A surprise speaker showed up to deliver the commencement address at Woodmore High School, and it was none other than Jonathon Waters.
On Sunday June 8, I had the privilege of attending the 46th Woodmore High graduation ceremony, where the Ohio State marching band director and 1994 Woodmore graduate made his appearance.
I knew it would be a memorable experience since my grandson was graduating, but to me and several hundred others it was much more than we expected and something that the 77 young graduates will long remember.
First, the high school principal, James Kieper, began by thanking everyone for their attendance and many years of support to the students.
A relaxed and confident senior class president, Madeline Phillips, gave a very good speech entitled “Tomorrow, starts today.” She asked her fellow graduates to remember the events and parties they had from elementary school on through high school and the classes they shared on their educational path in the Woodmore system.
Then, the announcement came. Attendees were shocked when the guest speaker, Waters, was introduced. This was a surprise to many because, at Water’s request, his appearance was not publicized.
“This needs to be about the Woodmore graduates, not me,” Waters said.
After the ceremony I spoke with several graduates who had been music students. They were definitely shocked about Waters’ presence. Most said they not only enjoyed his speech, they identified with his ideas as if Waters’ thoughts were personally directed at each.
Waters began by reminding everyone to look back 70 years since the D-Day invasion of World War II and honor those who fought for our freedom.
“My grandparent’s generation and your great grandparent’s generation have given you the freedom to receive an education and your diploma today,” he said.
Most commencement speakers try to alert the graduates about what the future holds and motivate them as they prepare to go out into the world. Waters mentioned that most of the things he needed to know he learned in kindergarten.
For instance, take this quote from his presentation, “Live life in wonder of things around you, remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Live a balanced life – learn some, eat some, and drink some, and draw some and paint some and dance and play and work every day some.”
Waters noted that of Woodmore’s Class of 2014, 22 percent were earning honors diplomas, 38 percent took advanced placement courses, 24 percent scored a 27 or higher on their ACT test, and 82 percent will continue their education after graduation.
He also mentioned that 77 percent participated in band or choir, which provided a Segway into the body of what Waters was getting to.
The popular OSU band director asked the seniors, “What will the song of your life be? What are the lyrics? Is it fast or slow? What is the melody? How does it make you feel?”
Waters suggested that they live their life like they are in a marching band…and listed 21 points that graduates should use to guide their life.
“Be the best player you can be and make the sound of your instrument the very best it can be and listen to the melodies others are making. Know if you are playing the lead melody or the supporting harmony. Without both, there is no music” Waters said.
He reminded the graduates to “always march forward, you can never have back the last step you took. Play music in time and tempo with everyone else…otherwise it is all just noise. Sometimes play softly. Sometimes play loudly. Sometimes follow the leader and sometimes take a bow and dot the ‘I.’ Know that the music you make will brighten someone’s day and improve others’ lives.”
As for the bigger picture and where graduates fit into the world, Waters said, “Remember that you are only one pixel in the picture on the football field. Without everyone around you, there is no picture…you are merely a spot standing on an empty field…and without you, that big picture would be incomplete. Your music and your movement affect the entire band.”
Finally, Waters encouraged them to stand on tradition and those who have come before them and pass their musical tradition to the next generation.
“Always remember, look, listen and play with passion,” Waters said.
In his closing remarks, Waters said, “Our world has many problems, but none, none at all that someone from the Woodmore High School Class of 2014 can’t solve. As you enter the next phases of your lives, be confident of what you have learned here. These years that you have spent here have built you into the person you are and will help to define the person you will become.”
(Harold Hamilton is a freelance photographer who lives in Northwood.)