Athletes and Artists at Waynflete
Augusta, 2014: Boys Western Maine Championship Basketball Game
If you look at the final score, 62-38, it wasn’t close. In fact, the only drama the television announcers were able to detect for most of the game is that it was the Flyers who were on top. For whatever reason – despite our third seed in the tournament, our regular season victory over the eventual Class B champion, and our comfortable lead throughout most of the championship game – the announcers kept expecting that our opponent – who had handily vanquished the number one seed the previous game – would eventually prevail.
In fact, there was a moment with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter when it seemed to even the most fervent Flyer fan that they might. After cruising for most of the game, we looked suddenly shaky; our opponent’s press was working, we didn’t score for several minutes, and our comfortable lead was cut in half. We were in the need for something good to happen soon when the ball landed in the hands of senior Joey Schnier on the wing, just outside the three point arc. With Flyer fans on the edges of their seats, Joey coolly faked left, cocked, and fired – draining the three that turned the game tide back in Flyer favor.
Five days later, that same Joey Schnier was released from basketball practice a a bit early, packed up his bass guitar, and headed off to another competition at the Maine Music Educators Association District II Jazz Festival, where Waynflete’s jazz combo easily qualified for the States. Two days after that, Joey was back on the court in Augusta for the State Championship basketball game. Two weeks later, he will be competing in the State Jazz Festival. Alternating rapid fire between sports and music is nothing new for Joey. A key member of the Waynflete jazz combo, he is also a three sport varsity athlete. Besides basketball, he anchors the defense of our soccer team as sweeper, and he is the ace of our pitching staff.
In a lot of schools, students don’t get to do both arts and athletics at such a high level. In fact, because the artist and the athlete are often perceived as such divergent identities, even opposites, many high school students don’t even aspire to blend the two. Even at Waynflete, scheduling can be an obstacle, but in terms of identity, Joey never felt a conflict. He took up the piano at the age of four, shortly before he started playing T-ball, and has been a musician/athlete ever since, expanding his musical repertoire in 5th grade when he took up the guitar. In Upper School, choosing one over the other never occurred to Joey. In fact, at the start of his sophomore year, Ray Morrow, Waynflete’s jazz band director, asked him to increase his commitment to music by becoming the bassist for the Combo. He quickly agreed and is delighted now that he did.
When asked how he manages the inevitable conflicts, Joey had high praise for Ray and his coaches. “Ray took an interest in my sports, and my coaches took an interest in my music. They helped me work through any conflicts, like when I told Rich (Henry, basketball coach) that I had to leave practice early to be on time for the jazz competition, he said no problem, even though it was the second to last practice before the State game. In fact, he started practice early so I wouldn’t miss as much.” Joey is hoping to continue music and athletics next year at Trinity College.
Joey is not the only student who has pursued both at Waynflete. Like Joey, Helen Gray-Bauer started playing music and sports at a young age. Today, she is a three sport varsity athlete – soccer, basketball, and lacrosse – and a highly accomplished violist. In May, right in the middle of lacrosse season, she will spend two days at the All State Music Festival, where she has been accepted each year. Helen’s lacrosse coach Cathie Connors recalls watching her team hold hands before a tournament game, listening intently to Helen play her soulful rendition of the National Anthem on her viola. Said Cathie, “I was overcome with emotion. The girls huddled up after Helen played looking to me for last minute instructions and inspiration and I’m an emotional mess. It was so beautiful. The kids go from being psyched up for the game to being so proud of Helen to worried about me. And then Helen’s out on the field taking the draw, just like it was all so natural. Such an inspiration.”
Of course, it is true that students can spread themselves too thin by doing too much, but seeing athletics and arts as the mutually exclusive activities creates a false dichotomy. Joey and Helen are among a countless number of Waynflete students over the years who have held a passion for both and have pursued a wide variety of each with great success. Fortunately, according to Joey, there is no stigma to being an athlete and an artist at Waynflete. “My friends know that I love sports and music. There’s really no problem at all with being both.”