“Their first experience is priceless,” Filleman said. “You just can't describe it. ... It's this sense of wonder and amazement. This is something. This matters.”
About 95 percent of Santa Fe South students come from families that qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, according to Oklahoma City Public Schools statistics.
The school provides everything — reeds, valve oil, sheet music. Students borrow instruments for the year for free. Filleman can do most of the small repairs himself, but he needs cash donations to pay for the major repairs.
He's never had to repair an instrument because of abuse.
“It's just normal wear and tear,” he said. “When you look down the streets and you see graffiti and tagging, houses broken into — we don't have that.”
Band is a privilege for students, said Zachary Taylor, a junior who plays the tuba.
“If you listen to the teachers, they never have problems with band students,” Taylor said. “It really affects your behavior. You're grades have be to up. It gives you motivation.”
Filleman said his goal isn't to churn out professional musicians. He wants students to learn the basics of responsibility, leadership and dedication.
“It transfers to other areas of their lives,” Filleman said. “Then they want to do better in school. They work through it and they work at it.”