adopted a U.S. soldier from WWII, have his picture in their house and tend his grave. Each year they hold a ceremony complete with special music written just for that occasion. Read about it by clicking here.

A few of my students wanted to try it, so three of them built planters with our 7th grade STEM teacher, Sara Nason. We took the planters to a local cemetery with Joe.

Having piloted it, my 8th grade band students decided to go full bore this year. (My principal wants everyone to do an expedition/excursion, so this seemed to align perfectly with his goal and I thought it could tie in with my composition unit and Memorial Day.)  Working with Sara, we built planters from scratch. Our vocational school greenhouse grew the plants, then we planted them. Thursday, May 7 we went to local cemeteries, cleaned the grave sites and left our planters. My trumpet players, using two military bugles of mine, played Taps at each cemetery. A little kismet came into play when a military funeral occurred at our first cemetery and students were able to see first-hand everything we had discussed (including the use of a  fake bugle).

The following week we played at a ceremony honoring 51 Sanford men who died during WWII. Families of the fallen and veterans were invited as well as school children and the general public. Each of my band students wrote a piece about one of the veterans or something suggested by their stories and five were performed at the ceremony (those who dared to play.)  One was for full band and was conducted by the composer. The ceremony was live-streamed and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/WSSRCTV

After the ceremony, students had a chance to meet with the families in attendance. They also met the elementary class who raised enough money to combine with donations and fund all of the banners. Those banners currently hang along Main Street and we marched under them in the Memorial Day Parade. I knew when they went up because students walked into my room in the morning announcing that “their guys” were up.

This was a wonderful, exhausting, heartwarming experience. It has brought new meaning to the students’ understanding of Memorial Day and the human costs of war. Feedback from them included comments like, “I liked writing our own song about our chosen veteran because each veteran had their own story in the war.”  “I am proud to be able to do something for the people who are the reason that we are a free country.”  “I learned that it takes a lot of pride and creativity to create a composition that connects with a veteran.” “I loved being able to visit our fallen and getting to clean their graves. We worked so hard to learn about them and to clean their graves after meant so much.”

Thank you to Carol Baker-Roux for sharing this unit that she did with her junior high school students.

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