Salem senior raising funds to go international with Indiana Ambassador of Music Symphonic Band

Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

Leah Scott performs with the rest of the Salem Marching Lions during this year's Salem Band Invitational in September.

Leah Scott performs with the rest of the Salem Marching Lions in their show, "For the Birds" at the ISSMA Scholastic State Finals last fall.

Leah takes part in the Marching Lions band camp as an almost-8th grader in 2015.

Leah Scott is a pretty familiar face among those who follow the Salem Schools arts programs.

She’s been a part of the marching and concert bands for the past six years and has also been seen with her instruments — trumpet, French horn and mellophone — around town, playing Tapps at Crown Hill Cemetery and performing at Beck’s Mill. You may have seen her in school plays as well, bringing a variety of characters to life, from the darkly elegant Morticia Addams to young (and intense) speller Marcy Parks in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in 2018.

Leah’s the type of young person a community can be proud of and she’s hoping to take some of that hometown pride to Europe this summer, but she needs some help from her hometown to do it.

Her band director, Bonnie Harmon, nominated her to join the Indiana Ambassador of Music Symphonic Band, which will tour seven countries — England, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein — in 16 days, performing at a variety of monuments. Leah said other students were nominated, but she has been the only one she knows of actively pursuing the fundraising needed.

The trip will cost $6,750 and she still needs $5,600 by mid-November.

She and her family have been fundraising since her nomination in May, sending out sponsorship letters, candle sales and more. El Camino’s Mexican Restaurant is donating 15% of meals purchased with a printed-out flyer available on variety of social media pages, including the Facebook page, to Leah’s trip.
Donations can also be made directly to First Harrison Bank in Leah’s savings account. In a post made on Sept. 30, Leah’s mother, Tina, said they are also open to other fundraising ideas.

“I felt really honored [to be nominated] because only a few get nominated in the state of Indiana,” said Leah. “… It’s exciting because I’ve never been to Europe and to be recognized to do musical things in Europe, it’s kind of a big win for me. It’s like, ‘Man, I’m good enough to actually do that.’ It gives me more confidence in my decision to pursue music as a career.”

Leah said she plans to attend Ball State University and work toward a career in band directing. This opportunity will also provide college credits toward her degree.

She said when she started band in 6th grade, she wasn’t entirely sold on the idea.

“For a while, I was really iffy on it,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is hard,’ but I stuck with it. I initially wanted to play the French horn, but Ms. Harmon said if I wanted to play the French horn, I needed to start on a trumpet. I played trumpet for two years and then I switched to the mellophone, which is that safe zone mixture of the two.”

She marches with the mellophone and has been for about five years and has played French horn in the school’s concert band for the past three years.

“I guess I had something to work toward and that kept me going,” she said. “Plus, I have a giant love for the arts and music. I plan to pursue a career in it to be exactly what Ms. Harmon is, a band director, maybe not here, but I definitely want to use what I’ve learned here to go out into the world. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more life skills through the arts than anything else in school — things like showing up on time, character and people and leadership, definitely.”

Leah said she took a few years to get used to band and once she decided it was something she would stay with, she began taking steps to become a leader in the Salem band program, “and it’s 100% paid off.

“I feel like I definitely have a strong bond with Ms. Harmon and Mr. [Richard] Trueblood and Ms. [Jean] Dowling and Mr. [Blair] Winslow,” she added. “They’re some of my favorite people in the whole world.”

“One of my favorite stories is how she started on the trumpet that first year and it was so hard because every day, she was like, ‘I don’t know if I like this,’ ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ ‘Ms. Harmon’s mean,’ but she stuck with it, even without pressure from us,” said Tina. “She really hung onto it and met her goal.”

“I definitely have had a lot of support from my parents and my community,” said Leah. “I can’t thank Dr. [Lynn] Reed enough for supporting the arts in our school. She’s been a giant supporter. Even though she’s not our superintendent any more, we still get a lot of support. She’s great.”

She said this trip to Europe will give her the chance to use some of the skills she’s developed at Salem in new and exciting ways.

“I hope to experience cultural differences and different styles of music,” said Leah. “I’ve studied some foreign languages like French and things like that and I hope to use what I learned here in other places … I’ll be spending a lot of time with other people who are also interested in what I’m interested in, and it’s always a great experience to surround myself with other individuals who are as passionate about it as I am. That can be hard to find.”

While the Scotts are hopeful they can raise the necessary funds, they understand that this can be a difficult time for people to give. Should they not be able to meet the fundraising goal by the deadline, Scott said she will give the money she was able to raise to the Special Olympics.

“They really hold a very special place in my heart,” said Leah. “I help out with Lions Unified and stuff like that. And Miss [Angela] Phipps is a great woman; she’s been very supportive of me.”

“She’s got tons of moms around here,” said Tina, laughing. “She does a lot in the community.”


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