Students in Tempe High School’s room A115 had no idea what was in store for them when TV cameras and newspaper photographers started setting up in their classroom during 4th period.
They were told the media was there to do a story on their band class. That was the truth, but not the whole truth.
The first surprise came when representatives from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation walked in to announce that after sifting through 400 entries, Tempe High was one of just 30 schools in Arizona to win the “D-Backs $150,000 School Challenge,” presented by the University of Phoenix.
The challenge funds projects ranging from school improvements to innovative educational programs and the foundation picked Tempe High’s United Sound band program to receive a $5,000 grant. The unique program provides musical performance experiences to students who might not otherwise experience them – teaming up band members with special needs students to learn notes, rhythm and how to play musical instruments.
When Band Director Michael Hall first told his band members about United Sound and posted a sign-up sheet for volunteers, he was pleased to see more than 45 students offer to provide guidance and leadership to the school’s special needs population.
Hall was thrilled to see his students’ reaction to the second surprise from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The organization brought two very special guests to help celebrate the good news – D. Baxter, the team mascot, and star pitcher Bronson Arroyo.
Hall didn’t think the moment could get any better as Arroyo pulled out his guitar and explained to the class how much music means to him, the release it provides and the joy it brings.
Then Arroyo started playing, and singing, and sharing the gift of music with the teens. First he sang a song he wrote, called “Be You” and then he sang “Wonderwall” by Oasis. Some students swayed, some tried to sing along and one cried out in delight.
They did not see a multi-millionaire star athlete in front of them. In this classroom – he was just some guy named Bronson, with long blonde hair, who shared a common bond – a love for music.
There were smiles around the room and some of the adults – teachers and school administrators – found themselves tearing up. It was then that Hall asked Arroyo if it would be OK for the students to show him what they’ve learned in class. When Arroyo enthusiastically gave the go ahead, the students confidently picked up their instruments and showed off what they could do. Their teacher could not have been more proud.
The sounds were elementary and off-key but it was music to their audience’s ears. Arroyo made his way to each group of students and mentors, listening in as they played their hearts out. There were high fives, giggles and grins from ear to ear. Hall said the best word to describe it was “awesome!”
And when the bell sounded for students to put away their instruments and head to lunch, it was clear no one would soon forget the day the Arizona Diamondbacks showed up in Tempe High’s room A115.
The D-backs will also honor Tempe High this spring during a game at Chase Field. The D-Backs will donate 1,000 tickets for students, parents, teachers and staff to attend the game.