Banjo holds memories: Band member shares the start of their passion for music

By Magdelyn English,

There is an old banjo sitting in the corner. Its strings are old and broken. But its tunes aren’t lost; they are found in the fond memories and lessons learned.

Kai Powell, a University of Findlay sophomore, reflects on the banjo that their grandfather passed down to them and how music has developed them into who they are now. Music was Powell’s way of connecting with their grandfather.

“My grandpa was always big on music,” Powell said. “He raised me to have an ear for it.”

Being able to learn and watch their grandfather play all kinds of instruments developed Powell’s passion for music, eventually leading to their involvement in a band. At UF, they began aiding in teaching the lower classmen, helping load the band trailer for away games and being the Music Librarian by keeping the music files organized. If you go to Powell’s high school, you will see their name on a plaque in the music hall of fame.

Powell’s grandfather could play all kinds of instruments, yet the banjo was always his favorite. In sixth grade, Powell started to forge their own path to musical proficiency, where they learned how to play clarinet by watching a person’s fingers as they played. When Powell entered middle school, their grandfather was excited to hear there was a band.

“He said for me to go for it, so I picked up the clarinet.” Powell said.

Powell continued to grow their knowledge of instruments in high school, where they played the clarinet and bass clarinet for the school’s main band. For the marching band, they played the trumpet; for the jazz band, they played the guitar.

Music is the one place Powell can go to be free from all their worries and stresses, a place where they can be at peace and heal. It holds the warmth that nostalgia brings to an individual.

“He instilled something in me that gives me a sense of purpose. Even at my lowest points, I have something that will keep me going and something that makes me feel like I’m not so different from everyone else.” Powell said. “He told me, ‘No matter what to keep my passion alive.’”

Now, Powell keeps their grandfather’s banjo next to their guitars in their dorm room as a reminder to keep their passion for music alive. It currently doesn’t have strings attached, but that doesn’t stop Powell from hoping to play it with new ones. Adding new tunes to the collection of memories that the banjo holds will continue the legacy their grandfather left them.

Powell is a member of the University of Findlay’s Wind Ensemble this semester. This audition-only band is one of the five bands that the University offers to students. There are four more bands that students can partake in: Marching Band, Pep Band, Symphonic Band and Jazz Band.

Madeline Zachrich, University of Findlay Junior Clarinetist, goes into further detail about the bands. The bands only practice once a week, each group practices on a different day.

“There is a Symphonic Band where a student can play with the community band members and they practice every Monday from 7:00-9:00 p.m.,” Zachrich said. The Symphonic and Wind ensembles perform two to three concerts a year. The Jazz band, which has two to three concerts a year, requires auditions, and they practice every Friday from 4:00-5:30 p.m.”

Sophomore percussionist Alexis Brand joined UF band freshman year. Brand shares her personal thoughts about what the band department has to offer.

“The bands at Findlay offer a place for students to share their love of music. Most people would say that being in the band is like adopting a second family,” Brand said. “On the financial side of things, we do get a scholarship for playing in band, but you’ll find that a lot of people are in the program because we love music.”

The band is a welcoming community and has a lot of opportunities for students to take part in.

“Students can get started in a band by talking to Dr. Wes King, who is the band director here at the University,” Zachrich said.

So, if you miss being a part of a band or just want to learn how to play an instrument, there are plenty of opportunities for you to look into.