Derek Corbitt
English 102-17
Bachelor Robinson
09/03/09
A Literacy Narrative
Literacy, in essence, is what makes our world ‘go round’. Without literacy, there would be no
means for humans to communicate. Without communication our society as we know it would not exist
and humans would be nothing more than mute-men-walking. But, what exactly is literacy? According
to the 4th edition of The American Heritage Dictionary, literacy is simply the ability to read and write.
However, I believe literacy can be defined further, as not only the ability to read and write, but as the
ability to listen, understand what someone is saying, process that information, formulate a sentence,
and communicate clearly and effectively so as to converse. Just as the definition of literacy is broad and
open, so are the ways by which people acquire their own personal sense of literacy. Every culture has
its own literacy. With so many cultures world-wide and numerous literacies to accompany them, it is
hard to attribute the acquisition of literacy to one single cause for every culture. Rather, there are
hundreds of ways to acquire literacy, and likewise, there have been multiple ways by which I have
acquired my own personal sense of literacy, the most significant of which being music.
To say that there was never a teacher in my life that helped me with my personal acquisition of
literacy would be a lie, because there have been quite a few that have helped me in such a way.
However, those teachers have not been the only stepping stones on my personal path to literacy; in
other words, the only way by which I have gained literacy. One such way that I have become literate, is
by playing music. Came the fourth grade, I joined Middletown Elementary School’s (the elementary
school I attended) orchestra picking the viola – not to be confused with violin - as my instrument. I
found something magical in the way a series of notes - whether they be eighth, quarter, half, or whole –
that danced along and in between the brackets on a sheet of music could produce such beautiful and
angelic sounds (when played right of course). Learning how to read sheet music was like learning an
entirely new language altogether. Although, learning this new language was not easy to say the least. I
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Derek Corbitt
English 102-17
Bachelor Robinson
09/03/09
can picture perfectly to this day the instructor, our conductor, standing over each instrumental section
hounding us to hit every note correctly and on point. During every rehearsal, at some point or another, I
remember thinking to myself, “Jeez lady, it’s only a fourth grade orchestra class.” Soon enough though,
I had this new found appreciation of her strict teaching style, because once I had learnt the native
language of individuals such as Beethoven and Mozart, I was able to “speak” and convey it clearly to
listeners by gliding my bow back and forth across the bridge of strings.
I continued playing in Middletown’s orchestra through the fourth grade and continued to play
into and through the fifth grade. Once I finished elementary school, my family decided that a change in
scenery was necessary and I soon found myself living in Oldham County, registered to attend South
Oldham Middle School. When my mom and I went for our tour of the school, I was excited to find out
that all students at my new middle school were required to take some sort of music appreciation course
and was even more excited at the prospect of continuing to play in a school orchestra. Unfortunately
enough for me, my only choices were choir and band; orchestra was not an option at that point.
However, I wasn’t going to be disgruntled by this minute detail and so I decided to join the band,
regardless of the fact that I could no longer play the viola, and instrument I had become so familiar with.
I looked at joining South Oldham’s band as an exciting new prospect, and learning to play an
entirely new class of instrument as, not only a new prospect, but a challenge as well. Walking into class
the first day, I sat in the section designated for the instrument I had chosen to play with the butterflies
in my stomach flapping as hard as they possibly could – so hard that I thought I might fly straight up out
of my chair. I couldn’t figure out if it was nerves, anxiety, or the icy air from the air conditioning that
was responsible for the cloud of butterflies in my stomach or the occasional cold chill that would hop
from vertebrae to vertebrae along my spine, and at that moment I didn’t care in the least - I was in my
comfort zone and where I belonged. As I looked at the walls of the large scale room waiting for class to
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Derek Corbitt
English 102-17
Bachelor Robinson
09/03/09
start, it was hard not to notice the multiple awards that were obviously hung and displayed with great
pride, the majority of which had “Champion” in some large, fancy print written on them. Seeing that
same word over and over so many times had a slightly disorientating effect on me and made me feel a
tad-bit dizzy.
Soon enough the teacher came in and introduced himself as Mr. Parker, and like every other
teacher that day, gave us his own snooze-fest monologue about what he expected from us – his
students – and what he expected us to gain from taking the course. Then, not to put any pressure on us,
he told us about our school’s history in the state band competition for middle schools, and the success
the school had had in it year after year ever since he had began teaching at the middle school. He
continued to tell us how he expected us to win this ‘Holy Grail’ of middle school band championships so
he could add another award to his walls. Personally, I thought he should just share the wealth – it’s not
like he needed another award adorning his wall; you could barely see the wall itself as it was. Heck, if
there had been an earthquake we all would’ve been buried neck deep in instruments and plaques.
If you had walked past our classroom the first couple of weeks, you would’ve witnessed a
cornucopia of noise that was much nearer to a ruckus than a band was to sound like ideally. It was a
good thing that the room was sound proof because we would’ve had other students pulling fire alarms
just to escape the reverberating notes that would’ve been bouncing around the hallways. Many of the
students in the sixth grade band, a minimum of three-fourths, had never seen sheet music, let alone
knew how to read the notes on the page. I took great pride in the fact that I had that extra step on the
rest of the class. Fast forward to the end of the school year and the state band competition, our band
actually got past square one and ‘Passed Go’ – surprisingly we exceeded our expectations and managed
to win the Championship only after toning down and harmonize our ‘ruckus’. Not only did we win the
Championship sixth grade year, but we also won it during seventh and eighth grade year.
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Derek Corbitt
English 102-17
Bachelor Robinson
09/03/09
When it was time for me to move on to high school, I decided that I would no longer play in
band or orchestra or anything of that sort. Though I would no longer be playing an instrument for
academic purposes, the countless hours of practice that I had put in over the past five or so years would
not be in vein. That is because I learned a valuable lesson from all the hard work I had put in: though I
can vaguely remember how to read sheet music or interpret notes on a page to this day, I learned that
music is something much more important than a simple sound or noise; it is a outlet for me to express
myself. Thus, in high school I made it my goal to make music just as much a part of my life as it had
been up until that point.
From the beginning of my high school career to the end of it and every day in between, I had my
iPod with me every step of the way. I took it everywhere with me; it was much like my better half. I
carried it with me and listened to it so much that music didn’t just become a hobby or an interest from
that point on; it became an obsession. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t add a new band, or
a new CD, or a new song to my iPod. However, I didn’t merely use music for entertainment purposes.
Rather, the music I listened to acted much like my own personal Northern Star guiding me in the right
direction. Music showed me new and creative ways to structure sentences that I use in everyday life by
simply listening to the lyrics. Music helped to expand my vocabulary - with every song that I listened to,
I heard many words, some of which I had never heard before. Every time I’d hear a new word, I’d look
up its definition in a dictionary and use it as regularly as possible from that point on. But most
importantly, music sparked my creativity and inspired me to write.
I have a few shoe boxes shoved in the back of my closet that are filled to the brim with stacks of
composition notebooks. Within each of those notebooks I have locked away and recorded a piece of
me. Some of these notebooks are filled with poetry that touches on any and every subject that you can
imagine:
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Derek Corbitt
English 102-17
Bachelor Robinson
09/03/09
Here, the seasons do not exist; imagination is everything
We know not reality; rather we know and see what we want to
We shoot moons from the walls of the sea; we shoot them until they fall
These are moments between sleep
Others are filled with short stories that I wrote once I had managed to dodge the brick wall that is
writer’s block. And every now and again you will find lyrics to songs that I have written myself, although
they probably aren’t that greatest in the world. Some of these notebooks I even used as journals. I’d
carry them around with me and every time a random thought would pop into my head I’d jot it down
and end up writing pages upon pages of stuff that directly correlated to that. Sometimes it was just
mindless rambling; other times it was full of raw emotion if it was a thought/topic I was passionate
about. Regardless of what these dust-gatherers contain, the fact still remains that my experiences with
playing and listening lit a creative flame within me that still burns bright to this day; a flame that will
never dim, let alone burn out.
There have been many ways by which I have acquired my own sense of literacy. One of the
most significant ways that I have acquired my literacy has been through the listening and playing of
music which ultimately lit my creative flame. However, music is just one of many ways that people
worldwide can acquire their own literacy. Due to the fact that there are many cultures, each with their
own literacy, there are numerous possibilities for individuals to become literate. But what is literacy?
That is a matter of what source you use. Some sources may describe it simply as the ability to read and
write. On the other hand, other sources may describe it in much broader terms and leave the definition
very open ended. I myself, would describe literacy as the ability to listen, understand what someone is
saying, process that information, formulate a sentence, and communicate clearly and effectively so as to
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Derek Corbitt
English 102-17
Bachelor Robinson
09/03/09
converse. Although it may not seem like it, literacy is a very important part of the world we live in
today. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. Without literacy there would be no means for us
to effectively communicate, and ultimately I would not be able to write this paper about how I came to
acquire my own literacy.
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Derek Corbitt Literacy Narrative