Dear Mr. Pritchett,
As I sit here, a few days away from my son finishing his final days of middle school, I am very thankful for you and the role you have played in his life.
Whenever I have had opportunity to have a conversation with someone about middle school, the common thread of those exchanges is the idea that middle school is something that no one loves. Middle school is the chapter, both as a parent and as a student, that you must endure in order to get to high school where things start to look up.
Middle school kids are awkward, insecure, developing at different stages. Friendships change, roles are defined, the social fabric begins to fray. At best the results of middle school can be tough and character-building, and at worst middle school can leave some serious scars.
Never have I heard a tale in which the individual thrived, blossomed, or found their stride during their middle school years. Until now. I am in awe of the awakening that has occurred in our son over the past three years, and I owe you a debt of gratitude for being a major player in this process.
When Jake arrived at Monnig, the summer before his sixth grade year, he had signed up for band, but didn’t know what he wanted to play. We attended the required “band fair” where all the different instruments were set up in stations around the band hall, and the students were encouraged to try each one out to see which one might be a potential good fit for them. Jake visited most of the stations (the flute really held no attraction for him), and to my delight and his surprise, by the end of his tour around the room, the different teachers and instrument representatives were competing to get Jake to sign up to play their instrument. He was that good before he even began.
He smirked, not sure he wanted to be vulnerable enough to fully trust the moment with a full-smile, but I saw for the first time the joy that can wash over a young boy’s heart at the idea that he has something valuable that others want him to share.
It was the compliments and prestige that came from the trombone table that finally won him over. “Not everyone can play the trombone. Instead of pushing valves or buttons, you have to find the note on the slide, and that takes a certain amount of talent to hear the pitch in your head.” We signed up to play trombone, and he walked away with a spring in his step.
Up to this point, Jake had expressed a lot of generic artistic interest. He could draw, paint, play the recorder, sing harmony, find a melody on the piano, but it had all been ansilary. A way he spent his time when he got bored enough. When he started band in the sixth grade, all of this changed.
Over the past three years, his dad and I have watched him find not only a platform to hone a skill, but a place to belong where he is accepted, appreciated, and encouraged to excel. You, Mr. Pritchett, have been at the helm of this ship, and the trajectory on which we see our son is due in major part to your influence.
Jake has emerged in new ways over the past three years. The trickle down of the confidence he found by finding his place in band has touched every aspect of his life. He is more confident socially. He is more comfortable in his skin. He practices music all the time, and not just the trombone. He now plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bugle for his Boy Scout troop. He and his sister have worked out songs together, and I swear it is only a matter of time before he grabs a few friends and puts together a band.
Mr. Pritchett, your leadership of the Monnig Middle School band has left a permanent impact on the life of my son. I cannot wrap my mind around how you took a group of twelve year-olds who had never held an instrument and produced a group of in-tune musicians who have won multiple awards this year. I hope you are able to fully drink in the magnitude of how your time and work changes trajectories and prepares each of them for the next chapter of their life. Jake cannot wait to be a part of the high school band, and he hopes to carry that on to college one day.
I think I can say with certainty that Jake would have discovered a musical outlet even if he hadn’t been in band. But being in your band provided him so much more than music. The band hall was his home base, his fellow band mates his friends, and you were his fearless leader.
Thank you for all you have done. Your time and work, your patience and persistence, they are gifts that have been deposited into Jake, and I know they will yield a return for the rest of his life.
katherine and timm