We are all shaped by the events in our lives that unfold before us. Not a lot of people can point to one specific event, or series of events, that led them to become the person they are.
But I can.
This will be a story that unfolds over a series of installments. I am going to attempt to tell the tale of my involvement in the Lock Haven High School Indoor Percussion Ensemble, and how it impacted not only my life, but the lives of the hundreds of students and parents who were lucky enough to be a part of it over the course of their junior high and high school years.
A few notes of warning up front. First, this will not be a comprehensive history of the group. For one, I was only a part of it for six years, and it existed in one form or another for I believe more than 20 years. But also, this is my story, not the story. Everything will be told through my eyes. So inevitably, there will be a number of inaccuracies. I have a decent memory of my time in the ensemble, but I can’t pretend to tell the story in full.
The experience of a small-town kid playing drums in the band isn’t exactly something everyone can relate to, but I think this story can tell one much larger than my own: what is a culture of winning, and how do you foster an environment in which it can thrive? How do you get teenagers to believe in something larger than themselves? For that matter, how do you get teenagers to believe in anything?
I think you’ll come to realize, as I did, that the answer to all those questions comes down to one person: the group’s instructor, Blake Bergey. Blake is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. As instructor, his job was to create fully formed performances from nothing more than a blank page and a world of ideas. But that’s every instructor’s job. I believe Blake looked at this as more than just a chance to instruct a musical group. I believe he saw an opportunity to shape lives.
Like most endeavors, Blake’s group started small. I was fortunate enough to be there from (almost) the beginning, and I got to enjoy the entire ride to the top. Our little band of nobodies from Nowhere, PA competed against schools with more money and talent than we could ever of dream of. Huge, rich schools from a nine-state region up and down the Atlantic Coast came at us time and time again. And (almost) every time, they went home empty handed.
It was a special time for all of us, and I’ll do my best to tell you how it happened.