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Teaching Fellows in NC State University’s Marching Band Learn to Build Community as Part of ‘The Power Sound of the South’

What does it mean to be part of the band? A group of College of Education students are learning how to build a sense of belonging for their future students, not just as Teaching Fellows, but as members of NC State’s marching band, the Power Sound of the South.

“It’s like a family,” said Jenna Jones, a freshmen mathematics education major who plays the piccolo. “It’s a place where kids can go, and they can have a good time. They don’t have to worry about everything going on. I know that as an educator, I kind of want to provide that same feeling like, ‘OK, when I go into this classroom, I don’t have to worry. Everything’s okay. I’m here to learn.’”

Jenna Jones, right, with other members of the Power Sound of the South.

Learning is an essential part of being in the marching band. Students spend hours practicing new routines in preparation for a variety of events, such as halftime shows at NC State football games or exhibitions at high school band competitions. The band has also performed at more distant locations, such as a NASCAR race at Martinsville Motor Speedway or even in front of the Eiffel Tower.

The Power Sound of the South in front of the Eiffel Tower during the band’s tour of France in 2019.

For Emily Southard, a senior mathematics major who plays the alto saxophone, time spent in the band has taught her how to better pass on knowledge to both new members and her future students.

“Showing the incoming freshmen and new members what to do is a great learning experience,” Southard said. “Just kind of thinking back like, ‘What did I really like that upperclassmen did for me? How can I help the new members learn and feel included?’ I could apply that to my students. ‘How can I help them feel included in the classroom?’”

That feeling of inclusion, of being a part of a community, is something Catherine Dean, a junior elementary education major who plays the alto saxophone, says she feels not only in the Power Sound of the South, but also as a College of Education student and Teaching Fellow. One of her favorite experiences this year was being able to take part in NC State’s Educator Appreciation Day football game, where a number of College of Education alumni were honored on the field.

“It was just cool to see the College of Education’s role in all of NC State,” Dean said. “Even though we’re a small college, we’re here and people still know about us and like to hear about us.”

Catherine Dean, marching with the band.

To make it even better, one of the alumni being honored was Teaching Fellows coordinator Crystal Espey.

“I remember being excited to see her because we were Teaching Fellows, and we were just rooting for her,” Jones said. “Everybody else was great of course, but she was the best in our eyes.” 

NC State College of Education alumni, including Teaching Fellows Director Crystal Espey, third from right, being honored at NC State’s Educator Appreciation Day football game.

The Teaching Fellows program offers College of Education students not only a community of like-minded future educators but, through a variety of opportunities and activities, it also provides them with useful skills and a solid leadership foundation. In the long term, Cameron Tenpenny, a sophomore mathematics education major who plays the clarinet, hopes to apply those skills to his teaching. In the short term, he hopes to step into a leadership role with the band.

“Some of the things I’ve learned through Teaching Fellows, through some of my classes, I feel like I could bring that to the table,” Tenpenny said. “How to get better at memorization or just knowing how to lead a group of people — I feel like that’s something I could be pretty good at.”

Cameron Tenpenny performs at a halftime show.

Through field experiences, some of the Teaching Fellows in the Power Sound of the South are beginning to have an opportunity to use the skills they’ve developed at NC State in the classroom. Dean, who has spent time observing at Lynn Road Elementary School, in Raleigh, is already thinking about ways to incorporate music into lessons or emphasize a sense of community.

“Music is something that brings people together and brings people joy,” Dean said. “I think they’re similar in that way. And then also, I just don’t think there’s very many people in education that aren’t passionate about it.”

This semester, Southard has been going to Reedy Creek Middle School, in Cary, twice a week in preparation for her student teaching next spring. Although she’ll graduate in May, her love for the marching band is already being passed on to the next generation. 

“I figured out which students were in band because some of them bring their instruments to class,” Southard said. “I say, ‘tell me when your band concert is. I’ll put it on my calendar.’”

Emily Southard, second from right, stands with members of the Power Sound of the South.

Because for all of the Teaching Fellows in the Power Sound of the South, what matters is being able to make students feel like they belong, whether that’s in the marching band or in the classroom.

“I really hope I can give that experience to at least one person,” Tenpenny said. “If I can help at least one person in that way, then it’s a successful career.”

Pictures not contributed by students are courtesy of Dan Jahn, whose fantastic photos of the Power Sound of South can be found here.

This post was originally published in College of Education News.