The Angry Winds of Change

Mike Lawson • Perspective • October 5, 2017

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We had intended to do Part II of our feature on military bands in this issue, but unfortunately our ace reporter, Marty Steiner, is based in Florida, along with some of the people who were to be part of the story.

While I’m happy to report they are safe and sound, I can’t say the same for some of the music programs, not only in Florida, but in Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and as of this writing, surely our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.

I grew up in Florida, and witnessed some pretty nasty storms growing up on the Gulf Coast. The first storm I saw flattened half of Panama City Beach when I was in elementary school. Hurricanes are nothing to mess around with, but because my late father was then a police officer who was on duty, we were forced to hunker down and wait it out. I distinctly recall seeing our old metal shed land in our front yard, having flown over the house from the backyard, then perform multiple cartwheels down the street and land in a neighbor’s yard as if it were a tumble weed in the desert. I was never a fan of not evacuating, but a kid does what his parents do.

School band and orchestra programs in some of these cities have been decimated. The devastation to U.S. island territories is unimaginable. There, in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere, band rooms were destroyed, instruments waterlogged, sheet music gone, uniforms ruined, entire schools unusable, and likely will be that way for some time to come. When these students do finally get back to school, their music programs will play a big part in finding their footing again on campus.

On NAfME’s website, they’ve stated, “NAfME encourages our members, all music education advocates, and the general public, to contribute to relief efforts. Many local options for giving exist, depending on location, but a variety of recommended national options are also highlighted on the FEMA website. The Center for International Disaster Information recommends checking with a charity monitoring organization like GiveWell, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or the Better Business Bureau, before donating.”

Isn’t it a shame that they have to warn their members to investigate a charity before giving to them? It is hard to believe that people setup scams in these times, but they do. You may find some legit places to donate directly to fellow teachers, band boosters, and music programs on sites like, but please do your research there before you give, as well.

You can bet that in addition to general donations of cash to help try to restore normalcy to these unfortunate families displaced by these disasters, your fellow music teachers are going to need help in these areas once they are finally back in school. I’d like to encourage you to help get these programs going again, by learning about needs through various music educator groups on Facebook, contacting school districts in impacted areas, reaching out to NAfME, perhaps reaching out to the Texas Music Educators Association, and the Florida Music Educators Association as they begin learning where the needs are directly from their membership.

Maybe your band or orchestra can adopt a school in one of these devastated areas and raise funds, donate unused instruments. I’m just thinking out loud here. This is the worst hurricane season I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m almost at a loss for words, and those who know me well, know that isn’t something that happens often. But I digress…

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