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SBO's 14th annual "50 Director's Who Make a Difference" report features an array of outstanding educators whose incredible diversity in style, geography, and demographic setting mirrors the similarly wide range of thriving music programs throughout the country.  From the founders of focused elementary string programs like Elva Jean Bolin in Aurora, Colorado to the directors of large-scale, perennial champion marching bands such as Barry Trobaugh of Tennessee's Munford High School, this report aims to celebrate this diversity while also shedding light on some of the common values and philosophies held by a representative sampling of exceptional music educators.

Responding to questions about teaching philosophy, making a difference in students' lives, and the most important lesson they've learned in their careers as educators, the directors, instructors, and teachers who make up the 2011 "50 Directors Who Make a Difference" present an uplifting mosaic of school music programs nationwide.

 

ALABAMA
Steve McLendon
Dothan High School
Dothan
Years at School: 25
Total Years Teaching: 35
Students in Music Program: 145

Teaching philosophy:
I love music. My goal as a music educator is to share that passion and love for music. Through music I hope to help each student I teach be a better musician, appreciate music more, improve their self discipline, and build on their self esteem.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I hope I’ve instilled a level of discipline with the band that helps them make better decisions and be better people throughout their lives. I hope I can lead them to be better friends, better spouses, and great citizens.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Never say Never! You have to take one day at a time, be prepared, and make the most of the moment.

ALASKA
Stan Harris
Palmer High School
Palmer
Years at School: 29
Total Years Teaching: 36
Students in Music Program: 120

Teaching Philosophy: 
My philosophy is simply that all students need and deserve to have experience in creating and performing music.

Music performance is the only activity that I know of that requires use of your intellect, physical coordination and stamina, and emotional involvement in order to be successful. Add the element of teamwork and responsibility to each other that playing in a band or orchestra involves and you have the whole package. It is no wonder that people with instrumental music experience are highly prized and usually successful in the fields they aspire to. I try to give my students a well-rounded quality experience where they can feel successful and proud of their accomplishments.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I think my students come away from my program feeling like they have grown intellectually, artistically, and emotionally. The experiences in music and the broad range of performance opportunities we offer should give them a strong sense of self worth and the ability to work with others toward a goal. It is my hope that I have helped prepare them to be successful in life. I also hope that I have inspired a lifelong love of the arts. I think my students generally leave our department with a more open mind about musical styles and a broader sense of the world.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that the more my students learn, the more I learn. As my teaching skills have improved over the years it has made me a better musician and continually opened new doors for my own development. t was a joke when I was growing up that those who perform, perform and those that can’t teach. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have been a professional musician for longer than I have been a teacher and I can tell you that they complement each other perfectly. I have also found that I personally need both. While I love to perform, I love seeing the progress in my students just as much or more.

ARIZONA
Melanie Britton
Sandra Day O’Connor High School
Phoenix
Years at School: 10
Total Years Teaching: 21
Students in Music Program: 242

Teaching Philosophy: 
My philosophy on teaching is “do what you love – love what you do!” I am blessed with the best job a person could have because I truly love music and I truly enjoy the teenagers I work with. Encouraging teamwork, demanding excellence, and developing leadership skills among my students and showing them how discipline and hard work truly do pay off in life are the best lessons I can relay. What I teach my students goes far beyond the skills of musicianship, which is an expectation. I want them to have the skills necessary for life, and the best part of this is that they are having fun while doing it. I want them to care deeply about each other and that in life it really isn’t just about the individual, it is about the relationships we build with one another. I teach life skills through music and make it a point to give each student a positive experience, so that in the end they will seek a work environment where they are able to “do what they love – and love what they do”!

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I positively impact my students’ lives by giving them an environment in which they will flourish. It doesn’t matter if they are not the most popular student in school or not seen as an athlete, because everyone in my class knows and feels they are part of a team that is recognized as outstanding throughout the state and nation. We have a blast together because I am a part of the team as well, not just someone who stands on the sidelines. We all integrate together to reach our goals and we know we need each other to be successful. My students know I care deeply for them and show genuine concern and compassion for what they are going through in life. I appreciate their hard work and dedication and consider it an honor to be with my students while we experience life together each and every day.

My students participate in numerous activities that teach about the diversity of each person’s personality and characteristics of how they handle themselves in different scenarios. They learn to appreciate and accept that not everyone will act the same and how to have patience with one another when under stress. This is also important because they learn how to trust one another, and trust is hard to come by. Once they learn this they appreciate each other so much more, and can express themselves so much deeper, not only as musicians, but especially as people.

I encourage my students to strive for excellence in all they do. Average is ordinary, but going above and beyond your comfort zone is extraordinary. It is important that each student wonder, “What will my legacy be?” I guess the reality is that my students are really the one’s that make a difference in my life and I feel responsible for making sure they have the best high school experience possible so I fully embrace my position as a leader in their life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Every child matters! We all experience those students who in the first week we feel will be our problem child, but as we watch the magic of what band does to children we see their lives change. Being blessed to have most of my students for four years I have been blown away by the growth these kids go through – from awkward to extraordinary. And all it takes is patience, respect, patience, humor, patience and great student leadership to help these kids exceed potentials that they may never have even dreamed of.

The reality is you have to have passion for teaching. I never underestimate the difference I make in my students’ lives by saying hello, smiling, and wishing them a good day, or congratulating them on their accomplishments. I know so many of these kids wouldn’t even come to school if it weren’t for band. Most students and their parents may never know the hours spent preparing meaningful lesson plans, the energy it takes to present these lessons, write and design marching band shows, grading and the “oh so dreaded paperwork” in our profession – so we can’t dwell on that. If I were to give any advice it would be: Give your full energy to positively influence your students’ lives each and every day. Care about what they are going through in life, connect with them through humor and stories, and make their time in school uplifting. Then, when you go home exhausted, you know you did your best. You were a positive force in a child’s life. I know I am and I am honored to be a teacher!

ARKANSAS
Karen Dismuke
North Pulaski High School
Jacksonville
Years at School: 23
Total Years Teaching: 30
Students in Music Program: 90

I believe that every student can learn something. I believe in teaching my students life lessons using music as a vehicle. Not all of my students will become professional musicians or teachers, but they will become adults. I want them to become good citizens. I feel that it is a big part of my job to teach them teamwork, character, confidence, humility, responsibility, to show respect and to be respectable.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I believe in my students. I push them past their limits to higher goals. I operate my classroom on the three Ds (discipline, dedication, and determination) with physically, mentally, and musically demanding instruction. The success of our program has taught them to have pride in all they do. Whether they become doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses or stay-at-home moms or dads, they have learned character skills to help them realize their potential and to become responsible, successful and caring adults.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
I have learned that sometimes I am the only adult who cares about some of the students that I teach. What I do or say and how I do it or say it affects some kids to their core. I am responsible for making them feel good about what they are doing and proud of who they are. I am responsible for making them strive to do their best and to be their best. My words may be the ones that save them or condemn them.

CALIFORNIA
Ami Garvin
Suzanne Middle School
Walnut
Years at School: 10
Total Years Teaching: 14
Students in Music Program: 490

Teaching Philosophy:
I strive to nurture in my students an excitement for learning in conjunction with the State and National Standards for Visual & Performing Arts and to provide a positive atmosphere that fosters creativity and musical excellence. My ultimate goal is that students exit their middle school experience with a greater appreciation of music and art, a desire to continue participation in music, and the ability to interact with a changing world.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I’m committed to delivering more than just music education. I want my students to use music as a way to get to know themselves and develop team-building and leadership skills, as well as an understanding of social dynamics and empathy. I accomplish this through “Edutainment”– teaching and motivating students using analogies and stories.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
When students know you believe in them and their potential for greatness, they will move worlds to create amazing results.

COLORADO
Elva Jean Bolin
Peoria Elementary School
Aurora
Years at School: 14
Total Years Teaching: 42 
Students in Music Program: 73 

Teaching Philosophy:
Education is about teaching kids, not presenting curriculum or lesson plans. Teaching is about the student, not about the teacher. Learning is a process, not a product. Every child can learn, but not all learn at the same rate and in the same manner. Often the kid who struggles the most in the process has the concept learned more completely at the end than the one to whom it comes instantly. The teacher needs to use different ways to present a concept to the students because some students are visual learners, some aural learners, some kinesthetic learners. We, as teachers, need to break out of our own comfort zone to address different learning styles. Students who are successful have a lot that they can share about the process of their own learning. Teachers need to remember that we preparing students for their future and not for our own past.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
The Peoria Violin Program began in 2000 with a grant from TEXACO for $10,000 and a donation of eight violins from the Colorado Youth Instrumental Program. In 2001, when I received the Channel 7 Everyday Hero Award For the Violin Program, Berger Fund donated money for 12 more violins. Several individuals also donated violins. The Peoria PTO and two area music stores have helped us purchase more violins. Today we have 70 violins in six different sizes. We have 73 students enrolled and 25 on a waiting list.

The program is designed to provide a violin and free violin lessons for each interested student in our low-income neighborhood school. Students may continue violin until they complete twelfth grade. Several advanced violin students currently assist me in teaching the beginners. This is how I began to teach. And I always remember that if I had not had a free violin and free lessons at my elementary school, I would not be a violinist today.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
Whatever you do, do it with enthusiasm!

CONNECTICUT
Carmalyn Buleje Cook
John C. Daniels School
New Haven
Years at School: 21
Total Years Teaching: 21
Students in Music Program: 475

Teaching Philosophy: 
All children can thrive and feel proud of their accomplishments in the music classroom. It is my job to know my students and offer a varied curriculum so each child can feel successful.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
By taking advantage of what is available to these children, I have opened them up to many new experiences. Every year we put on a musical, perform in our community, attend concerts at Yale University and go to Carnegie Hall for the LINK UP program.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I have learned so much about the varied backgrounds and cultures of my students and their families. It has enriched my life and expanded my world.

DELAWARE
James F. Tharp
Cab Calloway School of the Arts
Wilmington
Years at School: 21
Total Years Teaching: 25
Students in Music Program: 150

Teaching Philosophy:
All of my students have something to contribute to the ensemble and all of my students need to have a creative and performing outlet. Not only does participation in music engage vast amounts of brain power, it also satisfies the emotional connection the students need to make with each other as both performers and cooperative learners.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I hope to make a difference basically by giving them a place to belong, where they are important and their contributions are important. A place that is safe yet challenging. And by constantly asking them to give more in the way of performance they learn that they can achieve any goal they choose to pursue.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
Students really do want the challenge and the discipline that it takes to perform at a high level, and even though the journey is not as always comfortable or fun, the results are clearly worth the effort. My students always seem to rise to the occasion.

FLORIDA
Robert Schaer
Lakewood Ranch High School
Lakewood
Years at School: 14
Total Years Teaching: 35
Students in Music Program: 260

Teaching Philosophy: 
I have always tried to engage, inspire and encourage growth through music performance. It is my desire to instill in my students a love for music and performing music. Through all this I have also tried to work, teach, and exemplify the many life skills needed to succeed in today’s society.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I think that music performance has made a difference in my students lives. In this era of instant gratification through a click of the mouse, many students have lost contact with the ability to work hard to achieve and attain high goals. We always set the bar high in our performing ensembles and I think our kids understand that working hard is what is going to make them successful as they move on with their lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
My most important lesson has been, without a doubt, patience. It seems I never give up on a child.

GEORGIA
Peter Lemonds
Duluth High School
Duluth
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 28
Students in Orchestra: 280

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe the music classes we teach would be better described in the course catalogue as The Study of Excellence 101. Music is simply the medium we use to teach not only music skills but the intangible tools that will make students successful in their life in whatever obstacles they may face. Teaching students to express themselves is a far more valuable life skill than anything we can teach them about music.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
Students often come back from college or their professional life and comment how deeply they felt the common bond of being a part of something larger than themselves as a member of our orchestra program. Shared sacrifice, work ethic, commitment, and pride in their accomplishments (music or otherwise) and all the memories of those wonderful moments make students look back fondly on their years in orchestra and lays a foundation of excellence in all parts of their lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
What matters most to students is that their teacher cares about them. To students, those small gestures make a big difference asking, “How are you?” or “What’s going on?” Over my career, more times than I care to remember, I have not seen the forest of my students’ for the trees of their technique. In other words, I was so concerned with teaching the music I often neglected to understand how students were responding to me and the music, missing those opportunities to build trust and to enlist their support and partnership in learning. It’s funny, I’m a much happier teacher now – and I get better results with my students – than I ever did with focusing only on music instruction.

HAWAII

Sarah Tochiki
Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School
Lihue
Years at School: 4
Total Years Teaching: 4
Students in Music Program: 200

Teaching Philosophy: 

All students are capable of becoming good musicians and music participation can be a powerful event in their lives. Students who do poorly or well in other subjects can excel in music. The experience provided in a music ensemble is unique and important.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
As the band director at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, I have the privilege of teaching instrumental musicians for their entire middle school careers. I watch and help them grow and mature. This is how I believe I truly make a difference. I have the potential to impact their lives for a fourth of the time they have been alive. It is my responsibility to provide them with the best possible experience and to everything I can for my program so my students can shine. I must provide them with chances to hear and perform all types of music and create unique experiences for them like marching in the local Holiday “Lights on Rice” Parade or off-island travel. I want my students to look back on their middle school band experience fondly remembering all the wonderful things they were taught, the awesome concerts they performed in, and experiences that they may not have had if they had not been a member of the band.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I have learned two important things since becoming a music educator. First, in order to have efficient rehearsals, it is vitally important to teach the students how to read music. The more preparatory work you can do to teach them to read what is on the page in front of them, the more you can accomplish. Second, to be the band director is to be the CEO of the band. This is something they do not stress enough while getting your undergraduate degree, yet it is one of the most important things for a successful band program. You have much more to manage than just planning for individual rehearsals. It is all the other things, paperwork, fundraising, instrument inventory management and repairs, purchase orders, uniforms, recruitment, traveling, the music library, managing volunteers – the list goes on and on. These are critical to the quality of a band program. It is a tough yet rewarding job and I am honored to do it.

IDAHO

Tim Sandford
Lake City High School 
Coeur d’Alene
Years at School: 16
Total Years Teaching: 26
Students in Music Program: 160

Teaching Philosophy: 
I believe in giving students the opportunity to excel and be successful. Much of my teaching centers on students’ skills for success in life. Students need to learn to think creatively, problem solve, and act responsibly within whatever community they are involved. We work in my classroom on being prepared, following through on commitments, leadership skills, and how to be a part of a cohesive team. Students are given the opportunity to lead, to follow, to involve themselves in multiple activities and to take risks. I teach to four principles: 1) “Strive for Excellence” – Students are held accountable and encouraged to do their best at all times. 2) “Never Settle for 2nd” – I challenge them to never give a second-rate effort and hold them accountable to being their best. 3) “Dream Big” – My students are asked and encouraged to take risks. We believe that the only true failure is to not try. 4) “Arete” – This is a Greek word that implies becoming a person of impact. Students are always asked to consider how the example of their conduct, preparation, and attitude effects and inspires those around them.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
All I can say is that I hope I have made a difference. I know that students of mine come back and thank me for the lessons learned, the fun we had, the opportunities they were given, and the experiences they enjoyed. I have students who have gone on to be professional musicians and music teachers. I have far more who enjoy participating in music groups for after their high school career is finished. Others, although not actively participating, enjoy music in a deeper way than if they had not been in music and appreciate the hidden lessons of leadership, teamwork, and commitment. It is an honor to be able to influence and shape a life for the better and I am blessed to be in a position to do that.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
Laugh. Try to enjoy the moment and celebrate the positive.

ILLINOIS

Mark Mikulay
Sesser-Valier High School
Sesser
Years at School: 10
Total Years Teaching: 24
Students in Music Program: 125

Teaching Philosophy:
Never forget band isn’t a required subject. Every student who walks through the band room door is there to discover his or her own potential. Create an environment where the expectations for behavior, mental focus and practice commitment are high, but the rewards for hard work are tangible every day. Keep it challenging, and keep it fun.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I’m not sure it could ever be determined. However, they do change my life every day. When one of my trumpet players finally masters a tough phrase and grins or an ensemble starts to gel on a particularly hard piece and I read the excitement on my students’ facial expressions, it is pretty great to be there.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
Engage. Engage. Engage. I wouldn’t go so far to agree that today’s students are so media and technology-saturated they need to be entertained every moment, but you’ll lose them fast if you waste their time. Truth be told, the same was true when I was in school band and, I imagine, long before I was around.

In some ways, a successful band room really is like a video game, where students are transported every day to a different world, one where continuous concentration and effort pay off, even if just a little at a time.

INDIANA

Jason Witzigreuter
Northrop High School
Fort Wayne
Years at School: 5 
Total Years Teaching: 14
Students in Music Program: 175

Teaching Philosophy:
I have a basic philosophy of teaching: My students always come first. As their teacher, I will do anything for them that will help them succeed in life. As a music teacher, I have an incredibly unique opportunity to work with kids outside of the “normal” confines of the standard school day. I have an opportunity to positively impact their lives and it is a blessing to be in such a position. If I have positively impacted just one life through a quality music education, I feel that I have been successful. As a high school band director, especially during marching and jazz band seasons, I tend to see my students more than they see their own families. My crucial role is to serve as a positive mentor, a leader, and as someone they can always trust to do what is right.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
My students know that I am always there for them. I have students come back year after year and share their life successes. They tell me that my guidance while they were students of mine helped them in college and life. They thank me often and I feel their respect through our conversations. It is hard for me to acknowledge this because I never seek their praise. I truly have wonderful students and I am blessed to be their teacher.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
Do everything for kids. When I started teaching 14 years ago, I was mostly concerned with how I came across in the classroom. I always wondered if I looked the part of a band director. I was always concerned that I wasn’t saying the right things. Later I realized that what really mattered was my students. Today I concentrate the majority of my energy as a teacher making sure that I am serving as a positive resource for my students. I care much less about what I think a band director should do, and concentrate my energy on providing my students with a quality music education. I do this through the personal experiences I have gained through my career. When I am at school I strive to give my students 100 percent of my energy and do everything I can for them. Little of my day is about me.

IOWA

Myron Mikita
Don Bosco High School
Gilbertville
Years at School: 21
Total Years Teaching: 29 
Students in Music Program: 55

Teaching Philosophy: 
My teaching philosophy is to help the students in my program have as much fun in learning about the different aspects of music as possible, but at the same time show them the discipline and respect needed to have an outstanding small school music program.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I feel that I have made a difference by helping my students not only in the band room, but outside the band room as well. Being a good teacher not only means being able to teach your students their music and having a good program, but being a good listener and friend when the kids need it; before school, during school and after school.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I have actually learned two important lessons during my career: First off, that students come from so many different home environments that you have to be flexible when working with them. You cannot teach everyone in your program the same way if you are going to have an overall successful program; and secondly, enjoyment comes before competition. In a world where everyone is “competitive oriented,” I have learned that it’s all about your students coming out of a performance and saying “I thought we did really well and boy did we have fun,” no matter the outcome of the contest.

KANSAS
Avian Bear
Blue Valley High School
Stilwell
Years at School: 7 
Total Years Teaching: 37 
Students in Music Program: 101

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe in maintaining a program whose primary goal is to help every student become the best learner, the best leader, the best musician, and the best person that he or she can become. There is a place for everyone who wants to be a part of this band program and every ability level is welcomed and showcased.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
Students leave this program with a love for music, an appreciation for what it takes to become good performers, and ample opportunities to develop leadership skills. Providing a special place in students’ hearts with fond memories of their own music experience is the best gift we can give them, whether they go on to be music consumers, parents of future band students, or performers in their own right.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
It’s all about the students.

KENTUCKY
Chris Vance
Garrard County High School
Lancaster 
Years at School: 17
Total Years Teaching: 17
Students in Music Program: 110

Teaching Philosophy:
Any kid, any time. Any kid that has a desire to learn to play music or a passion to play music better is what I feel all of our philosophies as music educators should be. We are only here because of the students and no matter what a kid grows up to be, somebody, somewhere taught them. When I was hired I was going to be the sixth band director in 10 years and the first thing I decided was to give the school and band program a few years to provide some stability. I kept thinking about how every kid deserved a chance to be in a program that they were proud to be in, even though I was told by directors in other parts of the state that there was no way a band program could be built in Garrard County. I’m one of those people that excel when I’m doubted. That was enough to get me started and after that I just stayed. I’m in year 17 now and I and the band program are still doing alright. In fact, we just competed in State Finals again.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I hope to teach worldly lessons through music. Hoping that even if the last time they twirl a flag or play scale is the last day of high school, they are able to relate what they’ve learned to the rest of their lives and world. We’re not just teaching musicians and performers, but human beings. There’s a whole lot more to my job than just band.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I hate to use a typical cliché, but it has to be that I learn something new every single day. Maybe a kid teaches me something about how I teach, or how they learn. Maybe it’s in a journal article, or maybe it’s from my colleagues.

LOUISIANA
Mack Golden
Jennings High School
Jennings
Years at School: 16
Total Years Teaching: 21
Students in Music Program: 184

Teaching Philosophy:
My teaching philosophy is based on the idea that music plays a very important role in everyone’s life. It is my responsibility to provide quality instruction and experiences that help each student realize their own potential and abilities while striving to work as a team. I believe that every student can benefit from a music education. The processes learned in a music program can be carried on throughout their entire life. Music is a unique discipline that integrates all other subjects and provides students with a more well rounded and holistic education. Many “real world” lessons can be taught and fostered through music instruction: teamwork, cooperation, tolerance, respect, and the building of independent and critical thinking skills, just to name a few. Music and the arts are necessary to develop great thinkers and achievers. Through my love of music and experiences, I try to inspire others to realize their potential.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I believe that I help students develop their self worth in life. They find a purpose. Many students come into my programs without a voice or self confidence. I see them grow through the years to be independent thinkers and strong individuals that care about others.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
The most important lesson I have learned is patience. Patience is a virtue that we all need to have. It may not happen today, but it will happen if you keep pushing.

MAINE
Jeff Priest
Old Town High School
Old Town
Years at School: 23
Total Years Teaching: 27
Students in Music Program: 205

Teaching Philosophy:
I want to provide students with outstanding performing arts opportunities, to embrace their creativity and allow them to achieve at their highest potential. I want each student to appreciate the arts and all of the possibilities that it can provide to them and their families.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
The Old Town Music Program has provided outstanding opportunities for students to become excellent musicians and people. They have experienced great joy in performing music. These experiences are and will continue to be building blocks for them to become outstanding people in their communities.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Never ever give up! No matter how hard and difficult a situation looks, there is always hope for success.

MARYLAND
Randi Levy
Roberto Clemente Middle School
Germantown
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 10
Students in Music Program: 185

Teaching Philosophy:
Music education can be innovative and progressive by including rock and roll as part of the curriculum so that every child has a chance to succeed on every type of instrument, free of charge. Rock and roll education is flourishing everywhere except in the public school music classroom. School music programs may be suffering across the nation, yet private music schools and rock camps are exploding everywhere. The business community has caught on to a huge demand for a progressive and relevant music education. Unfortunately, if you want to play, you have to pay. In a world where access to contemporary instruments is no longer equitable and limited to only those who can afford private lessons, public music education has an incredible opportunity! We can engage students in a complete music education through both classical and rock & roll instruction free of charge, so that every child on every instrument has a chance to succeed!

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I have tried to model an infectious love for music to my students. I also place value on learning life skills through collaboration as part of a team. Music is the one team sport that can be played every day in school, for we are all in this music-making business together. Additionally, I give students permission to take risks. My motto is: “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it a big one. Go for it!” I have tried to create an environment where students develop a life-long love of music, learn to work together, and feel comfortable giving music-making their all.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I am in the people-building business. I am the deciding factor in the classroom, for I create the climate for learning. It is my responses to students that decide whether a child is valued or devalued. Every day I have an opportunity to make a difference (or not) that can ultimately result in a transformed life.

MASSACHUSETTS
Al Dentino
Concord-Carlisle Regional High School
Concord
Years at School: 20 
Total Years Teaching: 36
Students in Music Program: 200

Teaching Philosophy:
Over two-and-a-half-thousand years ago, Aristotle taught us that in order to be a complete human being, one needed to be well versed, and equally balanced in the academics, athletics, and the arts. Children today, especially in this ever increasingly technological world in which we live, must be encouraged greater than ever before to explore that which defines us essentially human, active participation in the arts. As much as we teachers love our great sound systems, our ActivBoards, our computer assisted instruction, and our mini tuners, when students sit in our band rehearsals, they still learn in the same way we did fifty years ago: from a talented, devoted, and exciting band director delivering the curriculum to talented, devoted, and exciting kids.

By thinking out of the box, never accepting merely good, and aiming for the stars and occasionally reaching the moon; while at the same time keeping a finger on the pulse of, or balancing high expectations with, what’s realistic and enjoyable.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
As hard as I try, I can never be all things to all people; but the minute I stop trying, I’m lost. It took me a long time to learn this. But once I did, I became more comfortable with the challenges I face in the rehearsal room every day.

MICHIGAN
Janis Shier Peterson
Marquette Public Schools
Marquette
Years at School: 34
Total Years Teaching: 36
Students in Music Program: 200

Teaching Philosophy:
All children can learn and all children are intelligent in their own way. It is my responsibility to provide a quality education for every student in my class using a variety of teaching methods and approaches. I must never, ever give up on a student who is struggling.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
It’s music that makes a huge difference in the lives of the students. Playing an instrument teaches employability skills like dependability, accountability, teamwork, critical thinking and a positive work ethic. Music students learn a skill that gives them an opportunity for life-long learning and means of expression. They engage in an activity that keeps them busy doing something positive with a positive support group.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
If I’m inspired, my students will be inspired, too. When an activity loses its thrill, it’s time to find a new one. I’m never too old to learn new ways of doing things better.

MINNESOTA
Brad Mariska
Pine City High School
Pine City
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 7
Students in Music Program: 191

Teaching Philosophy:
Music has to be fun for students. However, the greatest reward or enjoyment in music is performing to your greatest potential and constantly achieving higher levels of musicianship – that’s when the fun really begins. I also believe strongly that a variety of musical forms and styles enrich students equally. While our concert band is the nucleus of our program, we also put great value in our pep band, jazz ensembles, and musical theatre program. Both students and audiences appreciate this diversity – and it’s also very educational.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
At the very least, I hope I’ve demonstrated to my students that, with hard work, you can achieve greatness, and you reap the rewards in all aspects of your life. Students have a lot of pride in the music they perform, but it gives them a confidence not just in a concert or classroom setting. The skills we teach in band rehearsals or music theory courses are life skills: work hard, have pride, and never give up. Our school has been recognized by the NAMM Foundation as one the Best Communities for Music Education in America for the past two years and students understand that that is a result of a collaborative effort by many people who all subscribe to this philosophy.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I’ve learned that even the best training cannot prepare you for teaching. But this can also be exciting. Every student learns differently and to be a great teacher and motivator, you have to adapt daily. I’ve also learned that while fifth graders and high school seniors are completely different, many of the same teaching techniques apply to all levels of music instruction. Ultimately, though, the most refreshing lesson I’ve learned is that every day I learn as much from the students as they learn from me. How cool is that?

MISSISSIPPI
Anna Schwartz
Biloxi Junior High School
Biloxi
Years at School: 1
Total Years Teaching: 13
Students in Music Program: 200

What Is Your Teaching Philosophy?
I have taught at three different schools, each with different student populations. My first school was inner city where 98 percent of the students were on free or reduced lunch. My previous school was the exact opposite where the students came from affluent families and the parents were very supportive. Currently, I teach at a school where the student population is right in the middle of the two previous ones. My teaching philosophy is that most students are basically the same no matter what the socioeconomic situation from which they come or where they attend school. If they are treated with respect, given high quality instruction in a sequenced, organized and consistent fashion, and if they are held to the highest standards in the classroom they will have the opportunity to be successful.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
Hopefully, I have taught my students to love music and to love the music making process. My goal for my students is not for them to become professional musicians, but rather for them to be lifelong consumers of music. I hope that when my students reflect on their middle and high school years, some of their greatest memories will be of their experiences in band. Also I hope that in giving them the opportunity to be successful they have achieved a higher level of self confidence, an attribute that is so important to physical, mental, and emotional health.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
The most important lesson I have learned as an educator is the importance of seeking as much help as possible from others who have been successful in teaching band. I was very fortunate when I first started teaching to have several retired directors who visited my band room to observe and offer suggestions. This helped me to become a better teacher. They also taught me the importance of having a mentor teacher who is not afraid to hurt your feelings and who will tell you when you are doing foolish things. I see many young directors who think they are supposed to know everything and are therefore reticent to ask for help. It is just impossible to know everything, especially when one is just beginning to teach. Ask for help! Bring in people who have been successful and incorporate their suggestions and advice. It will make you a better teacher and your ensemble a better band!

MISSOURI
Rocky Long
West Plains R-VII Schools
West Plains
Years at School: 8
Total Years Teaching: 12
Students in Music Program: 253

Teaching Philosophy:
One aspect of my philosophy is to create a safe environment where students feel welcome. I really work hard to make the band room the place to be, and a place where they can learn. We have to remove all the obstacles from learning, and allow students to take risks and learn from their mistakes. When you can get students to a place where they are not afraid to make mistakes, then you can really make a difference.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I believe consistency is a key component in making a difference in the lives of my students. Society today presents students with many challenges that are well beyond their control. My students need a stable environment in their daily routine, and band is that place where they can succeed.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
The most important lesson I have learned is that you have to make a personal connection with your students. In the age of technology, students can find the answers anywhere. They are looking for a teacher who will take an interest in their lives. It is more than just the transmission of knowledge. They want to know you care, and that they are more than just a number.

MONTANA
Mark McCrady
Whitefish School District
Whitefish
Years at School: 6
Total Years Teaching: 14
Students in Music Program: 180

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe that music is for everyone, from the serious student to the everyday kid. My job is to challenge students at each level, with the expectation that all of us (myself included) need to grow and improve. I want to help them become skilled, literate and confident musicians. While success on stage is vital, the process is more important than the product. The experience should be enriching, rewarding and fun. People first – music second.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
It is humbling when I hear about a student whose main reason for staying in school is our music program. If young people leave my classes with an increased sense of self-worth, meaning or belonging, then music has made a positive difference. I give God the credit for that.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
A successful band program is not a one man show. Administrators, colleagues, mentors, volunteers, guest instructors, clinicians, parents and student leaders all play a role in a program’s success. Students benefit most when music education is a team effort.

I’ve also learned that I still have a lot to learn! Education is a lifelong pursuit – we must never stop learning.

NEBRASKA
Evan Lee
Norris High School
Firth
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 20
Students in Music Program: 110

Teaching Philosophy:
My teaching philosophy is that our program serves as a gateway to building relationships and life skills for our students. We help students learn how to work together for a common goal, develop good time management skills, and constantly strive for excellence.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I feel like I have made a difference in my students’ lives simply by being there and supporting them in their efforts, both in band and in their other activities. The students know that I am behind them 100 percent.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Students are a direct reflection of their teacher/director. Motivation to succeed, striving for excellence, love of music, passion for the art – it all comes from what students see in front of them every day.

NEVADA
Danielle McCracken
Coronado High School
Henderson 
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 17
Students in Music Program: 160

Teaching Philosophy:
We teach kids first, focusing on the individual student and how they contribute to the whole group. We have consistently high expectations of all of our students, never accepting less than their very best each day. Having a strong band program is a great byproduct of this approach.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
We care about every student who has ever been a part of our program. Whether they are all-state musicians, or ones who struggled through middle school, every person has a place in my program. Our students know what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They learn teamwork, responsibility, accountability, and that hard work in conjunction with talent will produce amazing results. Our goal is to produce life-long lovers of music, and I think we have done that consistently over the years.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
As educators, we are constantly learning. We have to be just as thirsty for ways in order to improve ourselves as musicians, conductors, and teachers. I have been so fortunate to teach in the Clark County School District, where our colleagues are always willing to share ideas, offer suggestions, and truly help each other. I feel very luck to have spent nearly my entire career here.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Jodi Lalos
West Running Brook Middle School
Derry
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 11
Students in Music Program: 120

Teaching Philosophy:
As a music teacher, I set reachable goals at a high standard and prove to each student that their musical part is important, no matter how complex. I believe that successful concert band rehearsals are a good balance of keeping the students engaged, setting a structured yet flexible environment and allowing kids to really take ownership of their performance.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
When former students take time from their busy lives to come back to their middle school to tell me about their recent endeavors as drum major, becoming a music major or even starting their first job as a music teacher, I know I have made a difference in their lives.

I also have the privilege to work with students who may have never performed on an instrument or believe that they could ever perform in front of their peers, through my drum class. After teaching basic rudiments and skills, we (the students and I) compose a piece using classroom chairs and perform for the entire student body. The anxiety level is extreme prior the performance. Once their performance is over and the roar of the crowd hits them, it is amazing to see kids that may not have had confidence turn into rock stars. Moments like these validate everything I do.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
One of the many lessons I have learned during this eleven-year adventure is that it is extremely important to get your students performing. When students are performing in parades, concerts, town concerts or statewide festivals, it makes rehearsals purposeful along with highlighting an amazing group of kids.

NEW JERSEY
Carol Sack
Littleton School
Morris Plains
Years at School: 25
Total Years Teaching: 27
Students in Music Program: 120

Teaching Philosophy:
When one is called to teach, the central force behind every interaction with children must be a caring heart. Children should know that both praise and discipline come because “I care enough to notice” (my most often used phrase). When this drives one’s program, children will want to participate. Mere participation will soon become a drive to excel, once they know that they can trust that your caring will never falter. The results are almost limitless.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
As an elementary instrumental music teacher, I see students once per week for lessons and once per week for band rehearsals. People outside the field might wonder how I could possibly learn their names, let alone get to really know them. The truth is that as we share in the musical experience over a number of years, we get to know aspects of our students that other teachers rarely get to witness. As members of a performing group, children come to realize that they are necessary pieces to a puzzle that, without them, would be lacking in some way. This helps to build self worth, confidence, and a sense of who they are. These skills permeate into every aspect of their lives, both in and out of school. Fostering this type of growth through musical avenues is fulfilling for me and for the students in my program.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Under normal circumstances, students will work to meet our expectations . They will work up to – or down to – our belief in their ability. Never be afraid to set the bar high! If our expectations are low, student achievement will be such as well. During my 25 years teaching elementary band students, I have never overestimated the abilities of my players. They have always met my expectations. They trust that what is being taught is simply the next step in the progression of their musical growth and knowledge. As a result, I still feel excitement over the accomplishments of my bands. This keeps me enthusiastic, and that enthusiasm carries over to the students as well.

NEW MEXICO
Shawn Silva
Onate High School
Las Cruces
Years at School: 9
Total Years Teaching: 13
Students in Music Program: 120

Teaching Philosophy:
Teaching music is an opportunity for children to create an identity for themselves; teaching band is an opportunity for children to create experiences and memories that will last forever.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I hope that my students witness the love I have for my family, the passion I have for teaching band and how much I care for them as people. I am hopeful that somehow in their own lives they are able to find that same love and passion for something they truly care about. I am hopeful that in some way, making music remains a part of their life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
It wasn’t until my own two daughters were born that I realized that the children I work with everyday are someone else’s miracle. Before, my approach was strictly the idea of what is best for the band, but now I find myself thinking about the bigger picture and what is best for each child that is part our band.

NEW YORK
Allison Scilla
Harborfields High School
Greenlawn
Years at School: 12
Total Years Teaching: 13
Students in Music Program: 300

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe that it is my responsibility to provide the most comprehensive music education possible to my students and to help each student reach their fullest potential as a musician. The skills they learn as musicians translate not only to other core subject areas, but to real life, such as persistence, discipline, teamwork, and cooperation. Through my passion for music, I hope to inspire my students to be the best musicians and people they can be.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I have tried to give my students many positive musical experiences during their time in high school and have helped them make memories that will last a lifetime. The marching band has traveled to Disney World, Hershey Park, and Busch Gardens to perform. The concert bands participate in music festivals at Six Flags Great Adventure, we take them to New York City to see Broadway musicals and Jazz performances. They have wonderful memories of the time spent performing and experiencing musical performances with each other. Most of my students will not be music majors, I don’t expect them to be, but because of their positive musical experiences in high school, many have gone on to join their college marching band, concert band, pit orchestra, or take private lessons. I think that is a direct reflection of the bonds they formed with their friends and teachers as a high school music student. They know the power that music has to build camaraderie and lasting relationships, and I am proud of the fact that I have such a wonderful relationship with my students and with many of my alumni.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
I have learned many lessons over the past 13 years and it is impossible to narrow it down to one “most important.” One of the most important things that I have learned is that there is so much to still learn! As an educator, I am also an eternal student and I learn every day. I have learned so much from my colleagues, our Director of Music, our High School Principal, but especially from my students!

NORTH CAROLINA
David Robinson
Panther Creek High School
Cary 
Years at School: 5
Total Years Teaching: 26
Students in Music Program: 215

Teaching Philosophy:
I spend the majority of my energy teaching my students to engage in their education. I look for ways that students can step up and become leaders. I teach my students that leadership involves giving. The success in my classroom comes from the idea that we all have to succeed for the group to succeed. We are only as strong as our weakest link. All students in the ensemble learn to care for everyone’s progress. I see my students as potential teacher/leaders. I ask them to teach each other in section rehearsals and to look for ways to elevate all of the musicians in their sections. When students think that “we-us” is more important than “I-me,” we will have students that go into the community looking to serve not be served.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
If we are fortunate, we will have three or four great teachers in our lives; teachers who were able to touch something down deep inside us and who really determined our thinking about everything. Perhaps they confirmed a certain belief pattern, or influenced the way we handled problems, or simply gave us the encouragement we needed to succeed. I was lucky to have two outstanding teachers help mentor me in my early years, Jesse Holton (band director) and Lisa McIver (choral director). I wanted to follow in their footsteps and use them as models in developing my own style of teaching.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
My final thought would be that in both teaching and learning, you must remain persistent. Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser said it best: Engagement in one’s education and then sharing it with others offers an instruction manual of success. It must be constantly studied and practiced. One year in my class is certainly not going to transform anyone’s life-ingrained habits, nor should it. It is merely a taste of what is possible by shifting to a we/us community and striving for excellence.

NORTH DAKOTA
Kim Cournoyer
Standing Rock High School
Fort Yates
Years at School: 12
Total Years Teaching: 17
Students in Music Program: 50

Teaching Philosophy:
I think music should be shared by everyone. Anyone who has a desire to make music should have the opportunity to do it. I truly believe music education – playing a clarinet or a bass guitar, singing a solo or playing in the band-enhances the overall education experience on an everyday basis. When it is enjoyable, it becomes a retention factor as well as a motivator to see that any goal or dream is attainable.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
My mother, who was raised on the Reservation, told that me if I made a difference in even one student’s life, teaching music would be worth the sacrifice of time and energy. Because I am Native American and my students are too, they see me as an example of what a Native person can achieve. I think that is the difference. My mother was right.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Since becoming an educator I’ve learned that teachable moments come when you least expect them. That students surprise you with the effort you inspire in them. That music is sometimes difficult but very enjoyable – especially when a solo becomes real, when a concert piece is appreciated by the players, and when they really thought it was too hard… and they still made it happen.

OHIO
Dan Kelley
Ohio State School for the Blind
Columbus
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 17
Students in Music Program: 25

Teaching Philosophy:
All students have potential. Music is a universal language that can reach all students and is a vehicle for them to learn not only music related skills and concepts, but other things like body kinesthetics, speacial awareness, growing as an individual, seeing how their individual strengths can collectively add to the strength of a team.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I model what I teach; I have high expectations of my students. I believe if we do not have high expectations of our kids, it is more difficult for them to learn to have high expectations of themselves.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
It is important not to judge a book by its apparent cover. Teaching is just as much of a learning process for the teacher as the student.

OKLAHOMA
James Morrison
Berryhill Schools
Tulsa
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 19
Students in Music Program: 200

Teaching Philosophy:
My hope is to equip every student that comes through the program with the ability to adapt to real life after high school. The lessons learned in the teamwork structure of band, orchestra or choir will help students look beyond themselves. They should learn the art of selflessness and find enjoyment in their own sense of accomplishment.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
By demanding so much from them at school, my hope is that they will be better people when they graduate. I think the discipline they gain from being in the program prepares them to adapt to any social or professional situation they encounter. As they move on and have families of their own, I hope they will encourage their kids to be part of an arts based program that will help teach them those same skill sets.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Very few situations are black and white. Family problems, social pressures and income difficulties can constantly challenge even the very brightest students. You have to go beyond the surface to reach some kids. This is the most important and rewarding part of being an educator.

OREGON
Daryl Silberman
West Salem High School Orchestras
Salem
Years at School: 5
Total Years Teaching: 22
Students in Music Program: 85

Teaching Philosophy:
I have a sign in my room that says “I don’t expect you to be the best in orchestra, I expect you to become the best musician you can be” and this is part of my philosophy of teaching. Students can be inspired and motivated to become live-long musicians, as both performers and appreciators. There are so many reasons a student should be involved with music, and many ways that they will benefit – I constantly try to connect music to student’s broader life. I teach tomorrow’s musicians, concert goers, and adults who will be members of our society, and I’m conscious of that every day.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I feel that I constantly share my passion for music by encouraging students to love playing, to make beautiful music with one another, and to enjoy the process. At a bare minimum, I expect students be the best people they can be while in my class, and if they are also on their way to becoming excellent musicians by the time they’re out of my program, then I know I’ve made a difference. I offer my students a glimpse into a cultured life – I bring musicians in to them, take them to concerts, and find as many ways as I can to have music be a part of their lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
I’ve learned that one can never really know what another person is capable of. Assumptions should never become commonplace. I have seen some students who came to me with little talent, little interest and minimal experience become my most favorite people and students, not to mention great musicians.

PENNSYLVANIA
Doug Raines
Penn-Delco School District
Aston
Years at School: 9
Total Years Teaching: 9
Students in Music Program: 150

Teaching Philosophy:
As John F. Kennedy said, “All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.” Students are all different, but they learn best through doing, hearing, seeing, feeling, and verbalizing. Authentic learning is engrained in music. My goal as a teacher is to model and mentor these processes and to provide the motivation for cognitive interaction. I inventory student interests, and make connections to what skills and understandings are to be taught. Lesson planning is a flexible endeavor promoting goals and outcomes to capitalize on any teachable moment. Therefore, education is the art of flexibility to merge what is in a student’s best interest “in the moment” with a “picture in picture” view of your end goal in mind.

Music is for every child and simply “cool!” Do not accept any other viewpoint. Children should be encouraged to participate in music programs and also be provided the opportunity. As a teacher, be willing to collaborate with the community, parents, colleagues, and administrators, while remaining steadfast in your beliefs. Demand rigor and provide challenges. Scaffold to show the simplicity of all concepts and model how analysis and application will provide success.

Have a vision and be willing to refine and adapt it frequently. Think outside of the box. All traditions are created by someone from the past and can be changed if planned and implemented properly. Music is sound in time with varied styles and expression, so elitism in music is invalid. As educators, it is our responsibility to reach out to the unknown within music and to continue to grow as a musician. Technology is one of the best educational vehicles to prepare our 21st-century learners; however it will never supersede traditional hard work and quality music creation.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
Every student is unique and I strive to instill passion, perseverance, process, performance, and peace within each child through the art of music making. I experience much satisfaction when students “get it,” but the greater impact occurs later when they understand the bigger picture. “The best teacher I will ever have in my life is myself.” When students understand this element of self-discovery, they have attained the pinnacle.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
As firm as you are in your professional beliefs and philosophies, these ideals will continue to change, adapt and be refined throughout your career.

RHODE ISLAND
Ted Rausch
Portsmouth High School
Portsmouth
Years at school: 14
Total Years Teaching: 17
Students in program: 215

Teaching Philosophy:
If a student wants to participate in band at the high school level, then he or she should have the opportunity to participate. I have students from all different playing abilities. I try to encourage student leadership by having upperclassmen work with underclassmen in developing their musical skills to help them achieve things they did not think possible. I want my students to develop life skills and be able to respect one another. I always try to provide opportunities for them to grow as individuals by having them perform at different venues. Whether our students are marching in the night parade in Disney, performing on a cruise ship, or performing for an elementary school, I am always trying to provide unique experiences that make a lasting impression.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I feel I make a difference when I truly see the satisfaction in my students’ faces after a great performance or rehearsal. I tell the kids, “You never know who you are going to affect or make an impression on when you perform.” Each year, the entire band looks forward to our elementary tour performances, when I have the marching band perform at our elementary schools. I invite the third and fourth grades up to march with us during our performance. It is a rewarding experience seeing my band kids work with the elementary kids. When those elementary kids, five years later, come into our music program, they always recall when the marching band came to play for them. Many of those students are in band today because of those performances. Each year my students look forward to these performances because they truly feel they make the difference as a group.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
I have learned that there are times when I have to become the student and let my students be the teachers. Several years ago, I formed a Band Council consisting of student leaders who help with the organization and provide feedback on the “pulse” of the band. We try to meet once a month and I always ask my Band Council members if there is anything that they think I need to address or to try differently for the benefit of the ensemble.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Phil McIntyre
James Byrnes High School
Duncan
Years at School: 29 
Total Years Teaching: 35
Students in Music Program: 443

Teaching Philosophy:
Give every child you teach your best every day. Treat every child as if they were your own, with dignity and respect, and expect greatness from all of them.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I have always striven to be an example for the standards and expectations I sought from them. I have 21 former students that teach music.

Most Important Lesson Learned:
Given the opportunity, students will outperform your expectations and rise to the occasion.

SOUTH DAKOTA
Julie Berger
Huron School District
Huron
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 9
Students in Music Program: 118

Teaching Philosophy:
My Teaching Philosophy is simple: My students are first. Their instrumental lessons, classroom instruction, and even the little stories they need to share, are all first. When you care about them, they will care about what you have to teach them. Everything else is second; I have a messy office and a pile of unfinished, overdue paperwork to prove it!

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
How I have made a difference in the lives of my students:  a smile, a laugh and a sense of pride from my students are all small accomplishments that cannot be assessed in the classroom. There is no standardized test to prove I’ve made a difference in my students’ lives. However, I hope, someday, they are proficient in life because of the lessons they’ve learned in Band.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
The most important lesson I have learned is: to have patience and a sense of humor. Without them, Middle School Band would be very frustrating.

TENNESSEE
Barry Trobaugh
Munford High School Band
Munford
Years at School: 18
Total Years Teaching: 31
Students in Music Program: 479

Teaching Philosophy:
Young-adults deserve to be given every opportunity to learn and mature. Their lives require molding based on proper education and social development. I feel strongly that musical engagements are a unique means to not only bolster cross-curriculum learning, but also a key component to instilling intrinsic responsibility necessary for a vibrant and involved adult. I want to offer every student musical opportunities, regardless of skill level, that encourage exploration and mastery through hard work dedication and responsibility. Music is what feelings sound like, and I want every student to communicate this both as performers and as a casual listeners. My job is simple; utilize the musical arts as an outreach and developmental tool for the youth of our community, and to provide meaningful musical experiences enjoyed by our audiences and our members.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
We have built the Munford Band program on team-building “student-based” responsibility. We engage students not only as musical performers, but also peer leaders with many levels of modeling and coaching. As a result, these students are well prepared for inclusion into college music departments as well as other professions outside of music. Our base of alumni continues to be active in our program, constantly reminding me that their years with the MHS Band provided them with the ability to take on challenges and complete them with superior results. Though many of these graduates have become teaching or performing musicians, most have chosen other professions from the medical field to careers in the military. Each of them shares a similar story of gratitude for the experiences provided to them while a part of our program. Their continued approval and influence on our current students stands as testimony that their pride runs deeply in their experiences and memories.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
With my career now spanning 31 years in length, the one overriding purpose in my daily routine is to do what is right. I strive to teach not only the music as printed, but also to encourage further exploration of musical nuances inside and outside the classroom. Where some teach “to the concert,” I believe in developing the whole-learner so that they can, in many ways, teach themselves through previous and future experiences. I also feel strongly that modeling and exhibiting what is morally correct is paramount in our challenge as a total-educator in today’s world. Though not always popular or easy, we must hold each young-adult to standards that in result posture them in positions to be well engaged in society and a positive impact on whatever profession they choose. Music is the best way to reach the youth of America, and through music, it is the best way to help them develop into adults that appreciate the arts as well as the lives of others within today’s society.

TEXAS
Justin Lewis
Wichita Falls High School
Wichita Falls
Years at School: 6
Total Years Teaching: 18
Students in Music Program: 130

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe that our job as music educators is to help prepare the students not only musically, but give them the tools to succeed in their future endeavors. I try to instill a sense of pride in my students in everything that they do. My motto is “pride makes the difference.”

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
My aim is to make students dependable responsible adults. The responsibilities involved in being a student musician are excellent training for entering adulthood.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
The most important lesson I have learned is that everyone is different and it takes constant adaptation to reach students. They all have different backgrounds and attitudes which makes teaching so challenging, as well as rewarding.

UTAH
Eric Perkins
Oquirrh Hills Middle School
Riverton
Years at School: 8
Total Years Teaching: 11
Students in Music Program: 270

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument or sing, and be able to develop that talent freely.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I love hearing about and from students when they hit their senior year, or are in college, and tell me that they are still playing or singing. I get to know that I helped with that. I had a small part in that student’s life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Patience. Lost folders almost always turn up again (sometimes it takes a couple years, but that lost part usually finds it’s way back home). Learning patience has helped me to decide what battles to fight when, it has helped me at home raising small children, it has certainly helped me diagnose problems students have in class beyond embouchure or hand position issues. I am still learning this lesson every day, but it has helped me keep a cool head in (most of my) stressful times, and most importantly it has helped me to bond with my students.

VERMONT
Peter Miller
Rutland Public Schools
Rutland
Years at School: 14
Total Years Teaching: 34
Students in Music Program: 500

Teaching Philosophy: 
My personal teaching philosophy is to strive for excellence while being inclusive of every student. That can mean two different levels: obviously striving for excellence through the honor ensembles and the higher level music and arts classes, but also striving for the excellence that is possible for every student and every class in every ensemble.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
There are several different ways that happens. The most important way is the terrifically important difference that music and the arts make in the lives of every individual. It awakens us to a much deeper level of appreciation and understanding of life in all of its multifaceted aspects. The other part is that music helps to create a certain meaning for life. It can help express that which is almost inexpressible. Words can do it, but it’s most effective when done in an art form, like literature, theatre, or music.

In very practical terms, and I don’t want to overemphasize this, but we are probably one of the best ways to get students to focus and to prepare them to succeed in anything and everything in life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Hold high standards, and yet at the same time, realize context that you’re in. I work in a city that is “blue collar,” yet we have an excellent music program and an excellent overall arts program. To say, “Okay, how can we reach everybody where they’re at, realistically?” Yet, still holding for the highest standards. We’ve all seen these groups from the inner cities that produce amazing results. We simply can’t say, “My kids can’t do it.” It’s also important to realize the social context you’re in – with the community, the school district, and so on – and work within that to realistically and incrementally encourage change.

VIRGINIA
Kevin Lewis
Martinsville High School
Martinsville
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 31
Students in Music Program: 479

Teaching Philosophy:
It is my hope that my students come away from the program with a love for making music that lasts beyond the doors of high school. In my particular school, that means reaching the kids in ways that are not found in some instrumental programs. I make every effort to bridge the gap between the quality music that surrounds them in their own lives to the music that I know is of lasting value. Student motivation, which is the key to education in general, is easiest when activities, trips, concerts and musical selections are deemed to be relevant by the student. At Martinsville High, we even allow the seniors to select, design and teach the last marching band show of the year.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing students experience life in ways that they otherwise would have missed. Whether seeing a professional orchestra or the ocean for the first time, the various band trips have made a lasting impression on my students. Although I have many students who are now involved in music as a profession, it’s great getting an email or Facebook message from a former student that shows they still find the joy of listening to and making music. I also know that it’s impossible for students to come out of the band program without a deep understanding of community and the role that music has within it. As part of a marching band that changes shows for most home games, we were able to perform a special breast cancer awareness show in October. I was floored when the students raised close to $1,400 during their third quarter break for a local women’s health initiative.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
My thoughts have evolved in how students are selected to participate in the various ensembles. Students, who I may have turned away as not being prepared a decade ago, now turn out to be some of our best leaders when given the opportunity. Having faith that these and other students can handle the responsibility to make decisions is scary but has opened the door for our band and various ensembles within it to even perform successfully on national television numerous times. Those kinds of things are only possible when the students take ownership of the group.

WASHINGTON
Mark Wilbert
Sammamish High School
Bellevue
Years at School: 4
Total Years Teaching: 15
Students in Music Program: 288

Teaching Philosophy:
At the core of teaching is the unique relationship between the student and the teacher. I try to come to work every day prepared and enthusiastic, as well as ready to be pleasantly surprised by what the students bring to the table. A good lesson is like good jazz improvisation: lots of preparation, a little spontaneity, and a lot of communication.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
Creative thinking and working collaboratively are two of the most important skills in the 21st century, so I hope I’ve fostered these skills in my students. I also hope I’ve challenged my students to redefine their preconceptions of what they are capable of accomplishing. I believe through studying music my students are more aware of the beauty surrounding them in the world.

 

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Never stop learning! Teaching is as complex as any science and requires as much creativity as any art form. I try to take advantage of any resource I can, but nothing compares to what I’ve learned from my trusted colleagues. Teaching is too hard to try to figure out by yourself. Difficult problems are best solved by collaborating with colleagues.

WEST VIRGINIA
William R. Jenks
Capital High School
Charleston
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 31
Students in Music Program: 479

Teaching Philosophy:
I want every student to enjoy making music. I want them to broaden their knowledge and be able to share with others their love for music. I want music to be a positive impact on the student’s lives.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I feel that I have made a difference in students by them not only learning about music, but about necessary things to survive in life. Responsibility, organizational skills, cooperation are important things that I feel I have passed to the students that will help them later in life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
Don’t ever give up! Sometimes teaching can get frustrating. Remember in the end, it is rewarding!

WISCONSIN
Roxanne Carloni
Mukwonago High School
Mukwonago
Years at School: 32
Total Years Teaching: 32
Students in Music Program: 275

Teaching Philosophy:
I believe all students have the ability to make music. It is my job to show them the way, help them when they get stuck, and give them the independence to go out and play without me standing there. I think students need to know that I see them as individuals and not just the second violin in row three seat twelve.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
My students play music in a variety of styles including classical, Broadway, pop and alternative styles. I hope that playing in orchestra makes them more open to different kinds of music in their lives whether it is in a movie, on television or something they choose to download. I get the biggest kick of students coming in saying that they want to see a movie, and they heard something from Beethoven’s Seventh or a fiddle tune that they have performed in the past.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
The most important lesson I think I’ve learned as a teacher is to be flexible. You need a plan B and a plan C. If you are rigid in your approach. whether it be how you run your rehearsal or the music you choose to play, it becomes harder to draw and keep students involved.

WYOMING
Shawn Weis
Natrona High School
Casper
Years at School: 8
Total Years Teaching: 11
Students in Music Program: 330

Teaching Philosophy:
I have always felt that music can change students lives when it is taught to them properly. It is my goal to create students who have a deep understanding and appreciation for music that they will last the rest of their lives.

Making A Difference In Students’ Lives:
I have seen many students discover a true love for music in my classroom. I know that many students have found something they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned: 
To inspire students to achieve what they may feel impossible at first. It is always amazing what students can achieve when they really try!



Directors who make a Difference

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