Friday, March 7, 2008

Joyful noises

Band director Michael Simmons (left) talks to his Memorial Middle School class about their new instruments Tuesday. (ROBERTO GONZALEZ, ORLANDO SENTINEL / March 5, 2008)

I love this story, and you know the students are enjoying the new musical adventure. This is the perfect antidote to all the bad news today. One good teacher can make a difference, and Michael Simmons just did so.

Middle school emits squeaks and bleats after readers donate instruments, cash
Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel

Juanita Horgan planned to spend her bonus on a new wedding band for her husband. But the ring will have to wait.

The Florida Hospital nurse is among the hundreds of Central Florida residents who opened their wallets and dusted off their old instruments after a Feb. 10 Orlando Sentinel story about Memorial Middle School's band and the aspiring musicians whose families couldn't provide them with clarinets, trumpets and flutes.

School officials say the community's outpouring has been overwhelming.

"People are sending checks, in memory of so-and-so, because they loved kids and music," Memorial Principal Stefanie Shames said. "It has been wonderful."

So far, the school off Orange Blossom Trail has cataloged nearly 100 donated instruments and about $11,000, and more contributions are on the way...

Band director Michael Simmons said he expected a few donations but was stunned by the extent of Central Florida's generosity, which he called "a true blessing."

Now Simmons has a more typical problem for a middle-school band teacher: Getting eager novices to focus on the basics.

"We might move slow, but we're going to move right," he told his students. He helped the woodwind players adjust their reeds, showed them how to curl their lower lips and then told them to blow.

A terrific squeak followed.

"You guys just made your first sound," Simmons said. "Congratulations."

The local definition of joy.

Memorial Middle School students learn it's not easy to make music. (ROBERTO GONZALEZ, ORLANDO SENTINEL / March 5, 2008)