As students filed in to the auditorium at Hunters Lane High School in Nashville on Tuesday (Sept. 17), they had no idea of the gift they were about to receive.
The school and its acclaimed student band, Human Boombox, were presented with $84,000 worth of new instruments from StubHub including trumpets, sousaphones and piccolos, in addition to 100 new chairs for the band room, through the company’s Ticket Forward initiative. StubHub has partnered with Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to identify underfunded schools with thriving music programs, donating resources and instruments to help the programs grow. Hunters Lane received an additional $85,000 donation in instruments from StubHub in 2015, re-applying for a grant as the band continues to expand. The recent donation is part of StubHub’s three-year commitment to donate $3 million worth of instruments to schools across the country.
The band’s prosperity can be traced back to director William Brooks, who joined the school in 2012. He admits that the band was in “rough shape” when he started, with only 17 students and a collection of low-quality instruments. The program has since grown to nearly 75 students, Brooks and his mentees working hard to sharpen their skills, so much so that they’ve won several competitions, including winning best band performance at the historic America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit, Mich. in 2017. Additionally, every student who has gradated from Hunters Lane that was part of the band program has been rewarded a scholarship.
During the assembly leading up to the big reveal, Human Boombox entertained faculty and their peers with a performance of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” proving the talent and focus the musicians possess. Two band students also offered inspiring stories about how the program and Brooks’ guidance has impacted them. “A lot of my friends say they’ve never seen me upset and part of that reason is because after school every day, any bad emotions or anything bad that happened, I can get rid of it through my horn,” said senior Chance Shell. “A lot of people don’t know or understand how important this band is. It changes a lot of lives.” Fellow senior Precious Johnson noted how music has long been a constant in her life. “Music is like my biggest stress reliever. It’s my outlet for everything,” she explains.
As the curtain pulled back revealing the shiny new instruments, students screamed and cheered with excitement, some so moved they were brought to tears. After the unveiling, they were treated to another surprise with an acoustic performance by Chris Lane. The country star quickly won over the student crowd, acknowledging those who were singing along during his three-song set of “I Don’t Know About You,” “Big, Big Plans” and “Take Back Home Girl,” the latter of which prompted the students to make up their own beat as they clapped along. After the performance, Lane spent time with the budding artists, taking photos, singing autographs and sharing valuable advice with them: it’s not always about being the most talented, but the most hard working.
“Music’s important, it’s the most powerful thing in the world I believe,” Lane shares with Sounds Like Nashville. “Hopefully it [the instruments] will just help them continue to grow and be creative. When you’re this age, I feel like you’re growing, but at the same time you’re also very creative, and hopefully the instruments give them an outlet and a chance to be all that they can be.”
Human Boombox is set to participate in the 20th annual Battle of the Bands in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday (Sept. 20), their new instruments bound to elevate their performance. “The very first thing I know it’s going to impact is their confidence,” Brooks says. “It’s going to build that confidence level up to where they’ll want to perform better than what they have in the past.”
Johnson is one of many students who directly benefits from this gift. The baritone player expresses how she was “filled with excitement and joy” when she saw the new instruments on display, feeling a sense of validation in her and her bandmates’ talents. “I feel recognized and people care and want this program to survive,” she praises. “I feel like what happened today is going to make us a better band and bring us together more.” Johnson delivered one of the most poignant testimonies of the event when she professed, “I just love music and I think music loves me too,” demonstrating the power the art form has on passionate young creators. “It’s like when someone loves you, you can tell because they make you feel good. That’s what music is for me, it makes me feel good. It’s what I go to, it’s like a stress reliever. I just feel like music is there for me,” she conveys. “It’s like music loves me.”