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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

Young Musician in Homeschool Band

By Dottie Havlik | July 29, 2008

Michael Ramirez is a 17-year-old senior who plays trombone with the Homeschool Symphonic Band, under the direction of Kathy Lamb. The son of Trinidad and Michael Ramirez II, he has lived with his family in Unicoi, Tenn., for almost two years. Michael has been named twice to the Homeschool Statewide Honors Band, and has just completed his Eagle Scout project. He took a moment before a recent concert to talk with A! Magazine for the Arts.

Why did you choose band?
I've been playing for four or five years. At first, I just wanted to try something new. It sounded like fun ? I like music and I wanted to try to play, so [my parents] found a band [in California] and put me in it. First, I played the baritone [a small tuba]. But a few weeks after I started, the person we borrowed the baritone from needed it back. I couldn't use it anymore, and they had a trombone, so I decided to play the trombone. I like it a lot. It's a really fun instrument. The slide offers very unique capabilities other instruments really can't. A lot of them have valves or holes you cover with your fingers, things you press, you know. The slide is just smooth ? you can transition from one note to another, just slide into it. It's called a glissando. That's one of the things it can do that no other instrument can do.

What's the major challenge of homeschool band?

The hardest thing is that we only practice once a week, whereas in public school they'll have class Monday through Friday. We only have the one day ? the one hour ? to try to make everything sound good. It's a lot for the musicians. They have to practice at home every day, and if they don't practice you can tell. And it affects the rest of the band if somebody doesn't do their part. We have to spend 15 minutes of everybody's time getting their part right.

Are you thinking of a career in music?
This is just something for fun. I've thought about it a lot, and decided I don't want to do it as a career. I do want to get better. I'm graduating this month, and I do want to keep playing and improve. I'm thinking about getting a minor in something in music. I'm looking to a career in the Navy ? it's a really good choice for me. There are college courses you can take while you're in the Navy. I'm thinking about becoming a Navy SEAL, actually. It's really appealing to me ? a lot of adventure.

And danger?
Danger is there, too, but as long as you do everything right ? follow instructions ? you'll be all right. They aren't the best in the world for nothing.

Would music fit into your life as a Navy SEAL?

It'll be more for fun, kind of a hobby. I like playing my trombone. I might look around for a community band, like when I'm on leave. I know Milligan College has a community band. I was in the Community Brass Choir there last year.

Do you write music?
I like to arrange things that catch my ear ? like music from the movies, or even from video games. I've done some arrangements for me and my little brother. He plays trumpet. I do it mostly by ear. There's a lot you have to figure out, like what key you're going to do it in, what notes you're playing, what the time is. We just do that for the fun of it.

But instrumental music will be a part of your life?

My favorite part is bringing everything together. You have all these different parts ? all these instruments ? that are very different from each other. You have a flute and you have a tuba. One's a small cylindrical object with holes in it, and the other's a giant beast of an instrument. If the musicians play everything right, everything will come together and it'll create something that's really amazing, really beautiful.

Dottie Havlik is President of the Board of Directors of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME) and chair of AAME's Arts for Youth Committee.

Michael Ramirez is shown in Nashville, where he participated twice in the Homeschool Statewide Honors Band.