Being new to the MFA team, this was the first time I have had the opportunity to experience anything at the Summer Symposium. To me, Leadership Weekend Experience is something that any musician can benefit from. The students had the opportunity to learn about leadership, teamwork, cooperation, strategy, and communication through the various activities they participated in throughout the weekend.
On the first night of Leadership Weekend Experience, I went to a breakout session that was taught by Frank Crockett. In this session, Crockett focused a lot around trust and safety. They began by doing simple trust falls in groups of threes and progressed into more complex trust exercises. In the most complex exercise, they had groups of twelve students in a circle with one person in the middle. The students in the circle passed around the person in the middle as they held a very stiff stance. Eventually, the student in the middle was easily dropped down to the ground and lifted up in the air.
Throughout this exercise, Crockett really emphasized the fact that the person in the middle needed to feel safe. “Trust is not easy,” he said, “so it is the job of the team to make that person feel safe.” To make the environment feel even safer, the students had a call and response system that needed to be followed before the activity could begin. This is how it went:
“Permission to fall?”
This system ensured that everyone in the group was ready and focused on the task at hand.
After this activity was completed, the students moved to a new area with an even bigger task at hand. This activity was called the Spider Web and, basically, the students had to get everyone in their group through a section of the web without knocking the spider on top to the ground. They could only use each hole once and were not allowed to alter the size of the holes in any way. Some of those holes were six feet up in the air! The students began by strategizing and coming up with a plan of action, then began attempting to finish the task.
I was seriously amazed with what these students were able to accomplish. They listened attentively, followed all instructions, and worked together to complete the task, which I found to be extremely difficult.
On the second day of Leadership Weekend Experience, I hit the road and traveled to Taylor University where veteran students were visiting to take the plunge into the high and low ropes challenge course.
Here, the students had the opportunity to take part in the high ropes course of obstacles, a zip line, the flying squirrel, and many stations of activities throughout the campus. As I watched a group of students tackle the high ropes course, I was pleased to see how encouraging everyone was. When anyone was struggling in the course, there were five people on the ground shouting words of encouragement and advice to help them complete the task. Many students expressed once they finished how scary it was, but all the encouragement kept them going.
After I watched students tackle the high ropes for a while, I ventured around campus to see what types of other activities were going on. Many of the students were doing team-building activities together, but one station that really stuck out to me was the workshop with Tom Pompei. Tom Pompei is a band director and horse rancher from Centerville, OH. In his workshop, he used his horse, Spark, to teach the students about love, language, and leadership.
During this session Pompei stated, “A good teacher gives you information you need, but an outstanding teacher will let you figure out the rest on your own.” I think this is a very important part of education because so many students rely on the teacher to tell them everything. This doesn’t set up students for success in their future endeavors, so I found this statement to be extremely valid in teaching.
Leadership Weekend Experience really is a great opportunity for all musicians to take advantage of. I know that every single participant will take so much information back to their high schools and help their music programs grown even stronger than they already are.