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Note from the Director: You may notice that this issue of Tomorrow’s Child has articles that reference both the practical and developmental purposes of the lessons in Montessori schools. This uplifting article about a rock band in a Montessori school is no exception. Chad Wilson Bailey could have named this article “What Does a Rock Band Have to Do with It?”. As you read this article you will notice that not only the students but also the musician benefits from the experience. The practical experience of practicing together to gain instrumental skills and vocal presentation, setting up equipment at the venue, and actual performance are obvious and important, no doubt. However, as you read the article and look at the developmental/hidden lessons, you will find that they are enormous. You’ll always find independence, order, concentration, and coordination at the core. Then, if you keep looking, you will see even more lessons, including collaboration, respect, and confidence. Music is an undeniable source of pleasure and learning.

As a professional musician, I never really considered myself to be a teacher. I was made aware of the need for a band director at the school through a parent and mutual friend at Desert Garden Montessori School (DGM). I interviewed for the position and was apprehensive about taking on the role until I met the children and saw the space. I was immediately drawn to them and felt instantly that I needed to take on the opportunity. I quickly realized that there was limited musical equipment with no budget for new equipment. I became worried about how I was going to conduct a rock band program without the items that the students needed. Through generous contributions from the Phoenix community and members of DGM I was able to buy new equipment for the program and, from there, we were off and running.

I started working with the students twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes for each class. The students quickly brainstormed a list of songs they wanted to learn and began working hard to prepare them for performance. They had a few smaller shows at the DGM campus throughout the semester, but they were shocked when they found out they had been invited to perform for an audience of 250+ teachers at the Montessori Foundation/International Montessori Council Annual Conference held here in Phoenix. They were honored by the gesture and quickly accepted the invitation.

This was almost 4 hours of setting up and taking down equipment and countless hours of practice, but by the end of the day, I would do it 100 times over if I could. 

After the performance, I collected some feedback from the students about their experience. Jack, 15 years of age and the drummer of DGM Rock Band, shared, “My favorite moments were when everyone started clapping to the beat of Mr. Brightside, which as a drummer is a huge compliment, and I think I speak for the whole band when I say that having everyone wave their phone lights on This Love was awesome. My favorite moment in the performance was the instrumental solo in You Know I’m no Good. It was almost 4 hours of setting up and taking down equipment and countless hours of practice, but by the end of the day, I would do it 100 times over if I could. I love playing drums and I love our band and I am so looking forward to playing more songs with them in the future.”

Makayla, the bass guitarist of our Rock Band, shared several insights from her experience: “For the past three years that I have been in a rock band, we have only performed in front of our school community, so you could only imagine how exciting performing at an exclusive outside event was for our group. The venue was beautiful, the audience was vibrant, and the music felt perfect. The preparation for concerts is always nerve-wracking for me. My mind constantly twists and turns thinking about the set list, gear, and the overall presence we bring to an event. To my surprise, once our band was on the stage, I felt truly comfortable and confident. All my worries about messing up a note or playing the wrong song left me. It felt amazing just to relax and perform to an audience that didn’t know me and to people that I had never met before. I believe that may have been my favorite part of the entire event. The audience was so supportive, and after the show, many of the members sprinkled our band with plenty of compliments that made us feel like celebrities. I am extremely excited for any new adventures our band plans to take on.”

From my perspective, it was exciting for me to guide the students through the event, which was a legitimate gig; a gig that involved an hour of travel time to and from, a large setup, a large crowd of people (from outside of their school site), the performance of multiple songs and even an encore performance! I was beyond proud of the students, their work ethic, their professionalism, and their ability to rise to the occasion.

Going forward, I am hoping to purchase a professional-grade PA system for the school, continue to guide the students through new music and more challenging songs, help students with future performances, and recruit new members into the Rock Band so that we can continue this great program. I feel grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to work at DGM with these incredible students. I have already witnessed so much growth in every member of our Rock Band and I look forward to watching each of these great musicians step into their full potential as artists. My heart is full every day because of them.

Chad Wilson Bailey is a Professional singer/ songwriter and rock Band director at Desert Garden Montessori School, Phoenix, AZ.