When nine-year-old Henry Boyer reached for the door in Revelli Hall, he never could have anticipated the surprise that was waiting for him on the other side — a private concert from the Michigan Marching Band.
The meeting was a long-time in the making. It all started this fall when Henry attended the Notre Dame football game at the Big House. As much as he liked watching the game, he truly fell in love with the band.
“My mind was blown of how good they played,” Henry told CBS for a segment which aired on Jan. 25.
For months afterward, he’s played their CD on repeat and watched YouTube clips of their halftime shows. He knows what he wants to be when he grows up: a member of Michigan’s band. At his grandmother’s suggestion, he wrote them a letter telling them how much he loved their performance. Then, one Tuesday night, Henry got a response.
The band sent him a box filled with Michigan Band gear and an accompanying letter, encouraging him to keep practicing and audition for the band when the time comes — he’ll be a freshman in 2029. Henry’s mom, Kimberly Boyer, caught his reaction on tape. Absolutely shocked, he cried as he read the letter out loud.
“Such a simple act to reach back out to him has changed his world,” Kimberly told CBS.
Henry has followed the band’s advice, doubling up on piano lessons and even picking up the drums. He practices both everyday. While he has other interests — he plays soccer and he likes to ski — nothing compares to his passion for music.
He may have inherited his love of music from his dad, Geoff Boyer, a former pianist and guitar player. Last summer, Geoff took Henry to an Avett Brothers concert. On the way there, he asked Henry what he wanted to do at the concert. Henry said he wanted to get on stage with the band. When the concert started, an usher noticed Henry dancing in the back and offered them two front row seats. When the band was wrapping up, Geoff hoisted his son onto his shoulders. The bass player came out to the edge of the stage to offer Henry his pick — almost like it was fate.
“The world is a funny place, man,” Geoff said. “You think of something that you want to do, you put it out in the world and it’s amazing what the universe will bring back to you.”
With that letter, Henry put his wishes out into the world, and the Michigan Marching Band came in to deliver the rest. With the help of CBS, the band organized a huge surprise.
Henry thought he was in Ann Arbor to take pictures for the CBS story, thinking it was just about his letter. But, when he opened up the door to the band’s rehearsal space in Revelli Hall, he was greeted by something else entirely — about a hundred members of the band playing “Hail to the Victors.”
Henry was speechless.
“You could tell he was taken away by everything,” cymbalist Claire Miller said. “He was not expecting it at all.”
After the band was done playing, he got to jump in on the snare drum for “Let’s Go Blue.” He just kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m here.” The experience was surreal for everyone involved.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I image we’d be doing the things we are now because of him being interested in the marching band and writing them a letter expressing his interest,” Geoff said.
It really struck a chord with Miller, a member of the drumline. She never thought she’d affect someone like this through band. It’s such a standard part of her daily routine, she couldn’t image it seeming so special to a kid like Henry.
Miller grew up in the area and frequently attended Michigan football games with her dad. While her dad would watch the game, Claire would watch the band. Like Henry, she dreamed of someday joining the drumline. That may have been why she wanted to be a part of his big surprise.
“To see that, it reminded me why I get up every day and go to practice and do all this,” Miller said. “When it’s raining and snowing and I don’t want to go. This is why I go.”
Maybe Henry will be playing “Hail to the Victors” the next time Michigan plays Notre Dame in 2033. Maybe he’ll change his mind — he’s only nine. But after his day with the Marching Band, that doesn’t seem likely.