I stopped the marching band but I plead for music education

  • Charlie Worsham is a Nashville-based recording artist, session musician, and songwriter.
  • He served as Artist Ambassador for the CMA Foundation, which during the week of May 2 announced its 2022 Excellence in Music Teachers recipients during Teacher Appreciation Week.

First year, I had finished. Three sweltering July music camps behind me, I didn’t want to spend my last summer in Mississippi stuck in a training ground, my legs itching from grass clippings and bug bites, walking briskly at Dr. David’s megaphone orders “once more” Daigneault.

So I quit.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the marching band. We participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York the same year as 9/11.

We rocked a Scorpions-themed halftime show, and I played the guitar solo “Rock You Like A Hurricane” thanks to an open-minded band manager and a fueled orchestra pit. by John Deere.

So why the hell should I quit?

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Marching Band in Music City

Well, I had started another band of my own. A four-piece cover band called The Players. We were – how to say – a bar band.

Most weekends, I used my brand new driver’s license to meet up with my adult bandmates in the gravel terrain of a regional watering hole. We had our own custom PA and logo t-shirts for sale. We had become so popular that we had booked as many weddings as bar gigs.

Plus the pay was insane for high school money. I’m talking hundreds of dollars.

All those Friday night halftime shows were starting to take a toll on my Players touring schedule, and what teenager wouldn’t trade in a sweaty uniform for a Fender Stratocaster?

I was on my way to a bigger and bigger world. A long journey that brought me to Nashville, Tennessee, where today I find success as a respected recording artist, in-demand session musician, and songwriter. I live the dream.

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What music education teaches children

In 2003, I wasn’t a particularly popular kid. Nor was I close to making the football, baseball, track, golf, or tennis teams.

Charlie Worsham and Marty Stuart perform with Old Crow Medicine Show at Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at Ryman Auditorium.

But in this faded blue music room, I found a place where I could belong. A place where people were thrilled to see me walk through the door every day. A place where I counted.

The high school marching band taught me to arrive on time. It taught me patience, discipline and teamwork. How does it feel to win. How does it feel to lose. How to do both gracefully.

Call me crazy, but I don’t believe the musical part of musical education was the most valuable thing I learned in the marching band.

My life experience is proof that music education is imperative because of its unique ability to give children a chance to develop social and emotional learning, self-awareness and self-management skills. Music education teaches children how to master the art of responsible decision-making.

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Children need music now more than ever

Which brings me back to why I quit the marching band.

Charlie Worham

I quit the marching band because it led me to the next good thing.

Today we live in a world that is limping back after two very traumatic years. Ours is a collective trauma. Our children feel it too. That’s why, more than ever, our kids need a place that looks like this faded blue concert hall did to me.

This place could be an after-school program in a church basement. It could be the piano bench in the salon of the lady at the end of the street. It could be a concert in a bar. It’s all musical education.

We live in troubling times, all of you. Take the case of a brass band dropout: our children need what music education has to offer. It can lead them to the next good thing.

Charlie Worsham is a Nashville-based recording artist, session musician, and songwriter. He served as Artist Ambassador for the CMA Foundation, which during the week of May 2 announced its 2022 Excellence in Music Teachers recipients during Teacher Appreciation Week.

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