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Student spreads her passion for music through Girl Scouts project

Encouraging others to learn instruments

Grand Rapids — A rising senior at City High Middle School has earned a Gold Award from the Girl Scouts, created in 1906 and the organization’s highest achievement.

Samantha Durocher completed a project called “Encouraging Students to Stay in Instrumental Music Programs” because of her own lifelong passion for music, which includes playing both piano and the double bass. 

“I think one of my favorite things about being a musician is playing with so many different people,” Samantha said. “One thing that my orchestra teacher emphasizes is that no one can play the same piece of music in the exact same way, which adds so many layers. I also love how music can express so many different emotions.”

Over the years, she said, she has seen fellow instrumentalists fall away from music, and she wanted to do what she could to keep high school students committed to their craft and to get students previously not interested in music to explore the classes offered at their school or in their community.

For her Gold Award project, Samantha, who began as a Girl Scout in first grade, said bringing together her love of music and her love of Girl Scouts arose quite naturally from conversations she has had over the years with her fellow scouts, many of whom also play instruments.

Reveille and Taps on Mackinac Island

Her transition from a local troop to her current troop, the Mackinac Island Honor Scouts (Troop 147), also played into her project.

“We would always talk about our experiences in music,” she said. “And when my troop is on Mackinac Island, we wake up and raise the flags to reveille and lower the flags to taps. So, music has always been incorporated into my Girl Scouting experience in some way.”

Still, Samantha said, bringing together music and scouting via her Gold Award project wasn’t necessarily a seamless experience.

‘I kept reminding myself that I needed to do this for others, not solely for myself.’

— Samantha Durocher

According to the Girl Scouts, just over five percent of eligible scouts successfully earn the Gold Award each year. Samantha can attest to the rigor of the process.

“We actually have to record our time spent on our Gold Award project,” she said. “I spent a total of 84 hours on my project over the past year-and-a-half.” 

Those hours led to a website, a video, a pamphlet and a Music Ambassadors program to both educate middle and high school students on the benefits of playing an instrument and hopefully inspire them to stay involved in music programs. 

Samantha Durocher (fourth from left, back row) in 2019 with her Mackinac Island Honor Scouts troop

Expand Ambassadors Program, Study Insects

The resources have been shared with music teachers across Grand Rapids. Next year as a high school senior, Samantha plans to recruit more members into the ambassador program at City, so that once she graduates, there are others who know how things should be run.

She added that while her junior year was really rough – “For a while, every single thing that was being asked of me just felt like a burden” – the Girl Scout project helped a little.

“I kept reminding myself that I needed to do this for others, not solely for myself,” she said. “And my friends have helped a lot. I have learned that it’s okay to lean on others.”

That’s a lesson Girl Scouts also has instilled in her.

“Girl Scouts has helped me gain an incredible amount of leadership and self-reliance skills,” she said. “But trusting and working with others is necessary to get where you want to go.”

The same is true she said for another of her passions: rowing as a member of Grand Rapids Rowing

“I love everything about it,” she said. “The technique, racing, especially winning. My team is pretty small, so we all end up getting really close to each other, and everyone works together towards a common goal.”

That’s a mindset she said she will take into the future. She hopes to major in entomology, the study of insects, in university and eventually focus on a career in conservation. 

“As of right now, I am not too sure exactly what career I’d like to go into,” she said with a smile. “Just as long as it is beneficial and helps something that is bigger than me.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio


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