WITH THE GRAIN
The Story of the Locust Grove 11
As told by Justin Bell
The Tom Davis Experience
What started as simple curiosity, in Tom Davis’ educator’s packet, ended up impacting the way I teach music.
As a music educator, time is a valuable asset. Like most music educators, lunch, planning and other non instruction time are actually used for instruction. When I visited Tom’s website to view his credentials I knew that this would be worth my while.
Tom presented the information in a clear and succinct manner. I find it refreshing when one can clearly communicate musical concepts without all of the nonsense permeates our field.
Tom’s (TomRom 2012) was so helpful that I was able to use the information in my very next rehearsal.
I sent Tom an email to express my thanks, expecting a simple reply email saying you’re welcome. I was wrong! Tom’s first email to me displayed his genuine and caring personality. Not only did he ask how his packet helped our ensemble in order to find and forward more information, he also began asking about our program.
I am in charge of a very small, rural band program with only eleven members in the high school band. As you can imagine, the challenges my ensemble faces are much different than those of a large 5A or 6A program. The goals I have established for the ensemble are very lofty, especially considering the challenges we face. Therefore, I have become accustomed to peers and colleagues in the music field acting as if I am divorced from reality when I state the goals I have for my ensemble.
Because of this, I was expecting Tom’s response to be the same; however I could never have imagined how wrong I was! I wrote “…this sounds crazy but I want to make these kids world class musicians.” Tom replied, “…it’s not crazy, you can, you should and I’m going to help you.”
Tom looked at my goals, asked about every player in the ensemble, and then wrote a piece of music specifically for us! I knew it was going to be quality and that is what we so desperately needed.
Before composing, he researched the history of our community. What he found is a Native American sculptor by the name of Willard Stone, who lived and worked in Locust Grove. Tom instinctively knew that he had to write something that would form an instant connection between the music and the students. As the semester went on, this proved to be a very wise insight as it gave the ensemble a sense of motivation. We were working not for ourselves but for the community- we felt obligated to produce a musical product that reflected the artistic merit of Willard Stone.
Tom sent us “With the Grain - a three movement piece that fit our musical and intellectual goals to a tee! This project was going so well, we invited Tom out to clinic the band! Tom did an amazing job connecting with the students and my students loved it! They were able to ask questions about stylistic interpretation and get specific details of how to communicate to the listener exactly what Tom had intended! This was the finishing touch in making the music very personal to each student.
May 7th arrived, it was now the moment of truth for our ensemble. We loaded up the bus to Michael Block’s recording studio in Tulsa. We began recording at 12:00pm. Here we are, the students have a composition that has been written specifically for them, they have diligently worked throughout the semester to achieve a quality musical product, now they are in the recording studio! I couldn’t wait until Mr. Davis received the sound files and then put it through the final mixing.
Tom sent me an email today to let me know that the final mix was complete From the moment I clicked the “play” button I was blown away!!! I spent the entire night listening to the recording! My friends and colleagues received ecstatic texts and emails from me inviting them to listen. I simply can’t believe how good the final project turned out! I just cannot stop listening ! I feel that my words are inadequate in describing the elation my students and I felt, as each of us listened to the final product!
Tom is one of the most innovative, creative and caring individuals I have met. No matter what problem sprouted, Tom came jad a solution. Whether it was making special mallets from scratch to get a specific sound on the congas or rehearsal techniques for my students, he had answers.
Mr. Davis, I cannot thank you enough for providing this opportunity for my students. You saw the capacity of my students and knew that they would achieve exactly what you set forth for them! I believe that any group you work with will have the same growth experience as what we enjoyed.
I hope that band directors, regardless of the size of their program or past accomplishments, give their students the opportunity to have the Tom Davis experience. If they do, they will then see the true capacity and of their students!