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Letter of Reference
from a Head Drum Major

Throughout human civilization, heroes have arisen from all different backgrounds, each with unique character qualities that make them great. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero during the 1960s for his dedication to civil rights and effective communication skills. Mother Teresa was known for her overflowing compassion for those less fortunate and Steve Jobs was a hero to many for his life story of success through diligence and perseverance.

But what about the people who have a significant impact on students' lives every week? They never receive the national nor worldly recognition. Yet they play a vital role in society, teaching the upcoming generations. One such individual in my life is Mr. Peter Ferrito. As a psychologist and high school leadership counselor, he has taught me priceless life-applications and leadership lessons that have molded me into the student and leader I am today.

It is very hard not to notice when Peter Ferrito is in the room. This is not due to his physical disability, but rather it is due to the self-confidence and integrity he displays as he immediately takes charge of the room. Even after hearing his incredible personal story of loss and hardships, I was even more impressed at the way he carried himself in such a strong, confident and comfortable manner. I was eager to learn and acquire this rare quality he possesses.

Mr. Ferrito is passionate about developing student leaders and helping them discover their self-worth. I have been fortunate to be a part of his leadership training and workshops for the past three years as a part of the McKinney Boyd High School Band. In this time, I have experienced tremendous change in my level of confidence. While attending my first Ferrito workshop as a sophomore, he sat down with me and we discussed the specific reasons why I wanted to be a leader. By the end of the conversation, my shoulders stood two inches taller and I believed whole-heartedly that I was exceptionally qualified to be an excellent leader. He saw in me the passion and the competence to lead, as well as the confidence to succeed. Ferrito taught me to command attention from the room by simply standing and speaking with confidence. Eventually his encouragement and wisdom amplified my success to the level of Head Drum Major of the Bronco Band for my junior and senior years. His unique faith in a sophomore revealed to me the importance of recognizing and feeding the leadership potential and value in everyone.

Mr. Ferrito has also shared with me the secrets of sincere communication. The first step is using no filler words such as, "like, uh, yeah, etc." Once this is accomplished, one's image projected to the audience immediately changes from that of a teenager to a professional public speaker. In order to practice this valid concept, students attending his workshop have conversations with every other student about their life history and dreams. However, whenever a student uses a filler word, they are required to put a quarter into a pot that we later give to charity. Thus, when we started losing our own money, our incentive to stop using filler words grew dramatically. Mr. Ferrito also shared with me the simple wisdom that "when you speak from your heart, the filler words magically go away." Now I can address the entire marching band after rehearsal and not stutter over a single word.

The second step to sincere communication that I learned included the importance of listening attentively, with both my ears AND eyes. The technique of looking your audience in the eye is a method that always succeeds in capturing your audience's attention and getting them to follow you. He explained to me that in corporate leadership, genuine communication is the key to success. His Ferritoism was "If it's important to you, it's important to me. People won't care until they know I care about them." Mr. Ferrito also emphasized the importance of understanding the audience's present state of mind in order to make my communication more effective. He explained to me a skill he uses called simultaneous awareness, "constantly evaluating what I just did, while doing what I am doing, while preparing what I am about to do." Once he explained how this technique applies to communication, I was able to speak and assess what was needed to be said next, based on how the band was responding. This ability to interpret the emotional, mental, and physical condition of the band program has helped me as a leader, giving me the ability to make the best decision for the group.

Mr. Ferrito challenged my sense of time management in leadership. He revealed the significance of giving "precise and concise" instructions and simply saying what I want. For example, a quick way to educate a new marcher how to set one's body in the desired marching position, would be to say, "Copy me," versus giving five minutes of detailed instructions. He continually emphasized that there is a process and product to everything. In order to be great at anything, I must focus on "accuracy first, then speed." If I constantly try to get to the next step, without taking time out in the beginning for training, the end result will not be pristine and professional. I have discovered that when I do practice my fundamentals daily, whether on the marching field or the basketball court, my level of performance and execution increases significantly.

Mr. Ferrito understands that the forthcoming job world will put me into plenty of uncomfortable situations and I must be prepared to face them with confidence. In essence, I must "become comfortable being uncomfortable." To accomplish this, he relentlessly gave verbal critique and expected perfection in my leadership style, conducting, time management and speech throughout the workshop. I consequently learned how to accept constructive comments from those with whom I am working. Moreover, other keys to success and relaxation in pressure moments are preparation and effort. Mr. Ferrito demonstrated this concept to me in his role as a teacher. He was well prepared and practiced his seminar so much that he no longer needed to look at notes to teach his leadership seminars. I have grown immensely in this respect and can now lead the 250 member band with comfortable confidence while giving both instruction and correction.

Additionally, Mr. Ferrito instilled the fact that being a great leader means being a great team player. Since a leadership position itself brings confidence, it is critical that when a leader starts to demand more and more from their followers, they must instruct humbly to avoid appearing arrogant. To enforce this, Mr. Ferrito would often times call me on the slightest hint of selfish behavior. For example, if I am instructing a group, he only allows me to say "I" once. He pointed out that it is better to say "We need" rather than "I need," emphasizing the group effort and not the individual. Also, Mr. Ferrito stressed integrity in all of my actions, so that I earn and keep respect among my peers. The Ferritoism that reminds me daily of this strong sense of integrity is "I sign my name to everything I do, because everything I do is a representation of who I am."

Finally, Mr. Ferrito kept me accountable to an attitude of enthusiasm. One way is by simply staying optimistic and encouraging; in turn, my passionate attitude will rally people to achieve greatness. I find this applicable everyday in marching band as I encourage fellow teenagers during a three hour practice after school. Mr. Ferrito trained me to help them by not focusing on the anxieties of high school, but rather "inviting them on a vacation from their worries." In doing so, we become a unified team, working together and perfecting our amazing show. In addition, Mr. Ferrito enlightened me with a unique, yet amazingly insightful perspective on life: "Winning is consistently giving my best focused effort." I hold myself to this standard, and encourage others to do so as well. With this attitude, much stress is taken off of the troubling things in life and eventually with preparation, the seriousness of life and the things we do can become fun.

With all of the great wisdom and experience that Mr. Peter Ferrito shares with the world's next generation of leaders at his leadership workshops, I am honored to be a part of his legacy of raising up leaders who live their lives to the best of their ability. Today, I owe my drive, dedication, confidence, and communication skills to Mr. Peter Ferrito. These life skills will be a part of who I am as I continue to lead others whether in school, work, or other opportunities.

Head Drum Major
McKinney Boyd Bronco Band
McKinney, Texas

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