RUMFORD — Many parents struggle to motivate teenagers to do homework, clean their rooms or do their chores. Not so when it comes to creating music. Talented students at Mountain Valley High School spend hours practicing and preparing for performances. Music motivates them by providing a way to express themselves, relieve stress and bond with friends.
Senior Ashleigh Milligan is a member of the chorus, often performs solos and sings the national anthem at sporting events. She finds motivation in the comfort of being accepted by fellow musicians. Milligan said, “The music department is important because it’s the only place in the school that I feel I’m in my element. I’ve learned a lot there my last three years in high school. It’s taught me that people in the band room and in music will always be there for me when others can’t.”
“For me, I can’t do visual artwork like painting so the way I express myself is through music – notes and rhythms,” said Erich Zurhorst. “To relax, I sit down at the piano and mess around for hours. Music is my outlet. I like to manipulate sound to fit my mood. It’s a stress reliever.”
Zurhorst plays trumpet in the band, keyboard for special performances and sings in the chorus. Last fall, he had a singing role in “Once Upon a Mattress.” He will graduate this year.
Another senior, Tory Gordon agrees with Zurhorst about stress, “Music is a good way to relieve stress and express yourself.” She is a member of the chorus and often sings solos. Gordon also sang in “Once Upon a Mattress.”
Nick Williams didn’t start out loving music but has learned to express himself through music. He said, “I started music lessons to learn breathing to control my asthma. I started with trumpet and have now changed to trombone and tuba. I’ve discovered that we’re a great community. It’s a good release.”
For some students, music is cathartic. Senior Heather Durfee said, “Music is important to me because it lets me express myself! I’m able to let myself go and do something I love. Growing up was hard for me and music was my only outlet. It’s my escape from all that’s going on in the world. One day I want to become the person that you long to listen to on the radio after a hard day. I want to send a message to kids to never give up on your dreams.”
Durfee often performs solos with a great deal of emotional investment. She is a soprano in the chorus.
Some music students start young. Alexa Fryover recalls, “As a little kid, I always sang what was on the radio whether it sounded good or not. My aunt jokes that I was tone deaf but I never gave up.”
Tyler Smith, a first-year band member, also started young. “I listened to music and would beat pots and pans together when I was young. Then I had lessons. So, I really started when I was 5 years old. Music is fun because I like the looks on people’s faces when they see me play.”
Junior Alex Witas adds, “People who may not excel in the academic portion of school really have the chance to show their skill at what they love to do. I love to sit down and play piano for hours and figure out melodies as a pastime. Expressing yourself through music is one of the ways I, and many others, cope with some problems. It can be an escape from reality and you can build your own little fantasy.”
Witas plays bass guitar, guitar, piano, trombone and drums. He also sings in the chorus. In “Once Upon a Mattress,” he sang and danced.
Teachers and parents who wonder about teenage motivation need to look no further than the band room to find examples of focus, dedication, drive and enthusiasm.