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PSH sophomore Will Hamlin demonstrates a 'heart for the arts'

Published on Tuesday, July 26, 2022

will hamlin playing trumpet
BCSD photo / Monica Kreber : Will Hamlin performed the trumpet during his school's
Veterans Day program last November.

Will Hamlin’s love for the arts is palpable to anyone who watches him work.

Whether he is performing with his fellow marching band classmates or creating a project in an art classroom, Hamlin puts a lot of “heart” into the arts.

Hamlin is a rising sophomore at Philip Simmons High. He was recently named a recipient of what is called the National High School Heart of the Arts Award.

“I’m really excited,” he said, adding, “I was a little surprised for a second.”

The award is annually conferred to eight “section” recipients across the nation, as well as one national recipient. The award was instituted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHS) in 2014 to recognize individuals who “exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts” and represent the core mission of education-based activities.

Hamlin is visually impaired, and was unable to understand English when he was adopted from China in 2018 by Annie and Chris Hamlin. He had no formal music training, but had an interest in the keyboard, which led to his adoptive family getting him involved in middle school band.

“Music can create a story – it can bring people and emotions,” he said.

Though he joined late in the year as a trumpeter, his work ethic earned him a role in the band’s top performance ensemble as well as the All-County Beginner Honor Band, and he has now made All-County and All-Region bands every year since.

With no music available in Braille, Hamlin learns songs entirely by sound, working to emulate the recordings he receives from his band director, Maurice Medley. Hamlin is guided by a system of jingle sounds during marching band field shows and has become so skilled in this operation that judges are often unaware of his visual impairment. The district highlighted him last school year in a “Student Spotlight” segment.

Before the end of 2021-2022 school year, Philip Simmons High Principal Chris Buchholz submitted a recommendation letter to the NFSHS to support selecting Hamlin for the award. Buchholz recognized Hamlin as a key figure in the school’s symphonic band and marching band, and that he has awed his own band classmates with his talent.

“Pardon the pun, but Will blew them away,” Buchholz wrote in the letter. “His impact on the band and the school is mighty as walls came tumbling down – proving there are no excuses not to be great.

“Overcoming obstacles that would stiffen the strongest of men is Will’s biggest accomplishment,” Buchholz added. “He is fearless and an inspiration to the masses.”

Hamlin is excited for the upcoming school year; Philip Simmons High’s band camp is about to hit the ground running, and Hamlin said he is ready to reunite with the band and learn some new music.

“I’m mostly excited for the competitions we get to do and maybe play during the football season, because I have a lot of fun with (the band) there,” he said.

In addition to performance art, it is not uncommon to find Hamlin throwing some clay on a pottery wheel in Paige Duvall’s art class. He has his own special method of feeling the clay and figuring out how to center it on the wheel. He hopes to take more art classes during his time in high school. will hamlin on pottery wheel

“It’s definitely challenging, but I’m definitely into it,” he said.

Beyond music and art, Hamlin’s favorite subjects are English and social studies, adding that he likes listening to audio books and learning about history.

In general, Hamlin just enjoys school and learning something new every day.

“That’s one of my favorite things to do – try something new,” he said.

Hamlin is described by his teachers as being a hard-working student who practices patience in his education; Hamlin encourages other students to be patient as well when it comes to pursuing their interests.

“Take your time if you need it, because literally everything takes time,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you do – it takes patience. Just try to figure your own way out.”

Monica Kreber