We’ll get straight to the point: Penns Manor, you are awesome!
Earlier in the week, United school district officials announced that funds meant to help pay for a March 30 marching band trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., had gone missing. Officials, during a board meeting, also announced that the trip would have to be canceled.
Keep in mind that this trip is conducted every four years for members of the United marching band. Dollars are raised by the students, their families and the community over those four long years to ensure that every band member — seniors, juniors, sophomore and freshmen — get the opportunity to enjoy some Florida sunshine and literally perform for an international audience at Disney World.
But with no funds, the trip had to be nixed.
“Reservations were cancelled and the performance opportunities were forfeited,” United officials said. “It was a heart-wrenching decision, one made even more so as the victims were our students — our hard-working, committed students.”
But the sad, depressing story takes a turn for the better in a span of about seven days when the Penns Manor band offered United’s upperclass band members — juniors and seniors — to join them on their trip to Disney World and Universal Studios, where the Penns Manor band is slated to perform.
It all started when Penns Manor’s band director, Paul Rode, reached out to his United counterpart, Luke Hamilton. Soon thereafter, the administrations from both schools pitched the idea to their respective school boards.
Helping to rework plans is Penns Manor’s touring agent, Nevin Saylor, of Choice Music Tours in Pittsburgh. He comes from a long line of generational participants in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania music department.
For 30 years, Saylor taught in the Indiana Area School District, leading the junior high band, chorus, orchestra and jazz band, as well as senior high marching band, wind ensemble, symphonic band, pit orchestra and jazz ensemble.
He’s taken his marching bands to, among other events, the Hollywood Christmas Parade in California and the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Arizona, so Saylor knows how important it is for United’s kids to have the Florida experience.
“He’s the one that is making a lot of the behind-the-scenes details happen,” Rode said.
The venture will be a merged band going from the two Indiana County high schools to Florida. Rode said there already were 52 students going but hopes the number can increase to 85 with the additional students from United.
In the meantime, United officials said they are working to formalize on sending its ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade marching band students. The school board, administration and some additional donors are working to ensure students from all four grades can pay for the trip.
In an era of polarization and divisiveness, both politically and socially, it’s refreshing to know we’re not really as polarized and divided as it may seem.
There may be no better lesson for these students about the actual good that can be achieved through cooperation, trust, support and caring — even between two schools that are rivals on the athletic fields of play and between two bands that are competitors in the performance arena.
According to Scientific American magazine, people generally want to perform kind actions and would like to do so more often. At the same time, people underestimate the impact of one’s kindness, which reduces the likelihood of that kindness happening. If people undervalue this impact, Scientific American wrote, they might not bother to carry out these warm, prosocial behaviors.
The consequences of these acts may go beyond a single recipient: kindness can be contagious.
People who perform such acts are not expecting angels to suddenly appear and trumpet those acts of kindness, nor do they expect a pat on the back. It is enough for them to know in their hearts they may have, somehow, even in the smallest way, lightened the burdens of another. Such acts reflect on a person’s true character; in this case, an entire school district.
So now we will wait to see how United pays it forward, which we have full confidence they will do when the time is right.
Penns Manor, you knocked it out of the park with your act of kindness not only toward United’s marching band, but to the entire school community and beyond. You’re certainly a hit with us.
You are a model for all of us to follow and have set the standard to which all of us should aspire.