sci-tech band director a graduation machine

Sci Tech's Gary Bernice | Speaking of Springfield | Springfield, MA

sci-tech band director a graduation machine

For director Gary Bernice, the band at Springfield High School of Science and Technology is about more than making music. It is about creating community, encouraging responsibility, building leaders and improving graduation rates in a school where most students come from poverty.



“We have high expectations. We don’t like mediocre. Students rise to the expectations.” The result? Bernice says that students who take band for more than one year are more than twice as likely to graduate as students not participating in band.

Speaking of Springfield | Pro Springfield Media | Springfield, MA Unearth the flutes, saxophones, trumpets and other band instruments collecting dust in your homes and donate them to the Sci-Tech Band.



When Bernice, a 29-year-old Springfield resident, came to the school in 2007, the band had about 20 members. This past school year, about 300 students performed, and next year, 588 students have signed up for a band considered one of the state’s top music programs and now known as “The Pride of Springfield.”



“Our music is relevant to the students’ culture and to the city as a whole. Every ethnicity is represented in the band. We do Latin pieces, hip hop, songs from the radio, funk, classical. We get to explore each others’ music in a meaningful way, and that helps us resolve conflict.”



Alton Skinner, a 2012 graduate, says the band changed his life. “It’s given me something to strive for.” According to Skinner, before he followed a friend to band practice his sophomore year, “I just sat around the house and didn’t do anything.” On that day during his sophomore year, “Mr. B. invited me in,” he recalls. “He’s not afraid to use his time to help people. He’s been a father figure.” Skinner joined the band and learned to play the alto saxophone. In the fall, he plans to study music at Holyoke Community College. He hopes to get a degree in music performance and make a living as a musician.



Many of the instruments are donated, while others are purchased with money allocated in the district budget. “But,” Bernice says, “There is not nearly enough money in the budget next year for all students interested in joining the band. For next year, we need 250 or more instruments.”



Here is how you can support the perpetuation of this program and its resulting high school graduates: dig into your attics, your cellars and closets. Unearth the flutes, saxophones, trumpets and other band instruments collecting dust in your homes and donate them to the Sci-Tech Band. Please let us know when you have so we can give you a big shout-out and encourage others to do the same.



Instruments may be dropped off at the Springfield High School of Science and Technology on 1250 State Street in Springfield. For questions regarding school hours or the Sci-Tech band, please call 413-750-2000.



Ronni Gordon | http://runnerwrites.blogspot.com/
Photo credit: Deborah Walsh