Socially distant together
By ANTHONY FLORES
Every day at noon, the sound of the Panther Fight Song can be heard echoing down the streets of the Rancho Sienna neighborhood.
In a show of unity and resistance during the COVID-19 crisis, seventh-grade band student Parker Bolin takes to his driveway every day with his Euphonium and begins playing.
Bolin began playing the Euphonium in sixth grade and continued into the seventh grade, loving the experience of being part of the junior high band. The seventh-grader’s passion for the instrument has him regularly practicing over the extended break that students in LHISD are working through.
“He’s one of those guys that really enjoys band,” said Bolin’s mother, Colleen Bolin. “Since we’re on this break from school and he’s very diligent at practicing, he’s kept it up.”
The extra time at home under the school closure inspires many different ways of killing boredom. In their battle against complacency, the Bolin family attempted an experiment that ended up inspiring Parker’s daily performance of the Panther Fight Song.
“We were doing an experiment in our neighborhood to see if we could hear him from a couple of streets over. It was our own version of family fun,” said Colleen. “When we did it one day, we realized we could really hear him. That led to a fun conversation about how cool it would be if he played for inspiration for the community and the other kids stuck at home.”
An extended vacation from school may have sounded appealing at first, but students lose the opportunity to see their friends, go to the classes they enjoy and they lose routines they are accustomed to.
Colleen said that for Parker, playing every day at noon helps fill the void left by not attending band, it helps to keep a routine intact and create a sense of normalcy.
“He’s a very routine-oriented guy, so the fact that he isn’t in school to play made him think about how else he could have the outlet that wasn’t just practicing in his bedroom,” she said.
It wasn’t long before word of Parker’s inspirational idea caught the attention of others. After mentioning it to her friend Apryl Kuhn, she felt this was something her sons could get involved with as well, expanding to another part of Liberty Hill.
“I just thought it would be cool since everyone was separate to do something to bring everyone together,” she said. “Even though we’re all at our own houses, we could come together. That’s what the band is for, to pep and cheer everybody up. What better time to do that?”
Kuhn envisions the reaction from the community as almost an inspirational scene.
“I’m just imagining people sitting in their houses, twiddling their thumbs and wondering what to do. Then they hear from different parts of the neighborhood, different parts of the fight song,” she said. “I see it like in a movie, everyone slowly comes out of their house, and they get that Panther spirit, and it just boosts everybody.”
Helping take things to the next level, Liberty Hill High School Band Director John Perrin – having caught wind of the idea – is helping organize a larger group of students to follow Parker’s cue.
“I got an e-mail from one of the band parents saying that one of the seventh-graders was going out and playing the fight song at noon,” said Perrin. “So, I thought I’d push it out to the high school kids, and Mr. Clarkson pushed it out to the junior high kids so we could all get out there and do this.”
The reaction and excitement from students are evident as they quickly take to the idea, not just band students, but students in other programs like cheer.
“One of my drum majors has two siblings in the band, so she got out in the driveway and conducted while they played,” Perrin said. “Her other sister is a cheerleader, and she did the cheer routine to the fight song.”
Some students lucky enough to have neighbors who are also band members are playing together.
“There are some backyards that back up to each other, and one of them is a snare drum player, and the other plays saxophone,” said Perrin. “He starts playing his snare drum from his yard, and the saxophone player plays along with him. It’s these fun little things that are happening now.”
Perrin is working to put together a compilation of videos of students playing their instruments and plans to share them online.
“We want to make sure that the community knows that this stuff happening isn’t going to tamp our spirit down,” he said. “We’re part of a great community, and it’s hard when a great community has to separate itself.”
As the mother of the student who started things, Colleen Bolin is amazed at the eagerness of the community to support this movement.
“It was really cool to see, we weren’t expecting anyone else to think it was a cool idea, but he was out there, and it grew,” she said. “I saw messages on my neighborhood from people who had gotten the memo from the band director, like a call to arms saying let’s get out there and do this. It was cool to see that and to see it in other neighborhoods.”