It was about 95 degrees as we strolled into the Ames Middle School band concert Tuesday night. Although the outside air was stifling, the air conditioning inside was blissfully cool. We settled into our seats and perused the program: ‘A Salute to Veterans,’ featuring classic band fare like Fanfare Americana and Home on the Range and Highlights from The Music Man. Excellent. The band is ready. The audience is eager, anticipatory, and silent. And then two projectors turn on, beaming their rays of light across the dark auditorium. The images resolve themselves and …

There on the sides of the auditorium, bigger than life, is Capt. Sean Taylor, Iowa National Guard member, father of a 7th grade trombone player, and uncle to a 7th grade percussionist. Unable to attend in person because he’s on medical evacuation from Afghanistan, Capt. Taylor is attending his family’s concert virtually instead. The band begins to play, and the grin on Capt. Taylor’s face is as wide as the horizon.

In between sets, Capt. Taylor is kind enough to share some news about the Iowa National Guard and its role in World War II, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His wife and children are in the crowd. His son and niece are recognized by the band teachers. Everyone does their community and country proud.


The concert closes with another surprise appearance, this time by the Ames High drum line. They’re joined by the entire middle school band in a rousing, roof-shaking rendition of 76 Trombones. As the crowd gathers their children and shuffles out the door into the parking lot, the buzz and excitement are palpable.

Why don’t we do more stuff like this in our schools? The videoconferencing worked flawlessly. We have the ability to pull in distant family members, luminaries, scientists, poets, artists, and authors at any time, from anywhere, into our auditoriums and theaters and classrooms. This shouldn’t be a special event. It should be an everyday occurrence. The technology is there. Where’s our will to use it? Where’s our creativity?

A hearty pat on the back to the Ames school music programs, the Ames school district technology staff, and Capt. Taylor. It was a joyful, tearful, amazing evening for everyone. Thank you for reminding us that, rather than isolating us, the true powers of our new technologies are their ability to bring us closer together in ways that were formerly unimaginable.