Brian McMath nominated for NC School Heroes Award

Link to vote for Brain McMath below story


Daygan Shouse

Brian McMath giving a speech about seniors at the end-of-the-year marching banquet. McMath is in the running for NC School Heroes Award.

What happened was unforgettable.

But what Northwest band director Brian McMath did now has him in the running for a North Carolina School Heroes Award.

April 1, 2017, now senior, then sophomore, Dominic Deardorff was in a terrible accident and nearly lost his left arm.

Deardorff always wanted to be a jazz musician, but the accident threatened his dream.

Because he shattered his arm and severed his ligaments and tendons, he needed skin grafts and five emergency surgeries in 10 days. The severity of the accident caused doctors to doubt that his arm would ever work the way that it should again.

“To come out of that is something that I think even adults couldn’t cope with or understand,” Deardorff said, “just because of the sheer scale of the event and all of the things that came along with it–not only the (physical) healing process, but the mental aspect of (wondering about) the (horrible) possibilities that could happen.”

The healing process was treacherous, deeply scarring and painful. Miraculously, Dominic Deardorff’s arm was saved and healed, although the process demanded great personal strength, along with the support of McMath.

“McMath would come and try to show him how to use music as therapy,” Anna Deardorff, Dominic Deardorff’s mother, said. “(He understood that when) keeping your mind busy (with music), you would not be concentrating on how much pain you were in. (He showed him that) he could grow from it.”

Beyond giving advice, McMath also was there for Dominic Deardorff through all the hardships of healing from the accident.

“McMath knew that we were having a lot of complications,” Anna Deardorff said. “His heart told him that (Dominic Deardorff) was a kid that was going to need a lot of encouragement. He made the long drive to Chapel Hill to come see our son and let him know that there’s going to be a time that (he) might need someone to talk to; (he told him) ‘let me help you.’”

The way that McMath helped Dominic Deardorff recover from the tragedy–not just physically but emotionally– helped him greatly.

“It was nice to have somebody else,” Dominic Deardorff said. “Your parents tell you things all the time, but you may not want to listen to them. Hearing them from somebody else (who) really cares about you (was needed). They could even say the same (exact) thing, but because of how they said it, you could take it in a different way and fully understand it.”

Once Dominic Deardorff came back home, a sense of isolation fell upon him.

“(He) was still pretty upset,” Anna Deardorff said, “and in pain, and not allowed to come to school, and missing his friends and feeling like he wasn’t a part of the group; we were trying to figure out how to handle this.”

To restore a sense of normalcy and belonging, McMath invited him to come back to jazz band and encouraged him to do what he loved once again.

“He reminded him that he could still play the trumpet,” Anna Deardorff said. “(He reminded him that) he could play better than he ever did before. And he (did).”

A year after the surgery, Dominic Deardorff was still coping with the trauma of the accident and ensuing issues it brought about.

“McMath was trying to coach our child through some very hard, dark moments,” Anna Deardorff said. “He was trying to teach him not to carry the baggage of others and how to get through that dark cloud. Because he made the choice to say ‘I’m going to take the time and help this child,’ we now have our son back.”

After all the accident almost took away from him, Dominic Deardorff, with the help of McMath, was able to find his way through music. Each note is now laced with more passion than ever before, and an added depth is heard in the beat.

“(Playing the trumpet) now has a much more personal meaning to it,” Dominic Deardorff said. “It’s one of the biggest reasons why I am here today.”

Due to the time he took to help Dominic Deardorff, his compassionate leadership and his rare–yet stellar–example as a teacher, Anna Deardorff nominated McMath for a North Carolina School Heroes award.

“It’s awesome (to be nominated),” McMath said. “It’s a great feeling that somebody took the time out of their day and thought enough to nominate (me) for an award. (Whenever that happens), it makes us (teachers) feel appreciated for a change. Sometimes we don’t.”

Through the website, people can vote for school faculty who they believe qualify as heroes. The winner earns both their school and themselves $10,000; McMath plans to use $10,000 as funding for the Northwest band program and $10,000 to pay off his student loans.

“He (is) more than a hero,” Anna Deardorff said. “McMath made the choice to go above and beyond to try to help (Dominic Deardorff) out. I was very happy to try to pay it forward and let people know our story.”

Anna Deardorff is correct: McMath is more than a hero to Dominic Deardorff–he has been like a father.

“Even though I wasn’t his kid,” Dominic Deardorff said, “he took the time (to help me). He says that his (students) are (like) his kids, especially (those) in the marching band program. He really takes that to heart and will help in any way that he can. McMath deserves to win the NC School Heroes more than anyone.”

The staff and student body agree that McMath goes above and beyond to help all of his students. Beyond this single instance, McMath has consistently helped his kids conquer fears and learn about a world beyond the Greensboro bubble.

“(McMath) has worked here for 17 years,” senior Leona Wierwille said. “He is always super helpful. I’ve been his student for four years and gone to all three concert ensembles. Because of McMath, I have become the flutist I am today. He has affected the lives of many of his students and deserves to be rewarded for his hard work. He truly cares and has helped all of his students (in some way), even me.”

McMath pushes, helps and inspires all of his students as he believes it is every teacher’s job to do so. He actively seeks to foster a greater music program so all students have the chance to ignite musical passion within themselves.

“I see a lot of potential (in all my students),” McMath said. “I want them to have it better than what I had. I had a good high school, but school was hard for me. However, I always knew that music is my love–I just knew that. Our music program was not bad, but it was small. My goal was to make sure my kids had way more than I ever had.”

What happened was unforgettable: the personal strength of Dominic Deardorff, coupled with the compassion of McMath, resulted in surmounting an ineffable trauma. Unforgettable strength, unforgettable support and unforgettable heroes. His unforgettablility extends beyond a single act of kindness, but it is a pattern of sincerity.

“I don’t think words can give him justice for what he has done,” Dominic Deardorff said. “(Other) teachers should definitely take notes. Everything that he’s accomplished (is just unforgettable).”


If you would like to vote for McMath for the NC School Heroes Award, search his name under this link: