Known for their community outreach here in Buffalo, M&T Bank’s Management Development team asked Michael Bryant, their Senior Director of Physical Security and Investigations to develop a new community outreach program. Bryant responded by proposing a dynamic, inter-high school musical competition that would align with New York State’s initiatives toward bullying, and cyberbullying prevention. This radical idea became what is now known as Band Against Bullying, an outreach program celebrating their 8th annual performance this evening at the UB Center for the Arts.
Supported by his co-founder, Jessica Sanna, who leapt at the opportunity to get involved with Bryant’s proposed program, as well as the support of key community resources such as the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention, the University of Buffalo, and M&T Bank, Band Against Bullying has been gaining momentum, and growing consistently since being founded in 2012.
Through the past seven years of competitions, over a thousand students from more than a dozen schools in the Buffalo region have participated in the program with the support of hard working faculty members, and coaches guiding their performances.
“Band Against Bullying gives all students a chance to participate,” Bryant noted, “students who don’t necessarily make the most competitive teams; sports, chorale… but there is still a lot of talent there. Band Against Bullying provides a vehicle for those students to be involved in a project, and take part in a very significant event.”
Within that significance, the reach of the organization continues to increase, and Band Against Bullying is starting to receive more recognition, outside of the high school communities. The National Federation of Just Communities recognized Band Against Bullying with an Arts and Culture Award for 2018. This, and other community recognition has the organization looking toward new horizons, and expansion.
“We’ve discussed promoting this program throughout the state. We’ve set up our website with a New York designation in an effort to spread the good word of what this program is doing,” explained Bryant, discussing their future plans for the program, “Strategically, Jessica, and I would like to see this program in Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and other points in New York State.”
With such an important message, the participating students in the program not only strive to create the best performance, but support each other through the competition, exemplifying the message of the organization. Sanna spoke of the camaraderie that builds between competitors during the event.
“You would traditionally think there would be competition between the students backstage, or even rivalries, but that’s not at all the case,” Sanna continued, “everyone is talking, and encouraging each other, and they prefer to be in one single room, supporting each other, watching the acts.. That’s really helping to build the anti-bullying message that we strive for.”
Helping to spread that message are a host of local celebrity judges, and guest judges for the competition. Judges include Amanda Nickerson, the Executive Director of the Alberti Center, Edward Suk, Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, former Heavyweight Boxing Champion, “Baby” Joe Mesi, Buffalo Sabres alumni Andrew Peters, national recording artist Grant Michaels, and Eric Van Houten, as well as the event emcees, Janet Snyder, and Nicholas Picholas from Kiss 98.5.
You can catch this year’s Band Against Bullying performances tonight, April 16th, at 7:00PM at the UB Center for the Arts. Tickets are available at the box office. For more information, visit nybandagainstbullying.org, or the Band Against Bullying Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NYBANDAgainstBullying.