The music teacher

Stepping back 16 years for an eclectic high school band concert featuring performances of (among others) a Wagner symphony, medleys from both Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings, an aural portrait depicting the Battle of Gettysburg, and a heartfelt "Auld Lang Syne.

And finding that herein lies the importance of music programs in education: everyone belongs. Everyone has a role to play, something of significance to contribute. There are no bench warmers or equipment carriers, there is no sitting on the sidelines watching the best players scramble up and down the field. The shy kids, the cool kids, the outsiders, the clowns -- for those brief moments that they are on stage, marching up and down the field or up and down the parade route, every one of them is as visible as the next. The light shines equally on all of them. Each has only one function -- the same function -- and that is to help lift the rest of the group up. Perhaps it does not take a great talent to clang the cymbals at the appropriate intervals, but it does take patience and practice and care. (And wouldn't life be dull without the cymbals!)

And if they are very lucky, they will be blessed with a positive force to guide the way, a teacher who is more than just teacher, who is something crossed between mentor and magician, who can show them how to be part of a group and how to love -- or at the very least to appreciate -- something larger than themselves: the music that they have helped to create. Something of value, something vital and lasting and true.