What  Band Means to Me
by Georgia Emmons

The following is an essay submitted by Georgia Emmons. Her essay won her the Brooke Pope Memorial Scholarship. The Bobcat Band Boosters established the Brooke Pope Memorial Scholarship in 2007. Pope was a 2005 graduate of MCHS who lost her life in the Cars for Kids tragedy. Each year in her memory, a college scholarship is given to a band senior based on their essay submissions. Emmons will follow in her brothers’ footsteps again as she heads to UTMartin this fall to major in music. Emmons is the daughter of Jerry and Leeanne Emmons of Selmer.

All throughout my life I have been surrounded by music. My parents were both musicians and strongly pushed for me to be too. When my brother was in fifth grade, he got a drum set- - and that is where my musical journey all started. My father would play guitar and sing while my brother played drums; my mother, sister, and I would sit around them and happily shake shakers and sing along. Music was and is something that brings not only my family but everyone together. It made everyone happy; these memories have become my favorites from my childhood. Music nights continued until I was in the sixth grade and finally got to join band. I was ecstatic. My brother was a percussionist and my sister was too; naturally, I wanted to be the exact opposite. I did not even want to try out for percussion. I ended up playing a wind instrument-- French horn. The day we got our beginner horns was my birthday; it was the best birthday ever! When we learned our first notes, I went home and practiced in the living room for about three hours, honking on a horn I barely knew how to play. I thought I sounded amazing. I remember that feeling so well. It felt right and it felt good.

I get that awesome feeling when I perform to this day. Band taught me how to work hard and hone my skills to the best they could possibly be. It even taught me time management. In middle school, I had a very specific schedule for my afternoons. I would go home, do homework, read for 30 minutes (that was when Accelerated Reading still mattered), and would finally practice for at least 20 minutes, sometimes I would go for an hour or two. I would put this at the very end because it gave me an incentive to work. I warmed up first, then worked on the hardest parts of the music, and would finally go over everything, improving anything I could-- even if it was something small. This became a habit, and now, I continue to prioritize my days as such. The only difference is that I will practice for four hours at a time rather than an hour and a half.

The hard work payed off very well. I attended my first honor band in the seventh grade. I even got second chair that year; I beat ninth graders the second year I played horn! That is very special to me because it was my first experience with hundreds of people that loved music like I did; it was also special because it was the only honor band I got to go to with my brother. I have continued to attend the same honor band, UTM Honor Band, every year, earning first chair every time. I also auditioned for All-West in seventh grade. I went in knowing that I would not make it, but I figured it would be good experience for the years to come. Starting my eighth grade year, I was accepted into an All-West band every year. These clinics have exposed me to amazing musicians and music. There is nothing better than going to an unfamiliar place and playing phenomenal music with people that actually care about what they do. They have also exposed me to cities like Memphis and colleges like UT Martin; these opportunities were ones I otherwise would not have gotten if I were not in band.

Not all of this was done by myself, though. My family and directors have pushed me to be the best I can be. I even consider them to be a part of my family. All of the directors have been the best influences on my life I could ask for, and I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for me-- be it musical or personal problems. Mr Vargason got me started with private lessons. He knew the director at Southside High School and told me about her. Soon after, I started taking lessons from her and have been driving to Jackson nearly every week since; this is undoubtedly one the best decisions I have ever made. The directors have also helped me through tough times in my life. I remember I was bullied quite a bit in middle school, and Ms Kerr was always there for me. I never wanted to talk to the guidance counselor or any other teacher. Mr. Foret has basically become a second father for me; he has helped me through so much, including car trouble. Honestly, the band room is like a second home to me; I spend more time there than I do any of my actual classes. It is a welcoming place for me; I feel comfortable there.

My band experience has also taught me leadership skills. I have been a leader for two years, and it has not been easy. I have had to learn how to deal people’s problems and help them through them, even if I did not want to. Being a leader means putting others in front of yourself, even if you do not really like them. I gave up a lot of my time this year to teach two people how to play a completely different instrument. I have worked with some of the most difficult people I have ever met, people I would not have had to deal with if I was not in band. This has prepared me for the real world where no one gets to choose who they work with. I have worked with nearly every personality one could imagine. Last semester, I had the opportunity to work with the Bethel Elementary beginning band and the Selmer Middle eighth grade band. I learned how to play trombone and baritone while having to teach it. I spent most of my time at Bethel working with the low brass and trumpets; I got to teach them how to play their horns and techniques to make them better. At the middle school, I got to work individually with students and with the whole band. My last day working with them was bittersweet. I got to see the fruits of my labors, and there is almost nothing more satisfying than seeing all of my hard work and the students’ hard work pay off. I have seen them grow so much as musicians and hope they continue to grow. I absolutely fell in love with teaching during this time and miss it very dearly.

Band has also has been a source of discipline in my life. My parents have done an outstanding job raising me, but the band program has also helped shape me into the person I am today. It has kept me busy and out of trouble. I stay after school for some sort of rehearsal to practice on my own, which keeps me busy and out of trouble. Manners have also been drilled into my brain from this experience. I know not to break the rules, and if they are broken, there will be consequences. I will never forget one day during my junior year during marching band rehearsal. No one would listen, and practice was not going very well. The directors were almost to their breaking points. Mr. Radcliffe had finally had enough of our tomfoolery. He pointed to the light pole by the semi-trailer and said “See that pole? Bye!” Everyone had to run to that pole and back onto the field. He had put the fear of God into us. Now, if a similar situation occurs, he will do the very same thing. This is always a reminder to me to be on my best behavior and to be respectful of everyone around me. Bad behavior can get very annoying, especially when trying to get things done.

Even though there have been ups and downs in my musical journey, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have loved it so much that I have decided to major in music education and become a band director. I want to teach people not only how to play an instrument, but lessons that I would not have learned if it were not for band. So, everything thing I have learned will definitely benefit me in life. Even if I decided not to continue my band career, I would still use the lessons I learned because they are universal. No matter what, I will need to have discipline, time management, good work ethic, dedication, passion, and so on. Band has taught me so many lessons that I know I would not have had the opportunity to learn if I were not involved in this extraordinary program. I appreciate every ounce of information I have gained over the past seven years and will use it every day. I hope that classes in years to come have as an amazing of an experience as I have had. Music is one of the biggest parts of my life. I will always be passionate about it and will always have a special place in my heart for the McNairy Central Bobcat Band. I cannot thank my band family enough for what they have provided and the influence they have had on my life.