Bring Students Together Through Music


Tori Van Epps

Cake, donut, soup. You might think this is just a random list of foods, but for the students in the life skills class, these are the words given to help them learn to play an instrument. Fredericksburg High School band students in the United Sound club call out those three specific words while the new musicians blow into their instruments following along a given beat.

United Sound is a non-profit and school-based instrumental music club where students with different disabilities get the opportunity to learn to use instruments. Joining different groups of students, United Sound’s mission, according to the official United Sound website, “is to remove barriers and foster social change through music.”

The students involved meet nearly every Monday in the band hall to practice their music on instruments such as the euphonium, trombone, clarinet and marimba. Peer mentor and President of the United Sound chapter at FHS, Marissa Bopp said, “The group is striving to have their new musicians learn to play an instrument and be able to perform in their spring concert they put on almost every year.”

Not only that, Vice President Harper Kiehl said, “We also want to help them develop better communication skills.”

All the band members involved in United Sound work hard to guide their students through the unfamiliarity of playing an instrument. Patiently they tutor their students while making the experience fun and comfortable. Navigating through their music sheets, the life skills students continue to engage in working on rhythms.

Evans Burkhalter has practiced playing on the trumpet and euphonium, and he said his favorite part is learning and listening to the music. Also a member of the NJROTC club at school, Evans is allowed to be himself and learn valuable life skills through programs like these.

Being a part of United Sound has proven to be beneficial for both the mentors and newbies. The leaders themselves even called it “life-changing.” Those included in the organization believe that all children should have access to meaningful and authentic music education and musical experiences.

Sophomore Alyssa Parker is a peer mentor for life skills student, Soren Fielland. “My favorite thing about Soren is how he is always so full of energy,” Parker said. “If I’m having a bad day where I’m feeling low, his energy just spreads to me and cheers me up. He is so much fun to be around.”

This program has not only provided opportunities for the new musicians, but the teachers as well. Opportunities to grow closer to their peers and encourage others while doing it.

“We are a part of United Sound to help each other. Not only the learning students but the mentors as well. We get to learn key life skills,” Parker said.

Band members have learned to use their love for music as a gift to serve others. From it, they have created a level of comfort for their new musicians and allowed for friendships to flourish. Being able to watch their students create sounds through a variety of instruments is a rewarding experience. Not only do the students involved in United Sound form devoted and caring relationships, they also create memories that will last a lifetime.

“Not to sound corny,” peer mentor Khavy Seng said, “but I will never forget the bonds with the kids and with my band friends. I have a very fond memory of us all running in a circle and doing the chicken dance.”