- November 6, 2014
ORLANDO If you have met Oakland Commissioner Joseph McMullen, then you probably know about HAPCO, the foundation he started to encourage West Orange County students to pursue the arts and fund their attendance of any music-related college or university program.
And if you have been to an Ocoee High football game, then surely you have noticed the school marching band at halftime, directed by Bernie Hendricks.
Both of these men dedicate long hours to their respective causes in the arts because they know how much the arts can mean in the development of children and young adults. After all, role models in music were critical to getting them where they are today. For McMullen, that was Kenneth R. Tolbert, the director of his high school band who encouraged him to attend Florida A&M and promised to help him pay for it.
“We try to give kids greater access to arts with festivals and camps, and then try to raise funds to eliminate the financial barrier,” McMullen said. Musical education helps not only students receiving it, but the community at large through deeper cultural immersion, he said.
As part of paying it forward, McMullen and Hendricks will be among alumni of Florida A&M's Marching 100 band in a special panel discussion after the Orlando premiere of “Point and Drive,” the documentary about the Marching 100's innovation, June 3 at the Royal Palm Lodge.
Director and producer Brandi Mitchell will join the panel and help to host a VIP event before the movie begins at 7:30 p.m. Like McMullen and Hendricks, she graduated from the Marching 100 and has helped to spread the impact the arts can have on the lives of young people. HAPCO Summer Jazz Camp will host a July 21 showing in Ocoee, as well.
“I believe – and I know this to be true – that 'Point and Drive' is the ultimate recruitment tool,” Mitchell said. “Right now, our youth need role models … That was such a motivator for me, because that is the example I saw: You go off to school and you become successful. Growing up in Detroit … role models were the guys who went off to college on marching band scholarships ... just city kids from Detroit (on) full-ride scholarships.”
Programs like marching bands have become more important now, because technology has provided more distractions that prevent students in areas such as Oakland and Ocoee from seeing a connection between hard work and success, she said.
“I think definitely for that (Ocoee) community, I think it can solidify for them what's possible,” she said. “It doesn't hurt, either, that leading the band there is a Florida A&M graduate, and I marched with him in the band.”
The documentary could therefore show the performers in Hendricks' band at Ocoee High what they can aspire to, both in continuing to march in college and in building a legacy of Hendricks' program to become one of the best around. And Mitchell believes Hendricks and his students are creating something amazing.
“But even students already on track marvel at successful bands,” Mitchell said. In Atlanta, a student accepted to the Marching 100 attended a screening with her parents, who had been trying to stress the importance of the band and how it could propel her to her dreams, she said. By the time Mitchell hosted a questions-and-answers session afterward, that student said she had understood after the documentary what the band could mean for her and the shoulders of giants she would stand on.
“That was in 90 minutes – they'd been telling her for her whole life,” Mitchell said. “These kids are visual ...When they see it on that screen, they get it … The beautiful thing is that 'Point and Drive' flashes back in time over five generations all the way through today.”
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]