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By Julian Peeples

As students across California head back to school, CTA is running a series of television and radio commercials thanking parents and families for working with educators to safely return to in-person instruction.

The commercials will air on television and radio stations throughout the state in English and Spanish, with educators celebrating the collaborative efforts to protect the health of school communities over the past 18 months and implement the measures needed to safely bring students back to classrooms. As the new school year begins, CTA President E. Toby Boyd said California educators have a message for parents and families: Thank you.

“We’re all in this together as we return to school – determined to keep everyone safe and excited to help all students succeed,” Boyd said. “Thank you for partnering with us to make learning a priority.”

The commercials feature educators from Redlands Teachers Association (RTA) and Redlands Education Support Professionals Association (RESPA), as well as the Redlands High School Marching Band. We asked band director and RTA member Brandon Hansen how it feels to be featured in a CTA commercial, how the pandemic affected his band students, and why music and the arts are especially important in the era of COVID.

Brandon Hansen

Q. How long have you been Redlands High Band Director and a CTA member?
A. I have been the Marching Band Director at Redlands High for 4 years. I have been a member of CTA for 5 years.

Q. How does it feel to have your band featured in CTA’s Back to School commercials?
A. It felt amazing to have music in general represented! The fact that my program could help in that representation is awesome.

Q. What was band practice like last year when campuses were closed?
A. All our music classes were online for the year and it just did not work well. Music is collaborative naturally, and when you’re muted and “playing” together, it just doesn’t feel right.

Q. What was it like to be able to practice in person with your band again? What did it mean to your students?
A. Being able to just hear my students again has made me appreciate my job so much more. My kids were ecstatic at the first mention of performing together and just socializing with their friends again.

Q. What kind of safety precautions do you have to take when practicing/playing together in person because of COVID?
A. Our COVID precautions included daily temperature and symptom checks, musicians’ masks, bell covers for all instruments and not playing indoors.

Q. After the last 18 months students have had, why are music and the arts even more important this school year?
A. Music and the arts are essential to mental health. I think COVID hit our students a lot harder mentally than we could have ever expected. The arts give kids a chance to express themselves without judgement, work in a collaborative setting with their peers, and take a mental break from the monotony and stress of core subjects.

Q. What are your hopes for your students this school year?
A. My hope for my students is just for them to have a positive experience in all their classes. I hope to give them a place where they feel welcome and provide an outlet to express who they really are.

See CTA’s video thanking the Redlands High School Marching Band and Brandon Hansen here.

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