I have always used music as a tool to find a community and to discover ways I can become more passionate in my eventual career.
It wasn’t until I got to King High School as a hopeful young freshman, that I found a mentor in Dr. Dakeyan Graham, Florida’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and a Gator alum!
I remember walking into high school with an unnecessarily competitive mindset with music.
I didn’t know it, but I needed a community of people that made me feel safe and comfortable enough to express myself, and I would find that here.
Our first year, Dr. Graham made it clear that we could express ourselves to the fullest. He created exercises that allowed us to become closer to each other, and he made sure that we were comfortable with the music being played.
One big thing that Dr. Graham did for all of us, was his ability to create a group that felt like a community.
If any of the music students were ever having a hard time with anything, he reiterated that his room and office were sanctioned to be a safe space to get away from anything stressful or to just take a break.
I became closer to many people through his orchestra program and toward the end of our time at high school.
I had felt for the first time, that I had a family away from home, one that took my best interest to heart and taught me so much throughout the years.
Another way that Dr. Graham has changed my life, and the lives of countless other students, is that he has truly taught us about what it meant to be passionate.
He would not let us go until we had reached our goal of perfecting a specific passage that day.
And, often the way he would conduct instilled emotion and vigor within us.
Particularly how he would extract so much feeling and sentiment from a collective group of people was inspiring, and I learned to apply this enthusiasm to every other aspect of my life.
Dr. Graham was so much more than a music teacher.
He has taught martial arts and has continuously devoted his time to engaging with his students in other ways other than music.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from him, is what it means to be a well-rounded individual.
To be well-rounded, I learned, is to help others in more ways than one, and to create a long lasting and unbreakable relationship that they will never forget.
This is something that is easier said than done for me.
So watching Dr. Graham execute this flawlessly was intimidating yet inspiring.
Personally, it has always been difficult for me to form a bond with those that I admire, as I get easily nervous and scared.
With Dr. Graham, he made sure that he made all of us feel loved and cared for individually.
I wish I was more outgoing so that I could truly tell him how much he means to all of us.
He was perceptive and knew every one of his students inside out, which is also something that I was thankful for.
It’s been almost a year since I left high school, and there’s not much that I miss about those days, but I will forever miss and cherish the late practices, unforgettable banquets, fruitful opportunities and timeless lessons that Dr. Graham gave to all of us.