Our first major virtual service project of the 2020-2021 school year was “Workshops with the Solid Gold Sound”. We chose to partner with Crescenta Valley High School to teach musicianship and leadership workshops and to lend ourselves as a resource for music and college related questions. Brothers and Sisters signed up to serve on a preparatory committee, to lead or moderate a workshop, or to serve on a panel. The Zoom event was kicked off with speeches from our Interim Band Director Kevin McKeown and Director of Service Gina Talcott. Students first entered musicianship breakout rooms by instrument before returning to the main room selecting a leadership workshop.
The later part of the event featured two panel opportunities featuring PsiEK members from a wide variety of instrument sections, academic disciplines, grade levels, years of band experience, etc. The Crescenta Valley students present were encouraged to ask the panels questions about their time as members of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. Though shy at the outset of the first discussion, the students asked thoughtful and insightful questions, such as, “Why choose UCLA?” and “What are the advantages of being in the band at such a big school?” The students’ shyness melted away as they discovered that the scary college students in front of them were just band kids at heart, glad to share their stories and advice. “What impressed me is being able to interact with the college students and them being incredibly friendly to students,” wrote one CVHS band member.
The second set of panel discussions took place in major-specific breakout rooms, where smaller groups of Brothers and Sisters fielded questions specific to their experiences balancing band involvement with their chosen academic discipline. Even the “(f)un-declared” high school students with less of a clear idea of what they wanted to study were invited to shop around the various breakout rooms for what interested them most at the time. In these smaller groups, students asked more particular questions and received more in-depth answers from the panelists about their niche with one foot in the band and the other in their scholarly department. And what they found was more commonalities than differences — “The thing that impressed me was how nice and relatable everyone was,” wrote another high schooler. Sharing more particular interests, these smaller groups of students formed bonds in the recognition of that fact that, despite their differences in age and experience, they were all pursuing the same things: being the best band members, students, and leaders they could be.
Self Care Clinic with Emma Davis
I collaborated with fellow Brother and former Director of Service Gabriel Ramirez to create and lead a workshop titled “Self Care in a Global Pandemic.” In college and life, Gabriel and I are strong proponents of self care and mental health awareness. We felt as though a self care workshop would serve these young musicians well and set out researching facts and resources about self care and mental health from the professionals.
Ultimately, we broke down self care into its benefits for mind, body, and heart. We shared the Eisenhower Box method of using time effectively, not just efficiently. Our overarching goal was to offer actionable ways to incorporate self care into our attendees’ daily lives and to invite their active participation. We shared statistics about the prevalence of mental illness, the harmful effects of stigma around mental health, and ways to cope with stigma. We did an activity called “washing away the stigma” in which we wrote down something harmful we’ve been led to believe about self care or mental health on a piece of paper and dropped it into a bowl of water where the words were washed away. We shared our favorite apps and instagram accounts for journaling, meditating, and scheduling downtime from screens. We also guided the students through UCLA’s free Mental Health Care Package PDF, COVID Anxiety Workbook, and video series on related topics. We rounded out our workshop by sending all of our references and resources to the attendees and invited them to make a promise to themselves on how they will commit to caring for themselves.
As breakout rooms closed and students returned to the main room, the two main leaders of the event (Director of Service Gina Talcott and Crescenta Valley Alumnus Colin McClure) thanked the participants from CVHS for their time and enthusiasm. In turn, CVHS Band Director and Psi Chapter Alumnus Mathew Schick thanked the members of the Psi and EK Chapters for planning and hosting the event, offering his sincerest gratitude, and then invited his students to log off and enjoy the remainder of their Saturday evening. But the event did not end there. Among those UCLA students who stuck around to hang out and those CVHS students who stayed to ask questions, Mr. Schick began to tell old stories of his time in the UCLA Band. The field bleaching. The Note. The immortal antics of E-Crew. And while the Brothers and Sisters who came were there to share their wisdom with future members of UCLA’s and other colleges’ marching bands, they left knowing that much more had just happened. They experienced plenty of joy and wisdom on behalf of Mr. Schick and his students, and this kind of exchange is as special as it is rare.