How Being in Band Impacted Me

The following is a prepared speech for the Thompson Junior High School Spring Concert on March 12, 2015. I could not attend the concert so it was read by Mr. Dan Harrison, Director of Bands. 

My name is Ryan Adorjan and I am a 2010 graduate of Oswego High School. I deeply regret that I cannot be with you tonight in person. I started playing the trombone in 2003 under the direction of Rachel Maxwell at Traughber Junior High (but please don’t hold that against me!). At Traughber I played my way through the levels of curricular band and was also a member of the pep band and the jazz band. When I started at OHS, I joined marching band, jazz band, and concert band. I played for three years in the Wind Symphony, the top curricular band, and I was a drum major for two years in the footsteps of my older brother. After graduation, I played in the North Central College Wind Ensemble for one year. For most of my time in high school, I considered going to college to become a high school band director. In 2011, I very reluctantly put my trombone away as I transferred to St. John Vianney College Seminary to pursue my life-long dream of becoming a Catholic priest (how’s that for a plot twist?).

There are so many things I could say about how being in band has impacted me and has affected nearly every aspect of my life. I would love to tell you about the many excellent band directors I have had, or the frustrating and rewarding moments of nearly 10 years of private lessons, or the feeling of pride and accomplishment when I saw my name on the OHS Wind Symphony roster my sophomore year. I can tell you about the incomparable feeling of standing on the drum major podium watching the sun go down over the practice field and of having my name announced as I strutted down the 50 yard line at Ken Pickerill stadium under those “Friday night lights.” From the trips to Chicago and Magic Waters in junior high, to trips to Cedar Point, New York City, and Disney World in high school, being in band has allowed me to see and experience things I may otherwise not have seen and done.

But underneath all of these external experiences, something else was at work. I remember a day at marching band during my sophomore year. It was fall which meant the season was well underway. The director of bands at the time was Mr. Glen Schneider. He mounted the podium before rehearsal one evening and explained a very simple concept that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “When you’re at band, your agenda is not your agenda. Band is your agenda.”

Friends, here’s the thing. Music education taught me a lot of things about the world and about myself. Yeah, it taught to me to read notes and to tap my foot and how to hide my cell phone behind my music during rehearsal. Being in band showed me that I was talented and that I had a place where my talent would not only be acknowledged and appreciated but nurtured so that it could would continue to grow. Band was my agenda not because Mr. Schneider wanted to rule my whole life, but because he saw then what I see now: band is bigger than me, music is bigger than me and there’s something both profoundly individual and yet utterly communal about playing with 100 of your classmates and friends in band. Everybody’s different voice and life story coming together to produce a single, beautiful sound through music. The same concept was the basis of the popular movie, Drumline: we are One Band, One Sound. By being a part of something bigger than myself, I was able to see that I have something very positive to offer. I was able to see that I really did belong somewhere, that I had a safe place to go where people (kids and adults alike) cared about me. My voice, though small, and my trombone, though often out of tune, were part of something much larger and much more powerful than just me on my own.

The lesson from Mr. Schneider’s speech is constantly on my mind as I continue my studies toward the priesthood. This calling requires me to lay down my life for the good of a huge group that is, in many ways, like a band. We are made up of so many different voices coming together to form one sound as we share the journey through life and the hope of heaven. From the very beginning, music has been a way in which I encounter God and encounter the deepest parts of myself. And you never know when band is going to come back into your life. This past school year, I picked up my trombone for the first time in nearly two years to join the seminary’s brass choir. I can’t believe how much I missed it.

Thank you very much for your support of music education in our schools. Most of your children will not go on to study music and become band directors but, because they were in band, your children will all go on to become deep thinkers and quick learners who will know what it means to really belong and to work for the common good of something much bigger than themselves.

Thank you.