Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

We are who we are because of the people that have touched our lives.
People who supported and believed in us.
People who educated and inspired us.
People who challenged and changed us.

Who are those people in your life?
They are your Giants.

They are the people that allowed you to stand on their shoulders. And from their shoulders you learned to stretch farther than you ever could alone. You saw things from a new perspective. You became brave and strong. You rose higher.

If you are a band director, I can guarantee that you have a long list of Giants. I was lucky, as many of you are, to have had incredible band directors and music mentors from beginning band through today.

My beginning band director gave up her lunch period so she could have a class with just clarinets. She would often eat a vending machine snack and diet coke as she taught class because teaching us was that important to her. When I was in her advanced band I would get up early and walk a couple miles to school rather than be late to sectionals. She taught me what it was to be dedicated to a group.

My freshman band director took a hodge-podge of students from very competitive middle schools with very different teaching styles and turned us into a family. I remember that same director working one-on-one with me and teaching me the concept of tension/release. Now, every time I teach a student tension/release, I think of him.

I remember the private lesson teacher that challenged me with a Class 1 solo because I really wanted to go to state solo contest. Looking back on it now, there is no way I was ready for that solo. But she worked with me on it until I could be successful. Reaching that goal changed how I approached challenges from then on – in band and in life.

My high school band director was new to the school the same year I was. He turned the program around in a matter of months. I was able to watch him teach an entire band that they didn’t have to be mediocre. They could be great. And he taught us that to be great we not only had to play well – we had to have great character. We had to have ‘class’. I remember talking with him after a big audition that didn’t go quite the way I would have liked. He told me “You know I’m still proud of you,” and I teared up because I knew he really was. I knew that the kind of person I was mattered more to him than the kind of player I was.

Who are your Giants?
What did they give you? Teach you?
How did they change you?

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Now, let me ask you this.
Who is standing on your shoulders?

Because now you’re the Giant. If you’re a band director – you’re the Giant. You may be the deciding factor of whether a child learns to play an instrument, feels included in a great organization, wants to come to school and believes he can face a challenge and reach a goal.

It’s a big job.
It’s a huge responsibility.
It’s scary.
It may be more than you signed up for.
But remember, someone did it for you.

Someone lifted you up and put you on their shoulders and let you see the world of music. The family of band. The satisfaction of reaching goals. The reward of dedication.

Here’s a final thought.
When was the last time you told one of your Giants thank you?
When was the last time you told one of your Giants they made a difference in your life.
They changed you.
They changed the world through you.

Has it been a while? They won’t be around forever. There will be a day where it will be too late to tell them thank you. So go tell them now. Right now. Go tell them thank you.

And continue their legacy by being a Giant for others.

This post is dedicated to Randy Storie – a Giant band director – who passed away on May 11, 2015. He wasn’t even ‘officially’ my director.  Yet he was one of the greatest teachers I ever had. He loved band like no one else I’ve ever known and he loved his students more than anything. He lived to teach music. He inspired students in incredible ways, and many of those students grew up to be band directors. Mr. Storie was a Giant teacher to a whole town and a Giant mentor to band directors across Texas. His legacy will live on through his students and his students’ students.

“Seems like the most successful people I know ask a lot of questions and get a lot of help.”
– Randy Storie

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