FORT TOTTEN, N.Y. –
“When we first heard we were going to be out of the classroom due to the pandemic, we were told to give our students lessons for two weeks, but we knew we would be out considerably longer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Tedrick, tuba player for the U.S. Army Reserve’s 78th Army Band.
Tedrick, along with Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Greeson, fellow squad leader and saxophonist with the 78th Army Band, created a fully interactive virtual music mentorship program for elementary and high school students affected by recent massive school closings.
In March, state governments started cancelling classes and closing schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s social-distancing guidelines. Overnight, thousands of young music performers and their educators, band leaders and musical mentors were torn apart.
“The students play the music, and we give feedback. That is how all bands work,” said Greeson. “Bands play together, reacting to each other, learning together; suddenly it was impossible for us all to be in the same room.”
Tedrick and Greeson are Soldiers, educators and professional musicians. When not in their military uniforms, they are both elementary school band directors; Tedrick for the Colonial School District in Wilmington, Delaware, and Greeson for Cape Henlopen School District in Lewes, Delaware.
“We have a lot of music educators from many different states in our unit, and our commander works with Grammy Music Education Coalition, so we bring a lot of knowledge to this problem,” said Greeson. “We had (battle assembly) the weekend schools started closing, so Sgt. 1st Class Tedrick and I started to put a plan together for how the 78th would assist these students and their teachers.”
“One of the founding pillars of the Army band is education and educational outreach,” added Tedrick. “We wanted to have interaction with the students, not just some Youtube videos which are just one-way communication. There’s something lost if the students are just sitting at home watching videos. We wanted actual interaction with students, face-to-face contact.”
The two NCOs crafted a virtual performance and learning space for interactive remote music education. They presented their idea to Master Sgt. Brian Endlein, their recently promoted incoming first sergeant whose civilian job is band director for Middletown High School, Delaware, and their commander, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Luis Santiago. Together, they came up with a plan to present live master classes online through Google Hangouts, taking advantage of the diverse array of musical talent that resides within the 78th Army Band.
“When Sgt. 1st Class Greeson and Tedrick first approached me about the online music mentorship concept, I immediately told them to run with it,” Endlein said. “By leveraging their skill sets from their civilian careers and exercising initiatives as NCOs, they represent the best of what the United States Army Reserve can offer the American people.”
Word spread fast that professional musicians were holding online classes in a variety of musical instruments focused on students’ needs.
“Some of our master classes have 60 students attending, and as a band leader I can say, ‘The more kids are playing – anywhere – it always helps their playing,’” said Tedrick.
“These Soldiers are all members of their communities. They teach in the communities where they live. They know that community and they love to give back,” Santiago said. “The diversity of the unit; the experiences they bring; if you look at New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia – our unit is like a snapshot of that entire community, the different cultures. They are so involved in this community because it is their community, and I always expect greatness from them.”
The 78th Army Band's mission is to provide music throughout the spectrum of military operations to instill in the armed forces the will to fight and win, foster the support of American citizens, and promote national interests at home and abroad.