The beginning of band practice in Mr. Brown’s classroom is mixed with laughter and the sounds of brass and woodwind instruments, as students get set up for rehearsal.
MarVelous Brown is on a mission to introduce KIPP Nashville College Prep students to playing in a band and ultimately, create a lasting instrumental program.
Brown, whose primary instrument is trombone – although he can fluently play all brass instruments – says some of his most formative experiences were because of music.
“Music has afforded me so many opportunities,” he says. “Professionally, I’ve played in three different countries in front of crowds over 100- thousand people. I also had the opportunity to play on the White House South Lawn for President Barack Obama. I don’t believe I would’ve been able to experience these types of events had it not been for the power of music.”
Some students in Mr. Brown’s band have had prior experience with music and instruments, even taking regular private lessons.
Like Nevaeh, a sixth grader at KNCP. She’s been playing violin for six years and is now taking on the flute, a new challenge.
“I like playing music, because it has different tones, different harmonies and melodies,” says Nevaeh. “Music makes you feel something. Like playing the flute reminds me of when my Dad used to buy peach soda in glass bottles, and on the way home from visiting our family, we used the bottles to blow into to make sounds.”
For many students, it’s their first experience even holding an instrument, let alone playing with a group.
Brown believes music presents big opportunities, because, “Being exposed to music helps students develop as individuals and as a team. Playing in a band teaches you that you can take a gift and share it with others to make music.”
Shaylin, also in sixth grade, says playing trumpet makes her feel happy. And she has an affinity for, as she puts it, “old school trumpet players” that most middle school students probably do not.
Adds Shaylin, “Sometimes we go to Chicago, and on our way, me and my Dad listen to old school trumpet players, like Louis Armstrong and Wynton Marsalis. I love the way it sounds.”
Mr. Brown says he’s building the band program bit by bit. Thanks to donations from Instruments for Music Educators and Hungry for Music, there are now some instruments at school so fewer students have to rent what they play.
“Kids started getting super excited once they saw the instruments and realized they would get to play on them,” explains Brown. “This year, it’s about building the fundamentals, like learning to read music and playing something simple together as an ensemble.”
Brown also has big dreams for the musicians.
I want KIPP Nashville to be able to compete musically with other schools that have instrumental programs across the country,” he says. “I know our KIPPsters are capable and they’re excited to learn.”
Nevaeh also has big dreams.
“Beethoven and Mozart didn’t have an easy life, but they still pursued what they loved,” explains Nevaeh. “There aren’t any African American string players in the Nashville Symphony, so I want to be the first African American female to be first chair in the symphony. That’s my goal for violin.”
That’s the power of music, says Brown. Seeing students believe in themselves, dream big and work on something with a group that’s bigger than themselves. If you get goosebumps playing the music along the way, then that’s just extra.