INDIANAPOLIS — Though some said Elwood Community Schools’ Marching Panthers had their best Band Day performance in years, director Paula Simmons said there was a lot of work involved in shifting the attitudes of the 28 musicians.
And that was a tall order when one of the band’s clarinet players, Cheyenne Height, died in May after a short illness.
“You explain to kids that life isn’t always fair and that you take every moment you have and make the best of it,” she said.
It’s been a process of infusing positivity throughout the school year, with the older students mentoring and caring for younger ones, Simmons said.
“We’ve based our whole marching season around positivity," she said. "It’s a totally different feeling than it was a year ago. This has been a totally different attitude in the span of the summer. There’s a unification of goals.”
And as the students’ attitude has changed, Simmons said, she has experienced a renewed enthusiasm for teaching.
“They’ve uplifted us as a staff. I’m even having fun,” she said. “Those kids are motivating me to be a better teacher again.”
Clarinetist Hannah Martin, 16, said she has seen a major shift in the way the band plays together.
“I think since everyone's attitude is better, we’ve become more productive,” she said.
Sousaphone player Sydney Scott, 18, agreed.
“I think everyone likes to work together better,” the senior said. “You’re more apt to learn when you’re more positive about everything.”