Miami Music Mission 2011: 51 Upper School band and choir students joined 11 Upper School faculty, staff, and parents on a six-day, action-packed expedition that included many diverse adventures—all united by the singular goal of sharing the talents of our students and the gift of music with others.
Wasting no time, we left Huntsville on an overnight bus trip at 10 pm on the Friday of the weekend before Fall Break. By traveling over the Break, our academic schedule was not disrupted and the late departure time allowed those band members who play football to play their Friday night game. Our itinerary to Southern Florida brought us to a bit of sightseeing first. At the Everglades National Park, sightings of alligators were plentiful, as some even held a baby alligator, while others dared to dip their toes in to knee-deep water!
Sunday, however, proved to be the day we will all remember. After a morning boat cruise of Miami Beach and harbor, our primary activity for the day was a Community Concert at Virrick Park with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami. Our program included activities for “Littles” and “Bigs” to participate in together: drumming circles, call-and-response choir games, and some pep-band tunes. Though not as polished, perhaps, as a “concert-hall” performance, our Randolph student ensembles, even on a sunny Sunday afternoon, brought tremendous joy and goodwill to many underprivileged children in Miami. Particularly moving was the story of Terrell, one of the neighborhood boys we met that day.
Terrell came right up to us almost immediately. As we were setting-up our “stage” area, he asked us if anyone wanted to play. Virrick Park, evidently, was where Terrell spent most of his free time riding around on his bike (we later learned that his father was incarcerated, and that his mother worked long hours, leaving Terrell unsupervised most of his waking hours). But on this day, when Terrell discovered our group setting up some music activities (and big drums!), he made quick friends with many of our students.
That afternoon, Terrell and the other neighborhood kids who joined us were filled with that wide-eyed wonder we all experience when we sing our first song really well, or play our first beautiful note, or discover the joy of music-making for the very first time.
By the end of the afternoon, in one exceptionally tender moment, as the Upper School Concert Choir performed a piece on their own, Terrell would not be left out. For the entire Concert Choir performance, Terrell stood there as if he were a long-time member of the ensemble, holding sophomore Harper Lanier’s hand, and sang every word as if by heart.
So, maybe that day we didn’t perform for thousands of people, but the snapshots of the kids we “jammed” with that afternoon speak for themselves—for a brief moment we brought wonder and music to a community that truly needed it.
Monday was our college-visit day. Still on an emotional high from the concert just 24 hours before, Randolph band and choir students enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit two well-respected college campuses and two highly-regarded university music programs, at Florida International University and the University of Miami.
Highlights included a band clinic, in which band students played side-by-side with college players in an open rehearsal with the FIU Wind Ensemble and its conductor; observations of three collegiate choral rehearsals at both schools; and a marching band rehearsal at UM at the end of the day!
In the end, while visits to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hard Rock café in Orlando might have been the “fun” activities on paper, our students experienced something far more important: the joy of uplifting others through music.
We arrived home on the Wednesday of Fall Break exhausted and spent, physically and emotionally. But that’s what Randolph’s Music Mission is all about. And we look forward to 2013 with great anticipation about what good we might be able to share and do!
Photos by Dolores Burns.