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Now over two decades old, School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” report continues to shine a light on outstanding music educators from each of these United States.

Again, SBO painstakingly reviewed hundreds of nominations. This is the most fun we have every year, and also the very hardest issue to produce.

Music is very special to people. Directors were nominated by students both former and current colleagues, musical instrument retailers, band parents, administrators, friends, former band directors, who might have even taught them, and sometimes a spouse of a director who admires the hard work and dedication their other half gives to their school music programs.

The nomination stories submitted are moving, heartfelt, and often very personal pleas from the nominator to recognize their director for the work they do. We wish we could do an issue and just honor all the people submitted at once. Our final selections have been made, but it was not easy. Nominees not chosen this year will be held over into next year’s submissions for consideration again.

As we do with each of these special issues, each director is asked to tell us of their proudest teaching moments, how they hope to make a difference in students’ lives, and the most important lessons are that they try to teach their students.

And now, SBO presents 2018’s 21st Annual Class of 50 Directors Who Make a Difference.

ALABAMA

Chuck Eady

Pleasant Grove High School

Pleasant Grove, Alabama

Total Years Teaching: 42

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There have been many proud moments in my career as a music educator but the moments that mean the most to me are the moments when everything comes together in a rehearsal or performance and we share a “chill bump” experience. We just stop and cherish the “wow” feeling we get from a combined effort that takes us to a pinnacle music moment. I liken it to a great golf shot, when all the elements of the shot come together, and you hit the perfect shot. It’s what keeps you coming back to try and string more of those shots together. These musical moments are what keep me excited about every rehearsal and performance.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope that by sharing my passion for music and my commitment to excellence I can inspire my students to achieve their highest level of performance. Teaching music affects the lives of my students and I may never know where those influences stop. I want them to know and understand that music is a gift, and it is to be enjoyed for a lifetime.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

That would be self-discipline and personal expression. Being part of a performing ensemble provides students the opportunity for teamwork, instills a sense of belonging and a connection with other students through their shared experiences. These are lessons that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

 

ALASKA

Travis J. Harrington

Mirror Lake Middle School

Chugiak, Alaska

Total Years Teaching: 23

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had several proud moments teaching and coaching, most recently, experiencing my 2018 Concert Band sight-read music in a Disneyland studio soundtrack clinic, receiving a student composition gift, rehearsed in secret and performed by members of the Concert Band at our final concert, and welcoming two former students who earned high school band director positions in our district.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I try to live as an example of a well-rounded and balanced life by not only teaching band, but also coaching cross country running, wrestling, and mountain biking, directing the Chugiak-Eagle River Community Band, team leading for a snowboarding and skiing program, and directing a church choir on weekends. I encourage students to stay active in music and sports while maintaining good grades. My students have mentioned they appreciate my humor, honesty, and willingness to just be a good listener.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I try to teach students first. Music and sports offer so many social emotional learning opportunities that supplement and round out their education and help build essential assets that will serve them the rest of their lives. I want them to know their lives are gifts, given to share, to celebrate all their talents and efforts, to build a welcoming community, and to know that they are loved.

 

ARIZONA

James O’Halloran

Boulder Creek High School

Anthem, Arizona

Total Years Teaching: 17

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest educator moments are when I witness my students passing on their love and passion for music to those around them. I’m fortunate to see this on a daily basis after school lets out for the day. There are always students who stay after the last bell to work with the younger members of the program on their playing assessments, sight reading, regional auditions, etc. Some of our older students volunteer to go to the elementary schools to work with the beginning band students as well. Just watching the students become so excited and encouraging about music is worth everything we do as music educators.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I often tell my students that band is just a metaphor for life. Everything that we do in band can be related to some real-world experience or situation that they will face. The skills that they learn with our band family will have life-long lasting effects. But ultimately, I want to help instill a love and appreciation for music into all of my students’ lives. I want them to learn that there is beauty in the world, and that making music is essential in experiencing what it means to be truly human.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I try to teach my students that in order to evolve in our activity (and in life) there will be struggles before there are successes. They have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable if they want to continue to grow as a musician and as an individual. Their path to success will be littered with mistakes, but these mistakes are opportunities that they can use to learn and grow…mistakes are not bad things, just opportunities for individual growth.

 

ARKANSAS

Steven Hughes

Southside High School

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Total Years Teaching: 14

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I can’t pick just one. There is so much to admire in my students and colleagues. I’m proud of those moments when my students and I are able to lose ourselves in the experience of making music together. When that happens, they are not seeking some future achievement, but instead are appreciating the beauty of being alive in the present moment.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Our discipline can be used as a rehearsal for life. My goal is to provide a set of experiences through which students better learn to know themselves and the world around them. I want them to discover how to approach challenges with creativity and passion. I want students to develop a habit of giving an unreasonable amount of love and energy toward everything they do.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

If you want to do something that is extraordinary, you must be willing to give something “extra” beyond the ordinary. I encourage my students to be almost unrealistic about how much they believe they can give. I want them to be unreasonable about how much good is within themselves, how much good they can do for others, and how good their lives can be.

 

CALIFORNIA

Jeanne Christensen

Mira Mesa High School

San Diego, California

Total Years Teaching: 28 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had the honor of some memorable and incredible moments in my career. From sharing the experience of my students participating in the 2000 Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games to leading my marching band in the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade. These moments have been special, but I would say my proudest moment as an educator is any day that I am able to share class, a rehearsal, or just a conversation with my students. I love watching my students come into class and begin the process of achieving music with one another. A proud moment is when we have worked on a piece of music and the group knows they have played together in a way that has created an experience that lifts them to a place that goes beyond words. You can see the elation and emotion in their faces and mine when we have had “a moment” together. That’s pure joy as an educator.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

My personal motto happens to be “make a difference.” I think about how to make a difference and an impact every day. I try to instill a passion, an appreciation, and a lifelong love of music. My hope is that my students will see lessons of life that go well beyond the notes, the rhythms, and the phrasing that I teach. It is about learning to work together, being an example for them, and helping to teach them to support one another. I let students know they can come to me with anything. The band room is a safe place, it is their second home, and I am always there for them. I hope to make a difference by being a positive influence in their lives and being a mentor to them always.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is to never give up. Whether that is with the music they are working on, another subject area, or with themselves. Having conviction and dedication to something is how students begin to believe in themselves. I believe in teaching students to pick themselves up and start over again if they make a mistake. Learning to work hard, be creative, be themselves, and set goals is essential for students to see that anything is possible. Music is a powerful force and I try to teach students to recognize what a wonderful gift music truly is in this world.

 

COLORADO

Sara Wynes

Cherry Creek High School/Campus Middle School

Greenwood Village, Colorado

Total Years Teaching: 17

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments are stepping out on stage at any performance with our bands at Cherry Creek High School. It is an absolute honor to stand in front of an ensemble that has gone through the preparation process and is ready to shine and inspire an audience. I am equally proud to step in front of the middle school beginning bands at Campus Middle School when the sixth graders have an opportunity to showcase their progress from square one to concert ready the first year of musical training.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope that when a student works with me, they feel valued for their individual contribution to the musical ensemble and loved for who they are as a person. I hope that my warmth and care gives them a safe haven during their academic day. I also feel grateful to serve as an example for young ladies that look to me as a mentor and feel inspired to purse their passion without being held to gender role stereotypes. I am proud to be one of the two women who have served as the President of the Colorado Bandmasters Association.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Age does not determine musical success or potential. We are all responsible for our daily interactions in rehearsal. I strive to help students develop a level of collaboration that allows a creative space that is focused and motivating. The manner in which we carry ourselves, and the standards we hold ourselves to, musically reveal the pride we have for ourselves, our fellow musicians and the ensemble as a whole.

 

CONNECTICUT

Mark A. Gahm

E.C. Adams Middle School/Guilford High School

Guilford, Connecticut

Total Years Teaching: 24

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments are often the small victories that I am able to witness on a daily basis in the classroom. Just recently, I had a 7th grade clarinetist tell me she had been trying to play over the break for two years, and she didn’t think she would ever be able to do it. I started meeting with her regularly, and although it was a struggle for both of us, she finally succeeded. This experience gave the student a huge boost of confidence, and for the first time she was able to play a full scale alone in front of the class. Moments like that are what get me out of bed every morning excited to go to work.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Because I teach both at the middle school and high school levels, I am fortunate to work with my student musicians for up to six years. By the time they graduate, I often know them better than any other adult in the school building. Moreover, I am often witness to very pivotal moments in their young lives. For these reasons, my answer depends on the student--for those that go on to pursue music as a career, I hope to give them all the tools they need to make their artistic dreams come true. For those students whose high school years are complicated by stressors in their home or school lives, I hope to make band class a window of time in their day that they can always look forward to. For all of my students, however, I hope they will frequently experience those moments that we as musicians all live for--when time stops and everything but the music fades away. If I can do that, I know they will leave my class with a true understanding of what it means to make music with others.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I hope to teach each of my students a little bit about themselves--what they are capable of with hard work and focused energy. Each student contributes something unique and important to our ensembles, and the fun part for me is getting to know the students and helping them each discover what their role is going to be.

 

DELAWARE

Kathleen McGrath

Louis L. Redding Middle School

Middletown, Delaware

Total Years Teaching: 26

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As an educator I’ve had many proud moments over the years and many of these moments stem from watching my students as they grow and learn. Recently, during a lesson the students had a few moments to work collaboratively on a section of a song. One of my administrators popped in to do an observation. In our discussion afterward, she told me she was so impressed as she heard students helping one another and praising each other for their efforts. Knowing that my students are learning to be supportive and encouraging to each other truly warms my heart.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I try to make a difference in my students’ lives by letting them know that I truly care about them. It is so important to build a relationship with the students that will be in my classroom every day for three years. Middle school can be a challenging time for students and I want them to know I am there for them.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Everyone has the tools within themselves to be successful. The key is learning to use those tools effectively. As a band we work together to set goals for the ensemble. Students are taught how to set individual goals for their playing as well, both short and long term. Learning to follow through with the step necessary to achieve those goals are a vital part of being a successful person.

 

FLORIDA

Max Cordell

Trinity Christian Academy

Jacksonville, Florida

Total Years Teaching: 46

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

On a personal level, teaching all three of my children in the band and seeing them graduate at a high level of proficiency has been a blessing. I have had many students for eight years in the band and in some cases have taught the children of former students. Professionally there have been many proud moments seeing the symphonic band, the marching band, and some individuals earn high awards in festivals and competitions. To see the joy and excitement of these students when they get the desired result of their work is very exciting.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to make a difference in the students’ lives by being there for them and helping them experience the joy of making music through high quality instruction and literature. This may involve extra time out of the regular class time. I want them to see me as teacher that genuinely wants them to achieve at their highest possible level. I also want them to know that if they have given their best that they can still learn and grow from the process, and that I care for them as a person and as member of the band.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I emphasize that as Christians, the students need to develop the talent that God has given to them and use it for His glory through public performance. I want them to learn the importance of setting aside differences and work together in harmony to create a beautiful musical product. I emphasize also that when we perform out of town, we represent our school, community, and church, and that we should do it with quality. I believe that the lessons learned in band about discipline, dedication, responsible behavior, and individual responsibility are life-long benefits of being part of a performing ensemble.

 

GEORGIA

Dr. Laura Moates Stanley

Brookwood High School

Snellville, Georgia

Total Years Teaching: 16

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator would have to be my students’ reaction to their invitation as a Guest Performing Ensemble for the 2019 Georgia Music Educators In-Service Conference. Of course, they were excited, but their best reaction has been their devoted musicianship, dedication, commitment, and discipline involved in the preparation for our concert. They are working tirelessly while also enjoying the process. In addition, I am thrilled to share my students with several guest conductors: Mr. Jack Jean (Brookwood High School Associate Band Director), Mr. Rudy Wilson (Retired Band Director Brookwood High School, 2013), Mr. Elden Moates (My Father, Retired Fannin County Band Director), and Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel (Conductor Emeritus, The United States Air Force Band). Sharing my students with an amazing colleague who after 29 years of leading an incredible band program decided to join me at Brookwood, the band director whom I started my career with 16 years ago and is responsible for beginning Brookwood’s Musical Tradition of Excellence, my father and former high school band director whom I owe so much and constantly strive to be, and an extraordinary legend in the band world who arguably has more life experiences than all of us combined makes the process not only unique, but meaningful. I’m comforted as it seems my proudest moment is yet to come.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family. Music was a hobby, a career, a method of relaxation, therapy, an expression, adventure, opportunity, and so much more. I hope to model for my students that the many choices in life are positively affected by music. Music is a beautiful and universal language that shouldn’t end with high school graduation; therefore, I hope my passion for music and compassion for others combine to instill a sense of community and belonging. In the end, I strive for my students to trust and confide in me and continue to develop relationships with others.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach students?

Leading a program of over 400 students is a welcomed challenge but the pride in working to reach individual students shines above all. I hope to impress upon all of my students that each of them is important and a key piece to the puzzle. Through their experiences in band, they have implemented forms of discipline, rigor, dedication, commitment, group cooperation, relationship, and leadership. Ultimately, all of these have influenced their life in a way that I hope they will use to teach and share with others. After all, ten percent of life is what happens to you and ninety percent is how you react to it.

 

HAWAII

Darin Ujimori

President

George Washington Middle School

Honolulu, Hawaii

Total Years Teaching: 21

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is really difficult to pick just one singular moment, as there have been many. However, the moments that stand out to me include having former students return to help, and also show me the improvements they have made as musicians, and then being able to witness the successes they achieve at whichever high school they attend. An even greater thrill is being able to see the success your longtime former students have achieved in their musical careers and in their personal lives. Many have gone on to become professional musicians, teachers, doctors, engineers, and college professors.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Middle school is one the most challenging episodes of a person’s life. When you add in the economic disadvantages and family life challenges that a great many of my students face every day, I feel the best thing I can do for them is to just be there for them. For many, I am the only “father figure” they have in their lives, so I have to be that for them. Ultimately, just being there for them, and showing them that there is more to do, see, and experience in life, and that middle school is just an important piece of the puzzle that is life, and hopefully helping them, with music as our vehicle, to enjoy the journey that is life.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I try to teach is that, while doing their best to play music at a high level is important, becoming a good person is most important. I tell them that if I can help them to learn to be a good person, then all the things that we concern ourselves with in learning to play music, will eventually work themselves out. The example I use is that I don’t care if they play fantastically or horribly, what really matters is that if someone that has nothing to do with our band says they are impressed by our students’ behavior, it makes it all worth it.

 

IDAHO

Meagen Andrew

Minico High School/West Minico Middle School

Rupert, Idaho

Total Years Teaching: 5

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a student beaming with pride as they master a new technique, or the excitement they exhibit when they have an “ah-ha” moment while playing their instrument. When a student in class excitedly exclaims, “The sharps or flats in the key signature alter every note that has that name not just the one it is located on!” with wide eyes, I know I’ve done my job. It is the little things that I can teach them that will lead to them making huge strides in their musical journey.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope my students can use orchestra as their escape; that they can view our time together as a time set aside each day where they can be themselves. I want them to know they are valued and cared for deeply and that they have something special to offer the group. I hope they can find a moment of peace and joy while they play their instrument and lose themselves in the music. That is what orchestra has always done for me. Every student deserves a place where they can feel safe and loved and are encouraged to express their emotions without hesitation or fear.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I try to teach my students the importance of being human. It is ok to fail as long as you pick yourself back up and try again. It is ok to struggle because that means you are growing and learning. It is important to be kind because the world is mean enough. It does not matter if you are perfect because no one is. It is ok to be you, find what makes you happy in life, and keep pushing forward.

 

ILLINOIS

Tom Eifert

Aptakisic Junior High School

Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Total Years Teaching: 35

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

If I had to identify my “proudest moment” it would be the annual Alumni Band concert. Students ranging in age from high school freshman to 45-year old adults come together to share a meal and give a performance of their favorite songs from junior high band. I witness first-hand how the relationships that started in band have developed and matured over the years. We celebrate together through rehearsing and performing one last time. While only a small percentage of students choose to make careers out music, their involvement in our band program has helped them develop into some of the most caring and successful adults I know. For this I am most proud.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Recently, one of my clarinet players shared with me how her involvement in band had given her confidence in other areas of her life. I strive to ensure that each student will realize enduring confidence by creating conditions that require collective commitments, dedication, and unconditional support for each member of our band family. My hope is that each student will emerge as a confident and contributing member of society who recognizes the transformative power of music and the joy that performing music brings to audiences and performers alike.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I want each of my students to learn is that they are capable of doing great things with the many talents they have developed through our band program. Beyond learning to play an instrument, practicing and rehearsing relentlessly, and delivering outstanding performances as an ensemble, they have learned to listen, respect and care for one another. At the end of the day, it was not about how well they performed with their instruments. Rather, what matters most is that they have become confident leaders committed to caring for others and working in concert to overcome any challenges that may come their way.

 

INDIANA

Jeff Gorman

Riley High School/Jackson Middle School

South Bend, Indiana

Total Years Teaching: 21

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As a band director in an inner-city school corporation, my proudest moments are watching the band have success, especially since I know there are numerous obstacles for many of the students (and their families). We tell band students we are a family, and to take care of each other. A couple of years ago the drum line on their own, quietly raised their own money to buy one of their fellow drummers (and his family) boxes of food and clothes for Christmas break.

When I took him and the boxes home, his mom (a working nurse) thanked me since her family would now be able to eat over the Holiday. Not only was that family delighted, but the drummers (and their families) had that good feeling that comes when they help others. Our band family members and their extended families continue to follow our band wherever we go and support and remind us that people enjoy what we do and want to continue being a part of “The Pride of the Southside.” Other proud moments would be seeing them surprise themselves with tremendous rehearsals and performances.

Lack of self-esteem and lack of confidence is common in our school, and when we traveled to national events and performed well, students were surprised and proud of themselves. Some of these students would proclaim these band trips were their best memories ever and the only time they ever traveled. In addition, when we traveled some of the students would help others on our trips, many times on their own idea, that had either lost their wallet on the trip or ran out of money through the trip and even to earn money for others’ trip. And proud moments even occur as we sometimes scour the area pawn shops for instruments or get donations from individuals to help us have enough (and good, working) instruments. Our students see other schools’ new, pristine looking instruments and uniforms as we go to various competitions and they know that sometimes our instruments are held together with duct tape and that the music that we produce and the feeling our music gives is much more important than how our band or our instruments look.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

It has always worked for me to be polite, and to truly care about students’ lives in and out of the band room. It also doesn’t hurt that I have the gift of having an outgoing personality, having a fun, sense of humor which easily carries over into my interactions with all students and their families and my colleagues. Often, it is simply thanking our students for their hard work, or appreciating a new students’ abilities, and making fun of myself, to get them to relax and enjoy themselves and this transcends into our music. This year, I bought pizza throughout our marching season and other events for students’ dinner after school prior to our rehearsals and football games. Our school has to travel to our football field for every home football game. Many of our students live all across our school district boundaries and don’t have time or resources to go home between school and events. There has been a definite benefit of providing a place and food as a supervised, happy, safe place for students to enjoy each other in the band room, and create a stronger, unifying band family atmosphere. I simply tell them as a group or individually that I love them and genuinely enjoy interacting with students.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I have been told by co-workers that I model hard work. There is a banner on the wall, “One Band, One Sound.” We want them to realize that each one of them is important to our overall success. Somehow, this has transferred to students helping each other musically and/or behaviorally and our band program has been the indirect benefactor. One of the most important lessons is that discipline means that I truly care about their success. To have them understand that we will work hard together in rehearsals and will result in success is vital to their lives. It is not about the trophies or the compliments, it is about improving their musicianship while working together and loving their own music in the process. Music has always moved my soul and we want our students and our audience to feel the same emotion.

 

IOWA

Wade Presley

Nevada High School

Nevada, Iowa

Total Years Teaching: 31

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As a music educator, proud moments can take many forms. Musically, it is gratifying when students’ performances evolve into the artistic peak of their abilities. This includes students in our band that may be playing their best performance at a local solo contest or in the community, as well as a student who selected to perform on “From the Top.” Educationally, I am especially proud when I see students becoming more focused on helping others in the band instead of only their own success. The proudest moments occur when alumni share stories about how music has impacted their lives as performers and consumers.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I strive to show students the impact music can have on their lives, even if they do not continue playing after high school. In every concert cycle, we spend time on the artistic and cultural elements in our music beyond the notes on the page. It is my hope that those moments will last a lifetime for students to enjoy and understand the music they encounter after high school. Also, I am elated when I can continue to support students in their life events after they leave high school.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Our band motto is “Be Kind and Stick Together.” Music is the thing that brings us together, and if students can use music and kindness to bring others together, we have really made an impact.

 

KANSAS

Chris VanGilder

Arkansas City High School

Arkansas City, Kansas

Total Years Teaching: 29

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Performances around the country, awards and ratings are all great, but for me the proudest moments come from seeing former students being successful. And when those former students come back to see me or send me messages saying things like: “Thank you for teaching me discipline” or “Thank you for teaching me to be a leader” or even “Thank you for teaching me what it means to be on time,” then I know that my message is getting across.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope, through their experiences in band, students will learn skills that will serve them well in all walks of life. Things like responsibility, punctuality, manners, communicating, discipline, work ethic and being part of something bigger than themselves. In addition, I hope they develop a love for music so that even if they don’t continue to play, they will support live music for the rest of their lives.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

We have a phrase that we talk about all the time: “leave it better than you found it.” It isn’t mine, but we use it for more than just the obvious. If starts with things as simple as making sure we never leave a mess anywhere we go but continues with getting better every rehearsal, every performance, every year and leaving as seniors with the band program better than it was as a freshman. If everyone strives to “leave it better than they found it” the world would be a better place.

 

KENTUCKY

Stephanie S. Wallace

Western Hills High School

Frankfort, Kentucky

Total Years Teaching: 23

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is nearly impossible to choose just one proud moment, as I find my heart filled with pride almost daily by my students. But some of my proudest moments as an educator have been watching these young people grow and develop a better understanding of WHY we learn music and truly developing a love for what we do. From simply having a beautiful rehearsal where things click into place, to making all-district or all-state, becoming band directors, collegiate teachers or professional musicians, helping them set goals and work to achieve them makes me incredibly proud. I’m also proud just to watch their growth and development as young people. I observe them helping and mentoring each other, planning philanthropic activities to help others, and being leaders throughout the school every year, and it puts a big smile on my face. Lastly, watching them grow into outstanding young adults and leave our high school with plans to try to make the world a better place, some through music, the rest in other ways, always makes me very proud.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope I make a difference in students’ lives by teaching them every day to believe in themselves and dream big. I hope I can inspire them by giving them confidence that each and every one of them matters and has something to contribute to the group, to our community, and to life. I want to encourage them to be good people who are open minded and willing to help others and who try to see multiple sides of each situation before making educated opinions and decisions. I hope to help guide them to grow into young adults who appreciate the arts and value cultural differences and who have a lifelong love of music.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lessons I try to teach my students are to be yourself and love who you are. Work hard in life....things may not always come to you quickly, and life might not always be fair, but hard work will pay off! And never forget that persistence and preparation lead to confidence. Be strong...when others try to tear you down, know your own self-worth. On the same hand, build others up with kind words and support. Be kind...others will have different opinions and may express them strongly...but you don’t have to agree with someone to be nice to them. Be creative.... try to stretch out of your comfort zone as often as possible...that’s where growth happens. Lastly, laugh and smile a lot...the world needs more of that.

 

LOUISIANA

Juvon R. Pollard Sr., M.Ed.

Belaire High STEAM Magnet School

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Total Years Teaching: 12

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Although there’s many moments that I am proud of as a music educator such as helping get students music scholarships to the college of their choice, seeing musical growth in students from the time they entered our program until they leave, being featured as WBRZ make a difference story, to being named teacher of the year at both schools I’ve worked at. I’d have to say to this date one of my proudest moments was having our band selected to perform for the D Day celebration In Normandy / Paris France. Being the only band from Louisiana invited meant a lot not only to our program but the entire Belaire family and community. The opportunity to perform for such a prestigious event while giving our student musicians a cultural experience that many are not afforded with was such a blessing and one that I am most proud of as an educator.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to make a difference by not trying to impress them by what I say, but to impress upon them that through hard work and perseverance anything is possible, and that just because you start late it shouldn’t define the amount of work and effort you put in. I often use the quote “delayed doesn’t mean denied.” I want my students to see a strong leader who is passionate and caring about the individual first and cultivating the musician secondly.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson that I want to teach my students is that it’s OK to bend, just never break. I want them to understand and know that adversity comes to us all but it’s how you respond that determines the outcome. I teach in an inner-city school where students are faced with many social and economic issues and short comings. I try to always teach them that you do not have to become a part of your environment, you can be and do better in spite of.

 

MAINE

Dean Neal

Maine Central Institute

Pittsfield, Maine

Total Years Teaching: 29

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There is no singular moment which compares to the great sense of pride I have in being a part in helping music education become an integral part of the school community at Maine Central Institute. When I first began teaching at M.C.I. in 1990, music classes and ensembles were present, but they had not yet realized their great potential to influence the lives of each person in our school community. Through the joint efforts of K-12 Music Educators, parents and students, music now enjoys being a part of a vibrant arts community which impacts our school and local community in significant ways.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to give them a voice to express their thoughts, emotions, and creativity through music. Regardless of their chosen instrument be it wind, percussion, voice, piano, string or digital music creation; each student has something to say and something to share through music which is programmed for them or music which they select or create. Effective art has the ability to communicate with people in powerful ways and I am thankful to be a part of bringing that out of our students.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I have a zippered vest which I wear to school most days. On this vest is embroidered a simple three-word phrase “Work in Progress.” I want my students to know that I am a “work in progress,” they are a “work in progress,” the music we study is a “work in progress,” each class is a “work in progress,” and likewise each performance is a “work in progress.” This is not meant to convey a sense of never-ending work but rather the reality that each day brings with it new challenges and new accomplishments. It is exciting to be on the “construction team” of their “work in progress!”

 

MARYLAND

Alexander Scott

Meade Senior High School

Fort Meade, Maryland

Total Years Teaching: 8

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I find it very difficult to narrow all my proud moments as a teacher to just one single proudest moment. I think for me it’s all about inspiring students to believe that they are capable of being successful in something. Even though I’m at the high school level, I teach a lot of beginners. Many students miss out on taking music classes when they were younger or went to schools that didn’t have music programs at all. With so many varied skill levels in every ensemble, this often makes students feel self-conscious about their own ability levels. Taking those students from literally nothing to being confident and successful members (and often leaders) within the classroom always reminds me of why I choose to be a teacher.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope that my students will take away a lifelong love and appreciation for music. That’s why I offer so many varied ensembles in my program (Concert Band, Marching Band, String Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, Steel Drum Band, Jazz Band, Pep Band). My hope is that every student finds their place within the program and as a result, finds a way to develop their own unique musical identity that encourages them to go out of their way to include musical experiences in their daily lives past high school.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I hope my students take away is that it is ok to make mistakes or even to fail. We’re not perfect or robots… or perfect robots. Instead, the greater crime is to not try at all. Mistakes are how we grow, and how we learn. Many students are so afraid to fail, that they won’t take risks in the classroom that allow themselves to find success. I try to teach them that the only failure is giving up when mistakes happen. The best version of ourselves always pushes to the end.

 

MASSACHUSETTS

Lucy Colwell

Tantasqua Regional Junior High School

Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I would like to use the word fulfilling. There have been many! I would have to say the most fulfilling is performing or working with former students. I love that I can call former students for a gig, to be a clinician or guest conductor. It makes my day to see the students playing at the high school level and beyond.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Outside of instilling a love of music, a passion for playing, and the importance of sharing their gift with the community, I think I want my students to learn to make good decisions. I want them to realize that life is a journey, and they are the “captains of their own ship.” I want my students to find joy in all that they do realizing that comes from commitment and integrity.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I think an important lesson is perseverance. There is nothing more rewarding than working hard for something you want and achieving a level of success. That success could be making districts, performing a solo, starting a student run small ensemble or simply reading notes without writing them in or nailing that C scale. Individual success allows the students to be proud of their achievements and builds confidence!

 

MICHIGAN

Heather Ellenwood

Mt. Pleasant Public Schools

Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Total Years Teaching: 15

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Over my 15-year career, I’ve had many moments that have given me goosebumps. My first job was at a small rural school in Michigan. The program had had a series of directors in a short amount of time and was struggling with numbers and performance. I worked with my ensembles, taught them to practice and aim high. Our second year at District Festival my students earned the first division I rating the school had received in over 26 years and the first-ever middle school division 1 rating. This was a visible accomplishment that makes me proud and taught my students a valuable lesson about believing in themselves. On a more personal level, I’m proud of the relationships I’ve been able to build and foster with my students. From those waiting to greet me at the door, to lunchtime rehearsals, and after school conversations, having students for consecutive years allows me to connect with them more profoundly than other academic areas. I’ve given rides home, taken students on performances that took them outside the state for the first time, loaned prom dresses, attended funerals, found places for students to stay, helped with college applications, and listened to their hopes, fears, and dreams. We’ve laughed together and cried together. One year I was attending the graduation open house of my drum major. She came from a single-parent home, and I worked considerably with her on her college application and scholarship paperwork. Unknown to me, in her English class, she had to write an essay on someone who had positively affected her life. She wrote about me and all the memories of band class over the years. She displayed the essay for her guests to see. It brought me to tears as I realized that teaching music is more than stressing the notes on the page but can lead to deep personal bonds.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

As a band director, I strive to share my enthusiasm and passion for music. I believe all students should participate in the performing arts. My goal is to help foster a lifelong learning process for my students. Band provides students with the skills and tools they need to pursue life’s dreams. From personal accountability and organization, to discipline and perseverance, the skills acquired in band help students be successful in whatever career they choose. Music opens the doors of opportunity. For some students it’s a place of personal expression, for others it’s a place to belong, and for some it’s a place to shine individually. Music is a unique form of personal expression that can be something slightly different to each participant. Yet together, we create something bigger than ourselves. I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives by providing them with a solid foundation to discover and develop their identity.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Nothing is impossible with hard work. If you’re not willing to try, no one can help you. If you are determined to try, no one can stop you.

 

MINNESOTA

Jonathan S. Laflamme

Central Lakes College

Brainerd, Minnesota

Total Years Teaching: 15

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment would be the six examples of, what I affectionately call, complete students, on six of our international band tours. I have had the pleasure of taking over approximately some three hundred and fifty students abroad throughout the Caribbean, performing on cruise ships during my fourteen years as a high school band director and one year as a college music instructor. In all of the excursions, traveling connection, cultural experiences, performances, and grandiose opportunities my magnificent students exhibited stellar traits of respect, responsibility, integrity and a virtuous countenance approaching adversity and new experiences with aplomb. Every trip I witnessed students; many of whom had never been on a plane, some of whom had never left the state of Minnesota or even the county, step out of their comfort zone into an experience where they faced extreme wealth and formality on the ship contrasted with extreme poverty and corruption off of the ship in the countries we visited. Observing my students embrace an atmosphere where English-speaking white persons were a minority was among the most gratifying periods of my career thus far. I am very blessed to be able to realize that I did not have one single negative decision or behavior issue occur on any of the aforementioned trips abroad.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Making a difference in the lives of my students is the only reason I teach! Instrumental Music happens to be the vehicle that which I am blessed to do so most effectively. One of the greatest realities regarding young people is that they can easily perceive actual authenticity or the lack thereof. I love my students. I tell them so, but hopefully they know extensively and are aware of this through my actions not my words. To love is to put, in this case students, someone’s needs before oneself. I would die for my students without blinking. Furthermore, every class is a well-planned and intense session. I tell my students that I only have 181 days to make music with them and that I would never trade even one single day to instead movie or a “study-hall” for any reason…to do so would undermine the educational integrity that I am so passionate about. I put 100% of my effort into each marching, jazz or pep band, individual lesson and/or large or chamber classical/symphonic ensemble rehearsal each and every day-and I expect the same in return. I tell my students that I can recall a lesson or class when I was in high school that felt as though the content, delivery or students did not matter. I want my students to know that every second of their education is quintessentially important to me as a starting point-prior even to any content being taught.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Music is a very person subject. It is more than just playing an instrument, reading notes, dynamics, markings and rhythms, etc. It is an undertaking that requires time, fundamentals, refusing to give up or give in and an openness to share their most inside self through their instrument. The most important lesson that I teach is the following: That each student can both learn and accomplish far greater than what they “think” they can through relentless effort, refusing to give up and accepting encouragement. If I am successful in this endeavor, then my students will experience a challenge that they are not sure or even doubt whether they can accomplish it. Next, I push them with affirmation, using the title they prefer and refusing to give up or lower my standards all the while allowing as much time as necessary to accomplish this task. I usually get quite a laugh when I often state, “I would rather hear you curse the mother of all swear words then say, ‘I can’t!’” Once success is achieved, my students will have a capability of not only “surviving” an adverse journey but to “finish with resplendent valor and fortitude!” So, the next time one is tempted to doubt themselves, they can draw on, with strength, their prior successes and keep building through their formation of personhood with a great deal of confidence one who will never give up and is willing to serve their community.

 

MISSISSIPPI

Stephanie McArthur

Singing River Academy (Pascagoula-Gautier School District)

Gautier, Mississippi

Total Years Teaching: 19

What is your proudest moment as educator?

As an educator it is hard to pin point one moment that I would consider my proudest; however, several years ago, I received a phone call from a former student that I taught early in my career. The student told me that she wanted to call to let me know that she had just graduated from college and that she was going to be a teacher. She said she hoped she would be able to make a difference in the life of a child the way that I had made a difference in her life. She thanked me for not giving up on her and for never accepting anything but her best effort every day.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I want my students to know when they leave me that they have been loved. I want them to know that even though music was learned and made every day in my class, they learned so much more and that they have so much to offer our world.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is to never give up. I try to help them understand that there are going to be tough moments in their lives but how they persevere through those tough moments will determine how successful they will be. I want my students to know it is absolutely okay to fail if you have given your very best effort, but it is never okay to fail when you have put forth no effort.

 

MISSOURI

Sherry Reetz

North Callaway R-I, Auxvasse Elementary

Auxvasse, Missouri

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have a career full of proudest moments. My proudest moments come from the everyday little things in my students’ lives. I am always so proud of my students at the end of every performance, to see the culmination of weeks or months of hard work and practice come together and be able share it with our audience is still exhilarating to me after 22 years of teaching.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I want to make sure every student knows they matter! They are loved, they are important, they are here for a reason, and nothing they do is insignificant. I get to do this through music!

What is the most important lesson you try to teach your students?

I want students to know I care about them and for them to learn to care about others! I want students to remember long after they leave my classroom that they are musical people even if they aren’t out there performing and to let music enhance everyday moments. Finally, to just slow down and listen! Music is a language and a tool to help you deal with the ebb and flow of life!

 

MONTANA

Randy Zschaechner

Missoula County Public Schools

Missoula, Montana

Total Years Teaching: 13

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am fortunate to say that the proudest moment of my educational career still happens frequently. While I’ve had many instances that have made me proud, the one that makes me the proudest is when a young musician gets it. Either as an individual achieving a skill or passage for the first time or a group achieving a milestone such as playing a song through the first time, the excitement is infectious! As my predecessor would always say, it’s a special moment when the students’ “eyes click” and you can tell they get it!

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I always hope that my class is a place that students feel comfortable and want to go. Often times school can be a place that students go to learn what they can’t do (and then have to retest on that skill until they demonstrate proficiency); I always hope my classroom is a place that students go to learn what they can do and how to always take another step. I always tell the students that you never hear of someone going to “work music,” rather you hear them say they’re going to “play music.” Why? Because it’s fun!

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Early in my career I approached my class each day with the intent of creating professional musicians. I focused my time and energy focusing on technical skills and development. After a couple years of evaluation (both of myself and of my classes) I realized that 99% of my students were going to go on in a professional career other than music. It was at this point that I decided the focus of my classroom was to educate students in teamwork, professionalism, dedication, and perseverance through the vehicle of instrumental music. Oddly enough, the moment I made this choice the level of my groups drastically improved.

 

NEBRASKA

Rick Mitchell

Kearney High School

Kearney, Nebraska

Total years tTeaching: 25

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am proud to make music with the students of Kearney High School every day. However, there is one moment that stands out in my memory. There was a point that we had not received a Superior rating at our state marching contest for almost a decade. In 2015 the seniors and the student leaders determined to achieve that goal. We worked together to establish a plan and they executed it during the entire season with all of their hearts. Seeing the joy and emotion when they achieved their goal is a moment I will never forget.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

In my teaching I always strive to draw out the best in my students. From the All-State student to the “warm body” in the room each kid has it in them to be better musicians, leaders, and individuals than they are currently. The difference I hope to make is to give them a vision of all they could be in order to propel them to greater success, music or otherwise, in their lives.

What’s the most important lesson you try to teach your students?

It’s difficult to narrow this down to just one lesson. Of course, instilling a love of making music and the ability to do so for the rest of their lives is important. It is also important to teach them to always work as hard as they can to achieve at the highest level possible. But if I could leave them with only one thing it would be to be good to each other because they have the ability to greatly impact the people in their lives.

 

NEVADA

Dr. Curtis Melton

Legacy High School

North Las Vegas, Nevada

Total Years Teaching: 14

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are countless moments that have happened over my years of teaching thus far, but I believe my proudest moment(s) simply are seeing my students grow, improve, succeed, and just seeing them simply happy when we’re all together. I try my best to make the band program a place that the students love, a place they know they can always go to, a place that they can share a love of playing music together, and of course, a place where they look out for one another and care for one another throughout life. I am always proud of the people they become during their time in my program. Proud doesn’t begin to express the true admiration I have of the students I have had so far at Legacy High School. They have changed my life.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I just want my students to know that they will ALWAYS have me in their corner cheering them on with anything they do, whether it is band-related or life-related. I want them to know that I will always care about them while always pushing them to be their best. I just hope that for their time with me they take away a passion for not only music, but for being their best in school, work, and life; because the lessons I try to instill in them go far beyond my band room.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Being good at what you do can also be fun. Striking a balance between having fun and working hard is important in any endeavor in life. My students and I know how to have fun and enjoy each other’s sense(s) of humor, but when it comes to rehearsals and performances, they always step up to the plate and always take the work we do seriously.

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Ron Goodwin

Spaulding High School

Rochester, New Hampshire

Total Years Teaching: 9

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I think I’m most proud of the various opportunities that I’ve worked hard to bring to my students that have helped them to grow in their performance ability and also as individuals. The establishment of a group and private lesson program with student instructors from the University of New Hampshire was a landmark event for our program, as well as the development of a very active and engaged percussion studio through ensemble work and a specifically-tailored curriculum. In the end the pride comes most from seeing the students’ accomplishments and eventually having the opportunity to work with some of them as college students and/or colleagues.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Simply by sharing with them what I have learned, what I love, and what I have experienced in my life, which of course includes some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. In so doing I hope that some can emulate any successes I may have had while avoiding some of the failures. To give students that shoulder to lean on, and to lend an ear to what’s going on in their lives builds the kind of rapport and trust that is crucial in helping them to grow. Whatever field they choose, I can only hope that they will grow far beyond anything I may have achieved to this point.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Well, of course I’d absolutely love it if all of my students went on to become performers, music educators, composers, musicologists and the like, but honestly my biggest concern as a music educator is making sure that, regardless of their future path, I help them to become the best version of themselves that they possibly can be by instilling in them a love of music and a sense of responsibility, kindness, honesty, perseverance, work ethic, teamwork, and acceptance of others - regardless of their differences. Those are the types of lessons that I think can make a person universally successful in life.

 

NEW JERSEY

Kim Nimmo

East Brook and West Brook Middle Schools

Paramus, New Jersey

Total Years Teaching: 9

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I find it impossible to select one moment. Some of my proudest moments are witnessing the musical and personal growth of some of my very first students as they graduate high school and enter college. Some of my other proudest moments are seeing former and current students perform together in Region and All State ensembles, Youth Symphony performances, and various concerts and events.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I truly hope that all of my students know that I care about them and that I want to do my best to help them grow into incredible people who can accomplish amazing things. I enjoy having my classroom feel like home for my students. They stop by whenever they have a moment to say hello, ask to stay for extra lessons, or stop by to tell me about their lives. I’m very happy that my classroom is a safe space for my students.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Music is an important part of your life, but orchestra teaches more important life lessons such as responsibility, being accountable for your actions, and being an integral part of a community.

 

NEW MEXICO

Matt Casarez

Rio Rancho High School

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Total Years Teaching: 15

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator is always our end of year banquet. It is always a joy to reflect on the year and remember our growth and accomplishments. It is also remarkable to look upon the senior class and see how far they have grown as musicians and as people. The smiles and tears from the students and parents are an affirmation that their journey through the band program has given them something special that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives in several different ways. Band gives them a place to feel safe and comfortable. Having to kick kids out at the end of the day is always a good sign! Whether it be marching band, color guard, jazz band, or concert band, you must develop some form of discipline. Students who are in the band program can take that discipline and use in any other situation in their lives. Lastly, I hope that every student can walk away with a lifelong love of music regardless of what career path they end up following.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson that I try and teach my students is to be good people. With the way the world is today, this is sometimes the hardest obstacle. Having to work together for a common goal every day in band helps these young students learn to work out their differences, learn to compromise, and learn that a disagreement doesn’t mean that hateful words have to be used.

 

NEW YORK

Kristen Terreri

Fredonia CSD (Elementary, Middle, High)

Fredonia, New York

Total Years Teaching: 9

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are countless moments I am incredibly proud of my students during a typical day of instruction. The “aha” moments I witness from students when overcoming a challenge in their playing, expressing fulfillment and pride after a musical performance, or sharing how their membership in orchestra has enriched their lives, serve as moments I cherish and celebrate as their teacher. Furthermore, these moments inspire me to continue to evolve my teaching to provide a high-quality musical experience for my students.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I feel strongly that music instruction fosters resilience, well-being, and a sense of belonging during the school day. The content we teach can be transformative for students who may be experiencing challenges at home or in school. Ultimately, I always hope students will continue to find the joy in making music in some capacity upon graduation.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I strive to both teach and model for my students is, music has the power to help us be better people. Additionally, the learning is never “finished” as musicians, and I hope students are inspired to engage in music making beyond their time as members of the orchestra program.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

Windy B. Fullagar

Alexander Graham Middle School

Charlotte, North Carolina

Total Years Teaching: 24

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment is not just one moment, it occurs every time I see a child’s face light up in reaction to music. For some children, band is the one thing that drives them to attend school; it’s those children, those whose home lives are not as easy as the rest of the world, that make my job the most gratifying. If I can reach them and get them hooked into music, perhaps maybe, I’ve given them a tool to relieve stress, process strong emotions and an outlet for expression.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope through band, I can offer opportunities for students to try something different, to step out of their comfort zones, to build confidence and express themselves in a new way.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I hope that in my time with students, that I offer them the skills needed to be great musicians but more than that; I want them to be incredible humans. Humans who care for one another, work together with others, humans who know it’s ok to make mistakes but to learn from them, that confidence is the only battle that we need to win.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Chris Dasovick

Century High School

Bismarck, North Dakota

Total Years Teaching: 16

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I’ve been fortunate to share several memorable moments with students throughout my career. These include multiple performances at state and regional music conventions, welcoming home numerous Veteran’s Honor Flights, tours across the country, and performing for Miss America. It has also been very gratifying to witness many former students join the profession over the years and become successful colleagues. However, my proudest moments as an educator are when I see students work hard to achieve levels of success far greater than they thought were possible for them.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

It’s my hope that their experience in band provides our students with the necessary skills to become positive, hard-working, and productive members of society – regardless of their profession. I hope that all students graduating from our program recognize the positive effects being a member of band had on their emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and physical well-being. And, I hope that their participation in the band program encourages them to help ensure future generations of students are afforded the same or better opportunities to make music than they had.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I think that there are several life lessons we all try to impart to our students. But, for me, two stand out. The first is that I want students to understand the value of hard work. Because, to be successful at anything requires consistent daily work and discipline. Secondly – and more importantly – I want my students to recognize how important they are to our band family. I want them to understand that each individual and the contributions they bring are incredibly valuable to the overall success of our groups. And, I want them to know that they are respected, valued, and appreciated.

 

OHIO

Carl Soucek

Carroll High School

Dayton, Ohio

Total Years Teaching: 19

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I find a great deal of pride in watching students continue their musical pursuits after they finish high school. So often music is more a hobby than a passion. It’s amazing to see the fire in young adults that inspires them to be better musicians, and in some cases, teachers themselves. Throughout the years, I have often heard from graduates who have gone on to perform professionally or have found themselves in a classroom of their own. I was thrilled when a former student came to teach alongside me at Carroll, and I’m proud to know that I played a small part in his choice to become an educator.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Every day, the young men and women in our band program face challenges big and small, not only related to the music that we play, but in their relationships with others. I try to give students the confidence to conquer any challenge that comes their way. I want each and every student to know that they have the power to be great in any facet of life, no matter what adversity might come their way.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Treat others with respect and kindness. As a staff, we strive to make the learning environment fair and respectful. This is a huge part of the philosophy in my program, and it has fostered the growth of a positive learning community.

 

OKLAHOMA

Kendal Hasty

Madill Public Schools

Madill, Oklahoma

Total Years Teaching: 10 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Some of my proudest moments as an educator occur when my students do something, they don’t believe they can do. Like all teachers, I hate it when my students say they “can’t” do this this or “can’t” do that. However, I really enjoy watching a student, with just a little time and/or effort; prove themselves wrong, and many times all I have to do is just encourage them to make an attempt. I am also extremely proud of the growth of the band program in Madill, from the explosion in the number students in the program, to the construction of a new band facility, to the increased pride and support from our community.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to make a difference in lives of my students by providing them great experiences and memories they can cherish for a lifetime. I would like my students to be able to look back on their years in band, and be proud of their accomplishments, and know their contributions helped take the organization to the next level. I hope my students leave the band program knowing that they are important and that they can accomplish amazing things through hard work, teamwork, and dedication.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I hope my students learn, is that with enough passion, persistence, and perspiration, that they can accomplish anything. To be successful, one must be driven, willing to put in the time, and roll up their sleeves and go to work. The work may not always be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

 

OREGON

Noelle Freshner

St. Helens High School

St. Helens, Oregon

Total Years Teaching: 15

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I struggle to answer this question. How can anyone pick just one moment? I feel like my students and I have had many rewarding experiences with each other over the years. I have been fortunate to be in the position of being the only band teacher in our district until just this year. That means that I get to meet my kiddos the first time as tiny crazy little 6th graders, and then watch them grow and learn, day after day and year after year. Everything we do as an ensemble is a culmination of those years of working together. There is nothing cooler than that!

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to be someone my students can rely on; an adult in their lives that they know they can trust and who cares about them. I hope they know that I will go above and beyond to advocate for them when they need it.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

In our bands, we often talk about pushing ourselves to work hard, so that in the end we look back with no regrets. We start on time; we do not waste time and we do not take it easy or take days off. It is never “good enough,” and you can always push to be better. When they go out on the stage/floor/field and perform, their performance is a reflection of the planning, hard work, time, and energy that they have put into it. I hope they carry that kind of work ethic into their own lives and careers.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Drew Reynolds

Octorara Intermediate School

Atglen, Pennsylvania

Total Years Teaching: 17

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My students make me proud every day because every day they are choosing to make music. Probably my most proud moment came when I had a parent teacher conference with a student who was really struggling, not just with band but many aspects of school, but whom I absolutely loved working with. At the end of the meeting the Mom looked at me and said, “you really believe that any student can do this don’t you” and then proceeded in giving me a huge hug. It was heartwarming to me that music could provide this young student with such a positive outlet.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

For myself, the biggest musical impact on my life came through my church and having opportunities to participate and play my trumpet on a regular basis. As a teacher the difference I want to make for my students is giving them as many performance opportunities as possible. I want my students to know that music should always be shared and that we cannot be selfish with our musical abilities and talents.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I think the most important lesson is for students to realize that music is not just limited to school but is available for everyone at any point in their life. Myself and my band colleague perform regularly with community bands and orchestras and we want our students to know that musical opportunities exist at all points of life, for everyone. I want my students to know that even if they don’t pursue music as a career it can still be an important part of their lives.

 

RHODE ISLAND

Gregory Arsenault

Cranston High School East

Cranston, Rhode Island

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am proudest when my students accomplish their goals by striving to be the best they can be and going above and beyond what they thought they could do. This past marching band season we competed on a very windy night in Danbury, Connecticut for the USBands NE Regional Championship. The band and color guard performed in adverse weather conditions. Flags were difficult to toss, and our fedora hats were blowing off the kids’ heads. They put on the best performance of the year and I was incredibly proud of their dedication and professionalism to performing their show.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to teach students to work together for common goals, to be a team player, and that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Performance arts give us a unique opportunity to engage students in authentic learning in a safe community of like-minded individuals working together to create works of art.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I want to teach students how to be excellent. Not just excellence in music but excellence in whatever they choose to do in life. Music is the vehicle that I use to teach my students how to be great people who understand how the arts can positively affect their communities.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

Danielle Carlson

Allegro Charter School of Music

Charleston South Carolina

Total Years Teaching: 4

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

In 2015, I was fresh out of college and accepted my first teaching position with the Allegro Charter School of Music, which also marked the first year that Allegro opened its doors. Being one of the first music teachers, I was fortunate enough to help design the curriculum, arrange the classrooms, and develop the music ensembles from the ground up. For the first year, my band class had a total of nine musician: ranging from beginner, to students who have been playing their instrument for four-plus years. After developing a strong relationship with the students at our small school and encouraging them to join the program, the band rapidly grew. Four years later (and with the help and guidance from our dedicated principal and staff members), I am fortunate and proud to see that the band has flourished to 53 musicians and counting.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope that band gives my students a strong sense of strength, teamwork, accountability, dedication, and a family that they can always turn to. I strive to teach them that band is a place where we learn to work together towards a common goal, compromise, deal with conflict, overcome disappointment, celebrate success, and comfort each other in times of sorrow. My hope is that the students will look back on their middle and high school years and view the band room to be a place of consistency: a place where we feel that we can succeed each time we walk through the doors.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The mission of the Allegro Charter School of Music is to produce inspired thinkers and creative members of society through the infusion of music into an academically challenging environment. Music teachers and core teachers collaborate to create lessons that incorporate musical aspects so that students can make the connection between the subjects and understand how to use their new knowledge throughout their lives. Music is a universal language and a gift. The importance of extending this gift to others outside of our school community is something I hope to continue to teach successfully. If they choose to use the same skills and values that they learned as a musician, the world may someday be a better place because of them.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

Michael Hench

Roosevelt High School

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Total Years Teaching: 19

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments as an educator are the moments when a student “gets it.” The moment a student achieves something they didn’t think they could and then wants to learn and grow more. Realizing that my guidance made their growth possible is very rewarding.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope that the skills, habits and self-discipline that the students in my band program develop will help them face any challenges they have in life. I hope that music will give them a gift they can have with them their entire life, weather it is an appreciation or as an active performer.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I want students to understand is how to achieve excellence. I want them to understand how they need to invest in something if they wish to achieve more than the average person. I believe this lesson can transfer to all areas of their life.

 

TENNESSEE

Sherie Grossman

Mt. Juliet High School

Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

Total Years Teaching: 16

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had many proud moments, from former student successes to the current student playing a passage for the first time correctly. But something that makes me very proud is the startup and success of the Orchestra program at Mt. Juliet High School. It is the only Orchestra program in Wilson County, and I’m amazed at the students’ progress.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I try hard to open as many doors of opportunity to my students by encouraging them to audition for outside music groups, take lessons, and bring in guests to work with them. I want them to be inspired and instructed by more than just me, and to have unique experiences in their music careers. I also want them to have high expectations and reach further than they think they can.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I try to instill a love for music and a feeling of camaraderie within my students. I know they all won’t be professional musicians in the future, but I hope they will be consumers of music, appreciating all genres. I also teach them that this is the one and only time their particular group of people will ever get to create art together. Every group is unique, and we all need to appreciate that uniqueness.

 

TEXAS

Rodney D. Bennett

Olney High School

Olney, Texas

Total Years Teaching: 37

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have a multitude of moments over my 37 years in music education: The joy in the eyes and on the faces of students when they have had a fantastic performance, both in the concert hall and with the marching band.

Awe and ecstasy as student see their named posted after being selected to the All-State Band.

Pride in watching more experienced students teaching and working with other students in one-on-one or sectional situations.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope that my students will learn discipline, pride, commitment, compassion, a sense of family, work ethic, self-worth, tenacity, and so many other life skills. Most of all, I want them to be good citizens and great people.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson taught to my students is that winning a trophy or medals, or a championship is not the most important thing; rather, the day-to-day journey of working toward the goal of musical excellence far exceeds any tangible reward or award.

 

UTAH

Jenni Perkins

Albion Middle School

Sandy, Utah

Total Years Teaching: 14

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator is seeing the progress my students make. I love that I get to have them in my class for three years and see where they started and where they are when they leave me. It is so rewarding to see the student who struggled to play anything in their first few months work hard and play amazing improv solos by the time they move on to high school.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to make a difference in my students lives by pushing them to do their best and by being there for them. I don’t believe in letting them settle for anything less than their personal best. I think every student needs an advocate for them that won’t give up on them and wants to see them reach their potential, and I hope I am that person to my students

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I think the most important lesson I try to teach my students is the importance of putting hard work and effort into anything they do in their lives, not just music. I had a college band director who used to say, “anything great takes: time, patience, perseverance, dedication, and discipline.” In a time where a lot of things come easily to my students, I want them to learn the importance of working hard to make a great product and the pride that comes from that experience.

 

VERMONT

Neil Freebern

Burr and Burton Academy

Manchester, Vermont

Total Years Teaching: 26

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

For 26 years, I have taught alongside my wife Julie, who has helped me become the educator that I am today. The pride I feel as a teacher usually appears at the times where Julie and I are working in collaboration with our students. Because we shared a similar education, I can see the lessons from our mentors pass through us and on to the next generation. We act like a conduit adding our own insights into the lessons we have learned. When we see the pride in our students’ eyes, there is a confirmation that the lessons may now live on through them. When the student begins to pay it forward and share their learning, you know the cycle will continue long after we are gone. The pride of seeing my daughter begin to pay it forward has been truly a gift.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

When I first got into teaching, I don’t think I was looking to make a difference in students’ lives. Intellectually sure, but in reality, I think I was more interested in creating a great concert or performance. As I got more experienced, I began to see students more as people and quickly learned that to make a difference for someone, you need to give them the right tools for them to make the difference for themselves. Change comes from changing the way you look at things. It comes from the ability to think about your thinking and a willingness to take the risk. I know the value of music in one’s life. Can I use music to help you know yourself better? Can music connect you to others? Music can reveal a great deal when you take the time to look.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Through music, we must learn to live in the moment, be present, and quiet the mind in an effort to truly become musically expressive. The mental noise that we create can hinder our ability to bring music to life. We must learn to get past the technical challenges of our instruments and the demands of our ego so that we can connect with others through our music. This connection is precious and is a gift that can be experienced through the organized sound and silence we call music.

 

VIRGINIA

Jeremy West

Marion Senior High School/Marion Middle School

Marion, Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 4 months

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

A students’ mother passed away earlier this year and the whole band was heartbroken. She was a loyal band parent and would bend over backwards to ensure that all students had what they needed regardless of their home lives or financial troubles. When she passed the band wanted to honor her memory the best way we knew how. We rehearsed for less than three days on an arrangement of “Amazing Grace.” When it came time for the visitation the band was there in full force to pay respect, and to honor her memory as a mother to the band. Through this, my students were able to experience first-hand how music can be used as a healing agent, and as a force that can unite people regardless of the situation.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

I hope to instill into my students’ passion. Too often I see people who settle and put in the bare minimum to get by. My students see this attitude every single day, and I want to make it a priority to show my students that they don’t have to settle. I want my students to see that passion, and a desire to do more than is asked of them, is a character trait that speaks volumes about who they are and can massively impact their lives.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

The most important lesson I teach my students is to push past your mistakes. I feel that in music students are often too consumed with the perfection of their performance. I have numerous students who get incredibly upset as soon as they miss a single note. I am working to have them understand that mistakes are mistakes and you move past them. The music won’t stop just for you, and neither will life. Don’t get bogged down with imperfections or small issues. Acknowledge that the mistake was made and keep going!

 

WASHINGTON

Brandon Nelson

Oak Harbor High School

Oak Harbor, Washington

Total Years Teaching: 5 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

The first time I turned a life around. Arthur (fake name) had been abandoned by his teachers and was being bullied based on his race. He was beginning to not complete his school work and was getting into fights. Against the recommendations of my colleagues, I gave Arthur time, attention, and leadership responsibilities. In 18 months, he became an ideal student, and the head of the music department even awarded him with “Most Improved.” My moment of pride was after the ceremony, when Arthur found me and said “You are the reason I got this. You deserve it,” and gave me the pin he had just received. I have since changed schools and states, but I still have that pin.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

My mission is to teach students how to become successful, responsible, and happy adults, regardless of their career path, through music. Music education is a conduit through which I address performance skills, mental health management, practical science, leadership, and how to hone a craft. I strive to be an example of a healthy adult; demonstrating focused practice, healthy social relationships, and defying adversity by living strong and making music despite my physical disability. Hopefully, one of these things will make a difference in a students’ life.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” -Abraham Lincoln. Through the teaching practices I mentioned in the previous answer, I am trying to teach kids how to find themselves. I feel I have succeeded if a kid can tell me what about themselves, they can be proud of, while still setting ambitious (but reasonable) goals and holding themselves to high standards. It is always funny how shocked students look when I tell them, “I am not here to make professional musicians,” but eventually they learn that all I want to see them become is professional adults.

 

WEST VIRGINIA

Greg James

Richwood High School/ Richwood Middle School

Richwood, West Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 44

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

In the summer of 2016, our school and community were destroyed by torrential flooding. Our band room, our uniforms, our instruments—not to mention the homes and lives of many students and colleagues—were devastated. As cleanup efforts began, it was heartwarming to see the multitudes of band alumni, parents, relatives, and friends who rallied around the program to ensure that our band would “bounce back” from the disaster.

During the recovery efforts, multiple generations of band alumni joined together to raise money, rebuild, clean, and share fond memories. Many credited their successes in life to skills that were learned and developed during their time as band members. Several spoke of performing at parades and sporting events across the country such as the Gator Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the Indianapolis 500 as highlights of their lives. Others recalled performing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, and other professional sporting events as their fondest memories. As a director, it was gratifying to see these former students who had moved on to great successes in a wide variety of vocational fields come together to support an organization that had given them so many opportunities.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

With many students coming from low-income homes and impaired family situations, I want my students to experience being part of something that is successful. My goal is to open doors that are sometimes closed to students from isolated, rural areas. My students understand that there are exciting opportunities available to them regardless of their environmental limitations. We work to build relationships through teamwork and perseverance. I want them to develop leadership skills, responsibility, tolerance, and financial management skills so that they can achieve success after graduating. Band is SO much more than making music together!

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Students need to be proud of their accomplishments. They also need to take pride in the success of the overall organization. Students must feel that they belong—that they a part of something much greater than themselves. By establishing ownership and responsibility, my students build skills that will enable them to achieve success throughout their lives and to help them grow into strong, capable individuals who will contribute positively and productively to society. My students realize that their opinion is valued and are not afraid to stand up for their beliefs.

 

WISCONSIN

Nathan J.W. Pierce

Milton High School

Milton, Wisconsin

Total Years Teaching: 20

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Some of my proudest moments as an educator are when students who have graduated come back to school, be it during our summer marching band rehearsals, or just to drop in when they are back home and stop in to chat with me and let me know what they are up to. Because of the personal connections that I try to make with my students, they like to keep me informed as to what they are doing in their lives, and I am always proud of seeing what successful people they have all become.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

One of the most important aspects in education both today and in the future is building positive personal relationships with each of your students. These relationships are built knowing that at all times the teacher has the students’ best interests at heart and will do anything to provide the tools and opportunities so that student they can be successful. Not everything will come easy and each setback that the student experiences can be used as a teachable moment so that he or she can learn and grow.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

I strive to instill in each of my students an understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of music that will serve them for a lifetime. In addition, I try to teach them “real-life” skills that will enable them to be successful in whatever avenue they choose to pursue with their lives after they leave high school. I treat my students with respect, and I earn their respect in return by having clear expectations and by holding every student equally accountable for their actions. The daily lessons that students learn in my classroom transfer to other areas of both their academic and personal lives and help them to become better students and better people.

 

WYOMING

Brandon Schumacher

Johnson Junior High/South High School

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Total Years Teaching: 11

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I enjoy every moment I spend with students so narrowing my proudest moment down to one instance is nearly impossible. An experience that stands out for me is when a former student finished his first-year teaching and sent me a text message thanking me for my guidance and for “being one of the biggest reasons for wanting to become a band director.” One of the most rewarding parts of being a teacher is seeing students succeed outside of my classroom and beyond high school. Having students use skills that they learned in my class and throughout life to pursue their personal goals brings me so much joy.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Every day I come to work to teach music, but my ultimate goal is to teach students to become decent human beings and to guide them reach their goals. I strive to build strong relationships and show them how much I care. Many of my students come from difficult situations, and my goal is to help them develop ownership for their learning. I work to build an appreciation for education and show them they can accomplish anything with a strong work ethic.

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

Beyond the music, I want them to know that if they are kind to others, work hard and set goals, they can achieve anything.



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