SCV band leaders attend summer symposium 

From left to right: Max Fernandez, Stephanie Soto, Johnny Collier and Rodrigo del Rio. Photo courtesy of Jackie MacDougall, the publicity contact for the Marching Centurions.

Rodrigo del Rio learned something about leadership this summer at a music symposium in Indianapolis that he plans to bring back home to his role as drum major in the band at Saugus High School.  

The leadership teacher? A horse. 

“The leadership weekend was focused on leadership overall, not just the band,” said Del Rio, one of three Santa Clarita Valley students who went the extra mile(s) to attend the Music for All Summer Symposium in Indianapolis, an innovative summer camp for band students across the nation. 

“It was teaching how to communicate and build trust. It was a unique session because someone had brought horses, using a horse as a symbol,” Del Rio said. “Horses are very fight-or-flight animals. You have to build trust with them, relating it back to how we have to build trust with the programs [and the teams] we go back to.” 

Along with Del Rio, incoming seniors Johnny Collier, a Valencia percussionist on the leadership team, Max Fernandez, a Hart drum major, and incoming junior Stephanie Soto, a Hart drum major, attended the weeklong camp to engage in activities geared toward student leadership in marching bands and musicianship. 

“The summer symposium is a weeklong camp in Indiana, it’s a nationwide band camp, [where] six months of band is [compacted] in one week. There are different courses you can take, but you have to choose one: drum major, marching band, percussion or color guard,” Del Rio said. 

Del Rio was excited the entire time, because at the end of the week he could play with marching band professionals. He also learned a lot regarding the leadership activities, which did not pertain directly to the marching band activities, but were important, nonetheless. 

Hands-on experience and exposure to various ideas inspired Del Rio to not only observe professionals, but also to think of ways to enhance his own direction in marching band. 

“My favorite thing was all of the concerts we had. There were daily concerts where professional musicians from the military, local musicians would perform for us every night.” 

“This gave me a lot of ideas and tools that I’m already working on implementing in the band at Saugus. There’s a lot that I learned to do that is so much more efficient,” Del Rio said. 

Collier raved about his experience during the symposium, encouraging anyone to participate.  

“I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who wants to do it,” Collier said. “A lot of the messages that they gave to us taught us a lot about how leaders should act and what they should do in certain situations. These [skills] resonated with me a lot.” 

The music-packed schedule included: breakfast, music rehearsal for three to four hours, lunch, another music rehearsal block for three to four hours and dinner. The leadership activities were conducted the weekend before.  

“They built these spider webs with PVC pipes and strings, and we had to work together to get to the other side of that [contraption]. They managed to tie that in with how leadership should work, really well. Those bonding activities [also] helped us to get to know each other,” Collier said. 

These activities also focused on the importance of camaraderie in music.  

“My favorite thing was the community, where multiple people, from multiple places, all have one thing in common, which is band. I’d never get to meet these people if I hadn’t gone to this camp, and now I have [lifelong] friends,” Collier said. 

Collier’s mother, Terry Collier, discussed her observations regarding the symposium as the president of the Valencia High School Band and Color Guard Boosters.  

“The symposium is teaching the kids about how to use your superpower of learning music, this language that speaks to so many,” Terry said. “In one week, they’re getting all levels of experiences that they can bring back to the band and use the energy and skills that they’ve learned. They’ve met new people from across the nation, and they see what others are doing for their band programs; they bring back great ideas.” 

In a climate with constant mental anguish, Terry said it’s a reminder of the importance of music to the soul: “Reintroducing music has been a wonderful, therapeutic avenue.” 

As for her personal insight regarding music in Santa Clarita, she wants to pique the interests of children earlier on so that they are always inspired by music and could perhaps attend the same symposium one day.  

“Santa Clarita does a great job in embracing art, in embracing music, such as Concerts in the Park. [We want] to really expose our younger children to music. We know that music is healing,” Terry said. “We [visit elementary schools] and have our drumlines perform for the children and then have an instrumental petting zoo. … Just the joy on their faces is incredible.” 

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