The choice is ours
by Cecilia Clark | Director of Bands, Allatoona HS (GA)
Nearly 100 students filled the stage for a district honor band event, but one stood out amongst the rest.
It wasn’t the first chair all state player or the kid that played up and down their scales lickety split, it wasn’t the hot shot with the high chops or the hosses in the saxophone section that could read anything. It was the quietest, most petite, percussionist in the back of the band with a pink hat.
Mary Frances in her pink hat was always smiling. She was always listening and maintaining eye contact. She answered questions without hesitation. She was quick to give a thumbs up when she was ready. And Mary Frances waved just to say hi. At each break, she came up to the podium to chat. Sometimes we talked about the music, but mostly we talked about sunsets and farms. We shared stories about band and band directors. We laughed…a lot! We had a great time getting to know each other.
During one of the breaks, Mary Frances walked with me around the lobby and theater, she with her trail mix and I with my bag of almonds. We visited with other students in the band and eventually sat down with some band directors. For one second, I almost dismissed her so that the adults could talk, but something told me not to do that. If Mary Frances wanted to spend her break time with a bunch of old band directors, then that was fine with me.
On the day of the concert, I walked into the new venue, made a wrong turn and clearly looked lost. A young lady, approached me and said, “You look lost! Let me help you!” After explaining where I should be, she asked me if I recognized her without her hat. I didn’t, at first, until she smiled. It was Mary Frances. After the concert, Mary Frances and her family approached the stage. I quickly hopped down, concert dress, heels and all! Mary Frances wanted to get a picture together. While we stood there smiling arm in arm, she said to me,
“I wanted to say, thank you! I had such a great time, and I learned so much! I am so glad that I got
to do Honor Band this year! Last year, I missed it because I wasn’t feeling well…well, because, I’ve got cancer. But this was awesome!”
When Mary Frances and I turned to give each other a hug, she noticed that I had started to cry. I was here to teach music but my heart was changed. She said, “Oh no! You are crying! Don’t cry! Let me give you a hug!” Mary Frances thought I needed a hug! And she was right. In that moment, Mary Frances changed my life. I was at the honor band to teach the music… teach students, the music. She left an indelible mark on me as a teacher. Mary Frances had an authenticity and sincerity that was so impeccably genuine. She reminded me the importance of demonstrating a servant leadership mindfulness to be: present, kind, grateful, openhearted, and respectful as I teach the music.