This morning, when I got to school, it was dark. It was 5:13 a.m., and while I was early, there were two students waiting to have the doors opened nonetheless! Last night it was my husband's and my goal to get to bed by 9:00 p.m. We didn't make it. But, this morning, we got to school early anyway, to help welcome the television crew from Fox 45's Morning News for their taping of our 1/7 of the Steel Drum Bands who will be at this Friday's Panorama. I think that tonight, I will either go to bed early again or bake shortbread brownies. I'm not too sure.
Anyway, on to the reason for my writing this blog today. Fox Morning News allowed us to show off the talent inside Parkville HS's music department really early this morning! These talented kids are led by Chris Gnagey, the Band's Director, and Music and Performing Arts Department Chair, who is an incredible guy the kids just adore. He's been directing the Steel Drum or Pan Band since it's inception at Parkville in 2008. I think when I see him in the middle of his band, setting the time and the beat for his students is perhaps when I see him most relaxed. You can truly imagine how much he loves this music gig he has when he is in the middle of the music.
And the kids. They love what he gets them to do too! Why else would they show up between 5:10 and 5:30 a.m. at school - a full two and a quarter hours earlier than they have to arrive in order to be in class on time. Sure, the attraction of being on television has it's perks, and maybe they like the free homemade goodies for breakfast, but I'm quite sure that without "Gnagey", they wouldn't get out of their warm comfy beds that early, TV or no TV.
Arielle Boyer understands the pull that Gnagey provides. She went to middle school with my son, but they parted ways for High School. During her high school years, she played the viola in Orchestra, was in the percussion pit in Marching Band, and and was lead in Steel Drum with Mr. Gnagey. Currently a music major at Towson, Arielle could always be found in the band hallway at Parkville. When asked to sum up her time in high school with him she said: "Gnagey was, undoubtedly, my favorite teacher in high school. He inspired me to go into my career with music and pushed me farther than I thought I was able to advance. I learned so much from him and I owe him so much pertaining to my career. He is, also, the kind of teacher that I could go to about anything that was bothering me. He was easy to talk to and he really helped me through a lot of rough times. He's a smart man and a fantastic music teacher."
Lizzie Abernathy, a sophomore who plays clarinet with the Symphonic Winds has this to say about Mr. Gnagey: "Gnagey. He isn't just a band director, he is like family to me. When I was coming into high school, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue with band. But when I met Gnagey, he made band fun, and made me realize that music is a part of me and it will take me places I never knew I could go. Joking around with him is a lot of fun, all his stories from his past jobs were funny. "Chicken" is always gonna be a great memory."
When I got to school this morning, I found the kids all huddled in the hall, talking about their upcoming combined Wind Ensemble/Orchestra concert on Thursday. Not stressing about this morning's TV shoot, not talking about the Panorama, but talking about what would happen at the band/orchestra concert. Ashley Walizer spends half her day in the band room every other day of the school week. She loves just about every minute of it due to Mr. Gnagey's presence. In the fall, she plans to attend Sheperd University in West Virginia as he did, and major in music education. She feels this way about Mr. Gnagey: "Gnagey has taught me alot about being a band director. Either it was how to conduct a band and pick out troubled spots, or how to be fair and make the class fun. Without his guidance, support, and faith in me, I wouldn't be the confident musician I am today." Ashley plays clarinet in two bands at school, and the lead drum in Steel Band.
I remember, having a band director whom I enjoyed. Brad Draeger was his name, and he was the South Lakes High School band director. He was cool. While other teachers got their cars TP'ed during our senior year, we filled Draeger's office with balloons. Draeger was always looking for a new way to make things interesting and fun. He was always looking to broaden our repertoire, and to help us learn how to improve our abilities to play through various competitions, and band exchanges between high schools in different states each year. I understand wanting to do whatever your band director wants you to do, but I never really experienced the joy and love that these kids have when referring to their director, Mr. Gnagey!
Mr. Russell Valentine, an assistant principal at Parkville High School spoke with me a bit today. He has spent every morning with Chris, sharing breakfast cafeteria duty with him since Chris started in 2006. Now that our school is under construction, various classrooms and offices have been moved around, so Valentine's office is now just about across the hall from where Gnagey rehearses his band. He told me that he heard Gnagey admonish the kids to make sure to call each other, set all the alarm clocks they could find, and to BE SURE to wake up and GET THEMSELVES to school Monday morning. He recalled that Chris spent impressive quality time reminding the kids that this was the NEWS and they should be ON TIME on Monday morning. After so many years of watching Gnagey working with the kids, putting in countless hours after the school day was finished, I think Mr. Valentine would agree that Chris Gnagey is more the reason for these kids to get out of bed so early on a Monday morning than free food, and a shot at momentary fame combined!
P.S. Come out to see these incredible kids led by the equally incredible Chris Gnagey on Thursday night at 7 for band, orchestra and steel drums, OR on Friday night in the gym at 7:00 for the Steel Drum "Panorama"!