“Who’s your favorite rock star?” a trainer asks a room full of music teachers as an icebreaker to begin Music Will’s Modern Band workshop.
As teachers shared their favorite songwriters, musicians and singers, Jen Theilacker stood up and proudly declared, “My favorite rock star is my student, Lamiya.”
Lamiya was in sixth grade and one of the first Modern Band students at Philippa Schuyler Middle School after Theilacker attended Music Will’s teacher training and received all of the musical instruments and resources she needed to start a program at her school.
Lamiya, who is headed to high school next year, embraced this new learning environment wholeheartedly, as it allowed her to get in touch with her creative side and grow as a person, not just a musician. She draws, paints, writes poetry, writes songs, and has even begun using Music Will’s Jam Cards to learn to play the piano on her own.
“Can you believe Lamiya never touched a guitar before she came and changed our lives three years ago?” Theilacker says.
The remarkable thing is not just how much Theilacker impacted Lamiya’s middle school years, but how this teenager helped develop a young teacher into an incredible mentor, and an ambassador for a national organization that trains other teachers across the country.
“I feel like I have learned as much, if not more from Lamiya, than I have taught her over the past few years, says Theilacker, who used to be a “hardcore Marching Band director.”
“I feel it is my job to reach all students where they fit best in the band world, Concert Band or Modern band,” she says. “It is my job to let them explore for themselves and not just force them to do one or the other. I now realize I would never have reached or truly got to know Lamiya through concert band because that’s not her thing… her love is the guitar, singing, and songwriting.”
“I played violin for about four years, but I became involved with Music Will and then guitar became more important to me,” Lamiya says. “The bands I listen to write lyrics that simply amaze me, not only because of the beauty of the lyrics, but the fact that there are other people who know what it’s like to feel the same way I do. That’s the kind of impact I want to have on my audience.”
Her original song, Broken Record (about battling depression and insomnia) gives a glimpse into Lamiya’s heart, which she pours out for her audience (see her lyrics and explanation HERE). “A broken record basically repeats a certain part of a song over and over again. In a way, a person who has depression feels like their life is a broken record, because the sadness never leaves, and bad things keep happening.”
“Lamiya is the type of student that every teacher should be blessed to have in their class sometime in their life,” says Theilacker. “I remind all of my students that leaders do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, without being told, and whether or not they want to do it. Lamiya has been a committed leader and that is why she has been my chosen manager for the last three years.”
As “Rock Band Manager,” Lamiya helped Ms. Theilacker with whatever she needed for rehearsals or gigs. For example, she made lists of all equipment needs, tuned guitars, repaired broken strings, packed the gig bags, and always helped her remember last minute details, like what the band should wear for the concert!
“Others have the choice to lead, follow, or get out of the way,” says Theilacker. “Most of her peers choose to follow, which is much easier.”
Lamiya is mature beyond her years, but being so mature at her age isn’t always fun or easy. Other students do not necessarily understand or get it, but they respect her for it. It wasn’t easy at first for Lamiya to understand why her peers didn’t understand or have her same passion or work ethic at rehearsals. However, Lamiya always puts the group first and not herself. She doesn’t need to be the lead vocals on every song. In fact, she usually chooses not to be, because for her, it is about the music, not herself.
“I think that music will forever be part of my life,” she says. “It won’t be my main focus, because my biggest goal in life is to be a doctor. However, I’d love to continue helping people with my songs in the future.”