CORNING – At Miller High School, the beginning of this school year was different from previous years. As crowds of students flooded the halls, eager to be back after the pandemic cut last year’s in-person classes short, black fabric cases bobbed amongst the rushing students. Within these cases rested brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, newly rented and ready for students to use in the school’s new band program.

Josh Carroll, Miller High’s freshly-hired band teacher, has been busy since school began just under two months ago, occupied all day with teaching classes chock-full of students excited to have the opportunity to pick up a new activity and become part of the school band. It is Carroll’s hope that by this time next year, the band will be able to move out onto the football field and become a full marching band for the school.

Miller High’s school counselor, Addey Headlee, couldn’t be more excited for her students. While a music program used to be offered years ago, its cancellation led to the program quickly becoming simply a memory for the students and staff, the only reminder being the well-loved yet abandoned instruments packed away in storage closets.

Now high schoolers and even some seventh and eighth graders are wiping the dust off those old instruments and unpacking brand new ones, taking them home for a small rental fee to learn and rehearse for upcoming concerts. The support for the program has been overwhelming.

“We’ve had a lot of donations come in, which has been really helpful in trying to get things up and running again,” Headlee said. “And the community’s been very supportive, our school board has been very supportive. The students have been very open to trying everything, so it’s been going well.”

Many students have no knowledge of playing an instrument and aren’t even sure what being part of a band entails, while others have parents who were in band in high school and college and are relentless at encouraging their children to join. No matter their skill level, everyone in the classes is excited to learn to play, according to Headlee.

“They’ve been really open to trying it out, and we have students all over school now carrying around their instruments and taking them home to practice, and that’s really fun to see,” Headlee said. “Especially students that aren’t typically involved in sports or athletics, they can have an activity they’re involved in to promote school spirit, so we’re really excited about that.”

Carroll told Headlee that this week one of his classes played their first note all together as a band. While this may not sound like an incredible feat, it was a motivating first step for the students, encouraged by the melodic sound of the entire class harmonizing as one.

“I know a lot of people go to football games just to see the band in other schools, so I’m hoping that we can be a school like that, as well,” Headlee said. “We’re hoping to really boost our school spirit and school pride through the band as well, (with) things like pep rallies and playing at basketball games or community events… It’s a really good opportunity to bring the community together.”

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