Band teacher Calvin Sorrell has brought sweet music to King William County public schools for nearly forty years.
It was four decades ago when a newly married Calvin Sorrell got a phone call from his wife’s uncle, telling him of a job opportunity for a band teacher in King William County public schools. The words Sorrell recalls the man saying were, “It’s time to come home.”
King William wasn’t, in fact, Sorrell’s home at that time; though a native Virginian, he hadn’t grown up in the area. His wife had, though, and her family was still there, so the couple decided to accept the position and make the move.
Over the next 36 years, the educator and talented multi-instrumentalist made his mark as band teacher for King William County. He brought his passion for music to generations of kids, not only during the regular school day but in summer camps, and on trips taken around the country and internationally. “These things made so many memories,” he says.
Even with the most dedicated teacher, of course, a band can’t make gorgeous music just anywhere. The environment where one plays has a huge impact on sound, as Sorrell well knows.
“Ideally, you want your [band] room to sound like it would if you were sitting in a theater, because that's ultimately where you are going to perform,” he explains.
School spaces can’t always replicate that, but acoustical tiles on the walls, good ceiling heights and a comfortable temperature in the space—all features of his high school band room—help a lot. “You get a good sound out of this room and you can take that sound, you can go out there and put that sound in an auditorium somewhere,” he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic had Sorrell—along with educators, parents, and community members everywhere—thinking about the school environment in a different way.
“[Besides] having it conducive to good playing, addressing the air quality is very important,” he explains. “[Especially] with kids breathing in through instruments and everything.”
Sorrell is enjoying semi-retirement these days, directing a community band that has also made good use of the King William school facilities. But whether he’s leading kids or adults, this educator has always kept sight of the fact that the people in the band room are the most crucial ingredients for success.
“All of these different voices coming to you from so many different areas and everything, coming together to create one, big, beautiful sound. That's strength, that's power, that's the greatest thing that you can feel.”