Ahwatukee resident Rachel Rhoades earned her Girl Scout Gold Award by developing a program teaching young students in orchestra and band how to keep their instruments clean. The Arizona State University freshman was a scout for 13 years.
Special to AFN

Rachel Rhoades of Ahwatukee combined her passions for scouting and music into a project that helps student band members protect themselves and their instruments.

The Arizona State University freshman and electrical engineering major – an active scout for more than 13 years – is one of 33 members of the Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council to win the coveted Girl Scout Gold Award this year.

The award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive – much like an Eagle Scout badge is for her male equivalent. It requires the completion of a project “that continues to give back to the community long after she moves on, and often takes as long as 18 to 24 months to complete,” a Cactus-Pine Council spokeswoman said.

The daughter of Rob and Karen Rhoades, Rachel, 18, devised a video and supplemental written instructions as part of a campaign she called “Keepin’ It Clean.” It teaches members of school orchestras and bands how to clean brass and woodwind instruments.

“First off, especially in marching band, wind instruments become a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to illness, which is definitely not what students want to be fighting in the middle of marching band season,” she explained.

Moreover, she noted, “not cleaning the instruments can damage the instrument, which means time taken out of rehearsal to fix the instrument and potentially money spent on repairs. By cleaning them on a regular basis, this can be avoided to some extent.”

Besides, “cleaning the instrument just helps extends the useful life of the instrument. Most instruments are incredibly expensive, so it is important to make them last as long as possible, especially when they are school-owned instruments that schools often don’t have the budget to replace very often,” she added.

A graduate of Desert Vista High, Altadena Middle and Monte Vista Elementary schools, Rachel started on trumpet in middle school but switched to French horn as a high school freshman. She still plays it.

She got the idea for her project when a friend and fellow scout told her about finding grass in her instrument at the beginning of band season. “at is what really told me that most students were not cleaning their instruments,” she said.

So, she made videos for Desert Vista band and orchestra members, developed written instructions for them and conducted workshops on the best techniques.

Although she focused only on her alma mater, “the process is very replicable, and the resources I used are available so leadership teams at other high schools could implement the same workshops,” she said.

Were they well attended? “I held the workshops during a mandatory rehearsal, which meant that all of the section members were required to be there. As a result, they were well attended, although I did not have the foresight to have a sign-in sheet to keep track of exactly how many there were.”

The filming part of the project didn’t take long, she said, “but the editing process was a bit painful.”

Still, she felt the videos were necessary “to show that cleaning an instrument is not necessarily a huge time commitment and that despite the busy marching band schedule, it is possible to still properly maintain the instrument.”

“I wanted the final videos to be short enough that students would not get overwhelmed by watching 25 minutes of someone else cleaning the instrument and then still having to spend 25 minutes cleaning their own instrument,” she said. “I edited the videos down to five minutes or less, with very specific points where students could pause the video and begin their own process.”

Rachel also developed separate instructions for trumpets, mellophones and baritones with an eye toward having them serve not just as a guide but also as a way for section leaders to “verify that they did follow the steps to a high enough standard, to keep students accountable and ensure they actually follow through with it.”

Though she is not technically an active scout anymore because she is not assigned to a troop, Rachel hopes to be involved somehow in scouting in the future.

“Girl Scouts really impacted my life growing up by giving me more confidence in myself and providing a strong group of friends that I could turn to for anything,” she explained. “Having this throughout my entire childhood helped me develop as a person and as a leader.”

She belonged to Ahwatukee Troop 635 and especially liked organizing and leading events for young troops, explaining:

“I personally found this to be a more rewarding experience than completing badges because it gave me more confidence as a leader, which in turn helped me both in completing my Gold Award project and in leading my peers during high school.”

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