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SBO Presents the 17th Annual 50 Directors Who Make a Difference

SBO’s 17th annual “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” highlights some of the best music educators across all fifty states. These outstanding band and orchestra directors were nominated by our readers, including current and former students, colleagues and peers, parents, and others who’ve had a wonderful experience with the music programs put on by these amazing teachers. SBO asked each teacher the same three questions, including their proudest teaching moments, how they hope to make a difference in students’ lives, and to tell us what the most important lesson they try to teach each of their students is. Their answers are as varied as the geographic locations of these music programs. We found the responses to be inspiring, thought-provoking, and insightful, and think you will, too. And now, SBO proudly salutes the 2014 class of 50 Directors Who Make a Difference!

ALABAMA
Name: Jerell Horton
School: Vestavia Hills High School
City, State: Vestavia Hills, AL
Total years teaching: 15
Years at this school: 9
Number of students in instrumental music program: 220
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
The proudest moments I have experienced are when my students become completely enveloped in a musical moment, and make the switch from technical thinking into complete expression. In those moments we really become a team and our collective, ephemeral expression is very moving and gratifying. 
How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope to make it clear to them that every one of them can change the world, keeping in mind that those changes happen by first affecting the people on the immediate left and right. I also want to instill in them the idea that you really can’t make anyone do anything; we can only make the conditions favorable for change.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
There really are five things I try to focus on:
1. You always have to do the hard stuff before you get to the easy stuff.
2. Use your own mind, don’t allow others to think for you.
3. The earth revolves around the sun, not you.
4. If you focus on making sure that the people on the left and right are being successful you will always have a great time.
5. Failure is the shortcut to success.

ALASKA
Name: Rick Zelinsky 
Schools: Chinook, Sand Lake, Kincaid, Klatt, Ocean View, Bear Valley, & Rabbit Creek Elementary; Mears Middle School; University of Alaska, Alaska Band Summer Band (AlaskaBand.com)
City, State: Anchorage, AK
Total years teaching: 18.5 
Years at current schools: 18.5 
Number of students in instrumental music program: 230 in beginning elementary bands, 40 in middle school jazz bands, and six UAA saxophone students, 40 in summer bands.
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
My proudest moments occur each day when I observe my students perform in class, and then  communicate their success with their families. I aim to call a parent of a few hard-working band students from each of my six schools each day and let them know their son or daughter is doing a super job. Hearing the responses from parents and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when I just simply communicate the truth makes each day a great day. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
I aspire to be a teacher who has a lot of energy, a passion for music, and be an inspiration to those I teach to grow a love for music while helping them strive for inordinate musical success. I personally strive for excellence and growth by trying to balance a demanding performance schedule as a Yamaha Saxophone Artist, all while teaching and continually setting higher and higher goals for myself.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I hope that each student realizes that just as they are practicing and accomplishing their musical goals, they can use this same approach in the future in any endeavor. With great effort we can achieve anything. Kids generally want to fit in, be the same and, like most adults, operate far below their capacity. I want them to be different and to achieve whatever they wish. Through musical training we can learn that all goals are achievable with unceasing effort.

ARIZONA
Name: Amy Bennett
School: Highland Junior High School
City, State: Gilbert, AZ
Total years teaching: 16
Years at current school: 16
Number of students in instrumental music program: 226 
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
I have the wonderful opportunity to have my students in junior high, but then I also get to assist at the high school in the afternoon each day.  My proudest moment occurs every year when I watch the seniors perform their final concert before they graduate high school. At that final concert each year, I remember the journey we’ve been on together all the way back from 7th grade. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
I hope that when students leave my classroom every day, they know someone cares for them and expects only the best from them. I want students to feel like they have worked harder and achieved more than they ever thought possible, but at the same time they learned to love making music with their peers. It’s not about who the better player is, it’s about how far as a group they can push each other. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is that every student is equally important to our team. Both the 7th and 8th grade orchestras have over 100 students in them, and it would be easy to feel unimportant. In both class and performance, I stress to them that no matter their level of skill, our team would not be the same without them. 

ARKANSAS
Name: Sheila Ainsworth Brooks
School: Bob Courtway Middle School
City, State: Conway, AR
Total Years Teaching: 36
Years at Current School: 10
Number of Students in Instrumental Program: 863
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I have had the joy of seeing many of my former students become successful music educators. I am always so grateful when these former students stay in touch and I have the opportunity to hear their ensembles perform or to read about their successes in the classroom. This fall, I was in the audience at a district-wide meeting and heard the Star Spangled Banner performed by a 7th Grade Choir in our district. The performance was spectacular and their conductor was one of my former flute students. To see her conduct her group with confidence and outstanding musicality made me prouder than any first division rating or award I could ever receive.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
My hope is to share the enjoyment I get from making music with my students.  I try to challenge my students and to motivate them to become lifelong learners and performers. I want them to learn that hard work and practice result in rewarding performances and a sense of pride in themselves. I want my students to continue to support music and the arts as adults. I want my students to find success when they walk into the band room each day.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I want my students to understand what it means to be committed to the pursuit of excellence. Being a part of the band requires discipline, individual practice, attendance, focus at the group rehearsals, and a commitment to put the good of the group above individual concerns. I stress to my students the importance of being good people as well as good musicians. I want them to strive for excellence in all aspects of their life, to be proud of their hard work and their dedication to the group.

CALIFORNIA
Name: John H. Burn
School: Homestead High School
City, State: Cupertino, CA
Total years teaching: 25
Years at current school: 23
Number of students in instrumental music program: 374 

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment as an educator was how the band reacted when one of our most dedicated and amazing band parents, Barb Edmonds, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was deeply moved when — without prompting from any adult — the entire marching band showed up to rehearsal wearing purple shirts in support of their beloved volunteer. Then, in lieu of a Saturday practice, the band participated in Purple Stride Silicon Valley. Team Barb was the largest group at the event and raised more money for cancer research than any other group that day.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
The German word, kindergarten, of course literally means “child garden.” Gardeners make sure that the soil is rich, and that there’s the right amount of sun and water, then, if they are lucky, the plants thrive. As music educators our soil, sun, and water are things like: setting an environment of mutual respect, and caring, providing a varied repertoire of high quality music, then setting a very high standard and constantly instilling in the students that each of them is capable of excellence, if they put in the effort.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
As my dear friend, Scott Lang, says, “The more you give, the more you get, and the more you get, the more you have to give.” It’s an upward spiral path leading to ever increasing levels of excellence. My hope is that the students experience this in my ensembles, then apply it to their lives in whatever they choose to pursue.
 
COLORADO
Name: Michael Mozingo
School: Lewis-Palmer Middle School
City, State: Monument, CO
Total years teaching: 34
Years at current school: 18
Number of students in instrumental music program: 167
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
The proudest moments for me are when I see students in outstanding performances after they have moved on to more advanced organizations. I am proud to have worked with many students who revealed great potential as young musicians and successfully developed that talent into outstanding adult careers.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope that by being a part of the band each member will feel that he or she contributed to the group in a positive way, made lasting friendships and collaborated with their friends to make great musical moments. Parents that say, “We were new in town and Mr. Mo and the band made our kids feel welcome and created a place where they belong” reinforce the difference band can make. Whether or not they continue in music past high school, I know that their involvement in music can enhance their appreciation of the arts in their world and create memories to last a lifetime.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I try to teach students to have the confidence to achieve. Anything is possible with time and perseverance. What may seem impossible today will be possible in the future. We just need to know how to find the correct information and take time to develop the necessary skills.

CONNECTICUT
Name: Dan Hodgkins
School: Torrington Middle School
City, State: Torrington, CT
Total years teaching: 13
Years at current school: 13
Number of students in instrumental music program: 210
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I am incredibly proud of the number of students who have gone on to pursue music in some fashion after high school. To think that I may have helped shape that love of music makes me incredibly proud. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I’ve shared my joys, my frustrations, my achievements, and my struggles. No matter what, and my students know this, I will give them 100 percent of whatever I can. I truly want my students to know that honesty is always the best policy, and that I care about them – whether they are first or last chair, I want them to be the best musician they can. Not everyone will play every note. I want them to be the best they can be, and I will support them every step of the way. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Do the work. There are no shortcuts, and there is no “easy way.” The only way to better yourself, in any aspect of your life, is to accept the fact that you will have to work at it. Those that do, see the results. Those that shy away from it, are still waiting for the results. It won’t happen on its own.
 
DELAWARE
Name: Jessica Lewis
School: Las Américas ASPIRA Academy
City, State: Newark, DE
Total years teaching: 3
Years at current school: 3
Number of students in instrumental music program: 100
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment as an educator was conducting my students last year during our Spring Concert. I challenged my students with the hardest repertoire that they had ever performed, and they rose to the occasion. After completing their performance, their smiles lit up the stage as they stood to acknowledge the applause. They could not have been prouder of their accomplishments and neither could I. I have had the opportunity to watch the music program grow not only in numbers but in ability. My original seven-piece band has grown to 100 players, and the choir now stands at 70 strong. Each performance is a proud moment in my career, and I am honored to be their director.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope to make a difference for my students by not only creating a learning environment that fosters musical growth and achievement, but also promotes working together and accomplishing goals as a team. Band is a family: a tight-knit group that is there to support, challenge, and make you the best musician you can be. Hard work, dedication, and perseverance are topics that we talk about often in my classroom, and I hope that these three life skills continue with my students throughout their lives.  

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
We speak about the word “can’t” and how it has negative effects on the way we think about ourselves and how it places a mental obstacle in the way of accomplishing our goals. I constantly tell my students that the word “can’t” is not allowed in my classroom, and that we are all getting better each and every day. Just because a certain note or phrase is not perfect does not mean that you can’t do it – only that you have room to improve and will conquer that section soon. I love the quote, “Just stick with it because what seems hard now will one day be your warm up.” I hope to instill positivity and perseverance in my students in the times that we share together.  
 
FLORIDA
Name: Erich S. Rivero
School: Glades Middle School
City, State: Miami, FL
Total years teaching: 19
Years at current school: 8
Number of students in instrumental music program: 250
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
One of my proudest moments would have to be this year winning the Mark of Excellence National Jazz Honors Award from The Foundation for Music Education. My students worked diligently to learn and master the styles of Duke Ellington’s music. 

Another proud moment was being nominated as a Quarter-Finalist for the 2015 Grammy Music Educator Award this year. It was humbling to have been selected out of over 7,000 fine educators from across the United States. I have also had countless students that have either become music educators, themselves, or have continued playing music professionally. I am extremely proud when those students come back and share their musical talents with the next generation.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
Middle school is many times the place where it all starts. Most students begin in my classes never having played a musical instrument. I hope to make a difference in their lives by teaching them music for the first time, learning to read music, play an instrument, and instilling an appreciation for all styles of music. Furthermore, I teach them to become advocates for music! I think as educators we need to care about our students and give them meaningful experiences that will last a lifetime. The work ethic that they learn in music will help them succeed in any of their life endeavors.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
A lesson I teach my students is nothing great in life ever happens without hard work. I teach them the importance of hard work and dedication. These skills they will take with them whether they become musicians or pursue other careers.
 
GEORGIA
Name: Billy Flood
School: Mount Paran Christian School
City, State: Kennesaw, GA       
Total years teaching: 14
Years at current school: 14
Number of students in instrumental music program: 87
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
I would group this into four categories. The first would be the quantifiable successes: winning a marching contest, receiving superior ratings at a festival, or students making All-State Band. Second would be those moments that the kids are able to really connect with their audience, like when “Salvation Is Created” makes moms and dads cry at a concert or when our football coaches tell students that the drumline is what fires them up at games. Third is all those times when a student acquires musical knowledge to such a degree that they are able to take ownership without me being in the picture. Fourth would be getting to see what the students do with music after they depart the program. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
Kids are living in a society that often promotes mediocrity, selfishness, and temporary pleasure. I try to show them that we are all accountable to one another, for the long haul. If they are in uniform in 100-degree temperatures, I’m in a suit. If I expect them to practice their parts, I need to know my scores. On trips I make sure they eat before I do. When I write the marching band show music, I make it as perfect as I possibly can. I want them to see that hard work pays off, and I also want them to see that when I fail at something, I get up and do what it takes to get better. I try to be there for the kids when they need someone to talk to. If nothing else, I hope that their adventures in band will provide some joyful memories – happy moments that they can carry with them through life.   

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
I want my students to understand that despite all the pain, there is great beauty, truth, and good in the universe. I want them to seek those things equipped with the knowledge that they will not always come easily, and very rarely without a fight, but that they are worth it. Learning to play a musical instrument is a difficult process. There are moments of pain, frustration, and anger, but those who stay the course find that the benefits outweigh the costs. This is true for so many facets of life. This could be memorizing scales, getting an A on a physics exam, increasing their max on the bench press, or making the right decision at a party. Wherever they end up, I hope that they have the inner tools to overcome the demands and, in so doing, make some part of the world a better place. Also, they need to bring a pencil.  

HAWAII
Name: Ryan Murakami-Nakai
School: James Campbell High School
City, State: Ewa Beach, HI
Total years teaching: 3
Years at current school: 3
Number of students in instrumental music program: 175
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment is seeing the students overcome the many obstacles they face everyday. Students nowadays are pulled in so many directions it is difficult for them to manage their time and energy, and to excel at any one thing. It is the best feeling in the world to see a student work hard and overcome all the trials that life throws at them. The rewards of seeing a student excel, or succeed at something after working diligently to attain it is priceless.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I would like to give the students a place to feel safe and to help them find their niche during this busy, and often tumultuous time in their lives. There are so many things out of school that the students need to deal with, on top of their academics, and I feel that the music program should be the one place they can come and not be worried or afraid to relax and be themselves.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Each day brings a new experience, and with it, a new chance to learn. I am a strong advocate of teamwork through cooperation and communication, and try to incorporate these lessons into the framework of each day. I believe that if the students learn anything from their time in band, it would be the importance of having initiative, passion, and teamwork. 
 
IDAHO
Name: José Rodríguez II
School: Timberline High School
City, State: Boise, ID
Total years teaching: 7
Years at current school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 140

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I was selected by two of my most accomplished former students as the “outstanding educator” of their personal school experiences for an annual Rotary Scholar Award Banquet in their honor. I was invited to attend the ceremony with their families, and joined them in walking across the stage to receive their awards. Hearing their stories about how their experience in my classes had shaped their approach to daily life, to personal interaction, and to their career goals, was truly humbling.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
Part of my goal as an educator is to provide an experience that is musically challenging and rewarding, and one that emphasizes importance of music as a fine art as something uniquely special and breathtaking. I want students to exit my program having experienced something unlike any other part of their schooling. I want them to experience a family community of individuals all unified for the same reasons, where every student has a sense of belonging and purpose, regardless of section, chair placement, or part assignment. I hope they will remember how the experience shaped them as people, and how each of them fit into unique roles within the group, all of great importance and significance.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I want students to forever remember that they are capable of achieving far more than they know, and that dedicated effort, teamwork, and attention to fine details can make all the difference in music, and in life. As they continue their success beyond the classroom, I want them to always have a goal, and to chase it relentlessly. 
 
ILLINOIS
Name: Don Devany
School: Metea Valley High School
City, State: Aurora, IL
Total years teaching: 17
Years at current school: 6
Number of students in instrumental music program: 545
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I am most proud of the number of students who continue to be involved in music in college and into their adult lives.  I am reminded of the importance of what we do, as music educators, when I hear from a former student about their involvement in a music ensemble, participation in supporting the arts, or how the arts have positively impacted their life.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I work each day to push students far beyond what they believe is possible. The trusting relationship we build with each student allows us to help them accomplish goals collaboratively that can go far beyond their perceived ability. I hope each student will apply the skills and lessons learned through the study of the arts that will help them be successful in their very bright futures.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
Simple… to love the arts. The students and I work to achieve the best possible musical experience through performance and a strong understanding of the art form.  I want this experience and knowledge to create an appreciation of the arts that will last a lifetime. 
 
INDIANA
Name: Rick Granlund
School: North Central High School
City, State: Indianapolis, IN
Total years teaching: 23
Years at current school: 11
Number of students in instrumental music program: 303
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
First is watching our student leaders each year find their own special way to lead our group. I always learn a great deal from our student leaders and feel blessed to work alongside them. The second thing is seeing young adults embrace top level quality band literature. There is such pressure on students to always be up to date on the latest gadgets, and such pressure on music education, at times, to perform music that quickly satisfies the crowd. I am very proud to work with students who are wise beyond their years. While they love new music, they also embrace and love the quality literature that has stood the test of time.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I think that one of my former students sums up the experience that I strive for with all of my students: 
Mr. Granlund – Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your time and patience. Thank you for your motivation. Thank you for teaching me that “everything matters.” Thank you for teaching me what it means to be in a group, what it means to lead and be accountable. Thank you for introducing me to Dvorak, Gershwin, Grainger, and Tichelli. Thank you for teaching me how to play, not just the notes, but the music. You have made each and every member of the Wind Ensemble not only better musicians, but better people.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
Everything matters, which really means every one matters! We all have talents that make us each unique and very important to the ensemble. I strive to make sure that every student understands that they are appreciated and valued. More importantly, I emphasize that each band member must work to make sure that every one in the band understands how vital they are to our success.
 
IOWA
Name: Michele Senger
School: Valley Southwoods Freshman High School/Valley High School
City, State: West Des Moines, IA
Total years teaching: 20
Years at current school: 17/6
Number of students in instrumental music program: 152 
  
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I love to see the look of recognition when a young student hears a dramatic change in their tone production after a minor bow hold adjustment or when I see the elation on a student’s face when their name appears on the All-State Accepted list for the first time. One of my sweetest moments occurred when a former student returned to perform as a soloist with the Des Moines Symphony after winning a principal position with the Grand Rapids Symphony. He was setting up in front of the Orchestra and I happened to look down and notice that his rock stop had my signature white out marker VSW stamp on it. That rock stop had served him well and I was happy to know that a little part of us had made the journey with him. I told him he could keep it and now he is a member of the New York Philharmonic.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope to inspire a lifetime love of music in my students. I encourage them to play for enjoyment and have music in their lives as an outlet for artistic expression. It is my hope that they will be motivated to listen to music, attend concerts, and become educated, supportive, and appreciative audience members.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
To never give up on themselves. Ever. Keep growing, keep learning, remain hopeful, and move forward in life.

KANSAS
Name: Chris Richmond
School: Wamego High School
City, State: Wamego, KS
Total years teaching: 22
Years at current school: 17
Number of students in instrumental music program: 265 (5th-12th)
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
One day, I arrived late to afternoon marching band rehearsal due to an emergency at another building. I was so proud to discover that the students were already outside, had started rehearsal, and were making corrections and adjustments themselves. It was at that moment that I realized we had arrived at the point that, philosophically, we always strive for: students taking responsibility for their learning and being self-reliant. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
Last week, a beginning band student came up to me after class so excited to tell me that he finally figured out one of the songs that he had been struggling with. That is such a powerful feeling — the feeling of accomplishment. That is the difference I would like to make in students’ lives: helping them to realize that they can do things they previously thought impossible.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
This is the most important lesson and the one that is the overarching theme of our entire program: music has a place for you for the rest of your life.
 
KENTUCKY
Name: Sarah Milazzo-Payne
School: Bryan Station Middle School
City, State: Lexington, KY
Total years teaching: 8
Years at current school: 4
Number of students in instrumental music program: 94
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Every time I have a parent tell me that their child has never “taken” to anything like they have to orchestra. It makes me know that I am doing my job right when parents tell me that the first thing their child does when they get home is practice, or show them what they learned in orchestra that day. I’ve even had parents say that their child practices more than they play video games!

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope that by instilling a passion for music, students will be able to find a “home” in orchestra. I want the orchestra program to be something that they can say they are proud to be part of and something that they want to continue with either as a musician or as an audience member for the rest of their lives.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is that excellence is achievable through persistence. There is no “giving up” or saying “I can’t” in the orchestra classroom; you may not be able to do it yet, but that doesn’t mean you never can unless you stop trying.

LOUISIANA
Name: Krista Fanning
School: Caddo Middle Magnet
City, State: Shreveport, LA
Total years teaching: 25
Years at current school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 245
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina rolled through New Orleans. Many displaced families came to Shreveport, and the school at which I was working absorbed quite a few students. My room was already over capacity without one single spare chair, and all of a sudden a line of students came in and were introduced as our new band students. Without hesitation I welcomed them, and my students immediately started asking what instrument each new student played, giving up their own seats, handing over their own instruments, with one boy summing up the whole class period by saying “Here, you play this instrument today: music fixes everything!” 

How you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I know the power that instrumental music has on the life of a young person no matter what their background may be. I want my students to not only have a life-long appreciation of music, but also to know what it is like to be amazing! Too many students come with an acceptance of the mediocre. Once they experience the power of success through music, turning the I-don’t-think-I-can into a look-what-I-did, they begin to apply the same techniques to other aspects of their lives. The discipline of music creates a young person aware of what “can be” and that being amazing is within their grasp, no matter what the task. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
Overall, my main lesson would be to listen. One of my favorite exercises has the students listen to the sounds around them while they are completely still: the lights buzzing, the air-conditioner rumbling, the piano class down the hall… this method of “ear cleaning” results in a greater awareness of their own sound and the ensemble sound. Once they learn to truly listen, they adjust accordingly and the ensemble results are undeniable. 
 
MAINE
Name: D. Loren Fields
School: Lawrence Sr/Jr High School
City, State: Fairfield, ME
Total years teaching: 27
Years at current school: 20
Number of students in instrumental music program: 70
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Wow, here are several, not necessarily in any order: when a student has that epiphany moment and totally “gets it,” when I see former music students become music educators, when budding student composers write an original piece for our band for us to premiere, and/or when they perform alongside me in a professional ensemble.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I feel it is crucial that every student realize they are unique and special in their own right, that it is “okay” to be different, and that they are safe to be whomever they are. Students also need to feel accepted, protected, and respected as human beings, and to know that they can make a positive difference in the world by sharing their music. I strive to treat every student as I would want my own two children treated. We as music teachers and directors have a proven way to bridge the socio-economic gaps facing our students, music is the great equalizer!

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
I strive to convey that I value every single one of them for who they are and that mistakes are allowed. Music can be a direct path to our inner core, it is how we channel the passion and translate it into music that uplift others. Not all of our students will be professional musicians, but everyone has the ability to be lifelong learners and musicians. Music can provide an unparalleled counterbalance to diverse careers, keeping things in perspective throughout one’s entire life. 

MARYLAND
Name: Eric Kilby
School: Meade High School
City, State: Fort George G. Meade, MD
Total years teaching: 16
Years at current school: 16
Number of students in instrumental music program: 120
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment as an educator is when I see a student get excited about music, beyond just playing their instrument. When they take an active interest and become inquiring and willing to take risks to become a better musician, to the point where they are almost on autopilot. Not only am I proud because I have been able to pass this on, but I am excited to see how great the student becomes.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
If I am able to teach the students to become better people through music, by making them more respectful, more considerate and open-minded to other peoples perspectives, than I will have done my job.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
Two things, somebody is always watching, working hard, and doing your best is not an option and “always end on a positive note.”
 
MASSACHUSETTS
Name: Susan Memoli
School: Wayland Public Schools K-12 Fine Arts Director, Wayland High School Orchestras
City, State: Wayland, MA
Total years teaching: 21
Years at current school: This is my 7th year at Wayland High School and 14th year in the Wayland School District.
Number of students in instrumental music program: Grades 3-12 band and strings 814; Wayland HS 137 of 842 enrolled
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
We participated in a huge collaboration with the Walden Forum last year to present the Messiah with professional soloists and the audience participating as the chorus. My HS orchestra has performed at Boston Symphony Hall and that was certainly an extraordinary experience where the intangible part of what we do became very real.

Our community is filled with fantastic musicians, composers, and teachers. One of my student’s parents happens to be all three. My 2012 seniors commissioned him to write a work honoring our 10 years spent working together in the string program. Steven Laven wrote a piece entitled “Starting From Scratch.” We had the opportunity to perform its debut as part of the Rivers School Conservatory’s Contemporary Music Seminar. Taking a piece from inception to premiere with a group of students is one of the most exciting things a music educator gets to do. This piece became our anthem for the year and we also performed it at the Senior Awards Ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2013 seniors and send them on their way. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
Music is the vehicle for connecting on any level. By observing students throughout their participating in the music program, I have a chance to get to know them personally, share in their journey, and support their development. Finding a way to connect with others and having an outlet for expression is more important than ever now. Developing a high level of skill takes an enormous amount of time, focus, and dedication. Those skills are critical to success in whatever a student pursues later in life. I am fortunate to be in a position where I also get to know families and build relationships that allow me to know what students are doing long after they have left. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
When I was a novice teacher, the general music teacher at one of my schools had a large banner hanging across the front of the room. It read, “We can do hard things.” With hard work, you can find the sound you are looking for and the enjoyment that comes from knowing you did your best. That target varies depending on the starting point but growth is the goal. Grit and perseverance transcend. 
 
MICHIGAN
Name: David A. Leach
School: Pioneer High School
City, State: Ann Arbor, MI
Total years teaching: 26 years
Years at current school: 12
Number of students in instrumental music program: 758
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Standing on the historic Hill Auditorium stage with my colleagues from the Pioneer Music Department, joined by student leaders and families in the audience when Rock & Roll legend and Hall of Fame member (not to mention Pioneer High School Alumni) Bob Seger walked on stage and presented us with our first National Grammy Signature School award; recognizing our department as the finest in the nation was a moment to remember. That night, surrounded by all those families, alumni, friends, administration, and fellow district music educators, together celebrating our collective success was truly a moment to savor! 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
To encourage my students to chase their dreams after high school; it’s the only time they can do it! For too long students have been advised to use college to prepare for adulthood and all the trappings that go along with it. Now however, I encourage my students to pursue their dream after high school. Whether it is performing, teaching, or acting, they will find their way to an adult life and profession. We all know too many adults who lament their lot in life; don’t be that person! A good job is a good thing, but a dream job is... a dream come true.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
To “live in the moment.” No matter how you say it, it stands as the quintessential life lesson and a guiding principle. Embracing this life philosophy encourages students to understand the importance of cherishing this time, these friends and experiences, at that point in time. I find myself telling students each year “Yes, last year was great but from where we stand now, it was only preparing us for this moment.” Learn from yesterday, prepare for tomorrow, live today.
 
MINNESOTA
Name: Gerard (Jerry) Jones
School: Stillwater Area High School
City, State: Stillwater, MN
Total years teaching: 39
Years at current school: 11
Number of students in instrumental music program: 150 string students in grades 10-12
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Every time my kids truly make music on his or her own, I am pleased to be a music educator. I love being on the podium watching them watch each other, listen to each other, getting beyond the page, and communicate to each other via what they are playing and feeling. The smiles on their faces during these times are the greatest educational reward.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
Few of my students will become professional musicians. Some of my students will be involved in orchestral playing for the rest of their lives. All of my students will be consumers of music. It is my hope that they will not only be intelligent consumers, but inspired consumers, willing to be ennobled and changed – for the better – by the music in which they find themselves immersed.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
That life does not revolve around them. That the best things in life – like playing great music – are things that require the ability to give of one’s self to the person sitting next to you and to the person sitting across the orchestra from you. We practice, work, strive, etc. not for ourselves, but for something greater than ourselves. Great music, like the important things of life, is other-centered. When we win, everyone wins and no one loses. When we lose, everyone loses. 

MISSOURI
Name: Ken Hansen
School: Blue Springs South High School
City, State: Blue Springs, MO
Total years teaching: 16
Years at current school: 3
Number of students in instrumental music program: 175
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment as an educator happens each time I see a student have that life-changing musical moment. Sometimes its the moment where the students understand a difficult musical idea for the first time, and other times it’s that moment that a musical phrase goes just right. I also love to see that moment when a performance finishes and the students can’t stop from smiling because that experience was so fun.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope to instill in students that if they do the right things and work together that success will happen over time. Success isn’t always when “we” want it, but it will come to those who keep working the right way. I also hope that everyone can find a profession that they are passionate about as a person. Passion fuels the spirit and brings out the best in ourselves and the people around us.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
We teach so many life lessons and important skills in the program at Blue Spring South, but an important skill that I want my students to understand is that effort makes a difference in their lives. It’s not always how talented a person is that gets them to where they want to be. The effort must be present to achieve your goals. I try to help them understand where they want to go in life and then give them the support to keep working til’ they get there. We are blessed with great students here at Blue Springs South.
 
MISSISSIPPI
Name: Travis Coakley
School: Biloxi High School
City, State: Biloxi, MS
Total years teaching: 15
Years at current school: 4
Number of students in instrumental music program: 170
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
If I may be concise here are some very fond memories I’d like to share:
The night that the Miami Coral Park Marching Band made finals for the first time at the Florida Marching Band Championships was a special night for me. The year that all three of my jazz ensembles at Tate High School made a Superior rating at District Jazz MPA was exhilarating.

The students in my band program at Irmo High School received the Outstanding Performance Award for excellence in marching band, concert band, jazz band, and solo & ensemble. 

Recently, I received the Biloxi Public Schools District Teacher of the Year Award for my work with the Biloxi Band. Our program has received superior ratings in marching, concert, and sight-reading and was awarded the Sweepstakes Award for Excellence. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
It is my wish to provide each of my students with a positive experience while they are in my program. I want them to feel like part of a family and learn to work with one another for a common goal that is larger than them. Everyone needs a positive influence in his or her life and everyone wants to be part of something successful. It is my goal each and every year to provide that to my young musicians.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is to “be the example.” I want my students to do the right thing and be good citizens wherever they are. One of my college professors once stated that, “band is a microcosm of life.” All these years later I reflect on that statement and realize how right he was.
 
MONTANA
Name: Brian Tobin
School: Butte Public School District 1
City, State: Butte, MT
Total Years Teaching: 6
Years at this school: 4
Number of students in instrumental program: 130 (5-6 and 9-12) 

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
In my second year at my current school our football team made it all the way to the state championship. It was late November in Montana and the weather wasn’t going to make this game easy. My proudest moment was looking up at my band in the stands and seeing students who were completely engaged in music, their school, and their community. The cold didn’t affect them. Not once was the idea of not playing this game even an option. At that moment looking up at my band and seeing them covered in school colors, cheering wildly for their school, playing loud and proud – I could see that they had bought in, not just for that game, but for the long haul. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students lives?
I want to instill in all my students a deeper love and understanding of music. By giving them the knowledge that playing an instrument doesn’t have to end at graduation. That they can take their skills, their knowledge, and their love and make playing music and being a musician a part of their life for forever.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I would say the most important lesson I try to teach is about perseverance, both in music and in life. That it’s not ok to quit just because something is hard. That when we work hard and do things the right way that as a person and as a musician we are capable of amazing things. Not giving up when you come across adversity and having the drive and determination to meet that adversity and conquer it. That is the most important lesson I try to teach my students.
 
NEBRASKA
Name: Tom Jaworski
School: Adams Central Public Schools
City, State: Hastings, NE
Total years teaching: 41
Years at current school: 29
Number of students in instrumental music program: 127 in grades 7-12; 182 total program 5-12.

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
My proudest moment as an educator is when, after hard work, students are able to complete a major project that they did not start out feeling they could achieve. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Presidential Inaugural Parade performance, a Superior Rating at the State Marching Festival, the 7th grader who takes a solo to festival for the very first time and does well, or the clarinet player that can finally go over the break comfortably. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
Through our band’s travel program, my students have been in both oceans, performed at our State Capitol Building, seen and natural wonders, historic buildings, places and events. These experiences are designed to help students keep a perspective on how our school and community are all tied into a larger picture. I have had students return years after graduation and recall their travel experiences. Most graduates have indicated how important they were to them and how they are now sharing them with their own children as they raise their own families.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
My students learn responsibility. They owe it to those around them that they see every day as well as themselves. They learn to accept it, even when they do not seek it. They learn that, no matter what, they must take responsibility for their actions and that this can require them to learn how to help others learn this trait as well. 
 
NEVADA
Name: Charles Cushinery
School: Ed W. Clark High School
City, State: Las Vegas, NV
Total years teaching: 18
Years at current school: 18
Number of students in instrumental music program: 1142
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
First, I am extraordinarily proud when one of my students chooses to pursue a life of music and/or music education. Second, I am equally proud and enraptured when I witness students whom I have, in one way or another, helped to overcome adversities and obstacles graduate from our school and, even better, from a college, university, or trade school. My role expands far beyond music teacher and into the more inclusive role as educator and guide.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
The difference I make in students’ lives is gained through my efforts to create various opportunities for them to become the best musicians they can possibly be, and foster the development of a habit of being involved in music on some level as long as possible.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson I try to teach my students is that doing anything well demands determination, perseverance, and hard work, whether that thing is making music, calculating math problems, or building bridges.
 
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Name: James Butka
School: Dover High School
City/State: Dover, NH
Total years teaching: 26
Years at this school: 1
Number of students in instrumental program: 95
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moments are after performances but the ones that stand out have been at graduation. Seeing the emotion on the faces of the seniors after they perform for the last time with the band shows the strong bond they have shared and how important music has been to them in high school. I feel very fortunate to share that with them on one of the most important days in their lives.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I like to give as many opportunities as possible to students to discover and realize the music and talent inside themselves. The many musical moments and memories from their involvement in music in high school hopefully inspire a lifelong passion for performing and supporting the performing arts. It’s very rewarding when you have students go into the field but it’s equally rewarding to bump into a student 15 years after he graduated and he still plays in his own band.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Perseverance – don’t give up. We live in a society that wants things done immediately but music is an art that requires time, work, patience, and dedication. My students know that in reality, an “A” in band is 99.9 percent and they strive for that. With that same work ethic, they can achieve anything in life.
 
NEW JERSEY
Name: Michael Raguseo
School: Middletown High School South
City, State: Middletown, NJ
Total years teaching: 16
Years at this school: 5
Number of students in instrumental music program: 120
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I think a nice moment for me came at the end of this past school year. So many of my seniors were talking about their plans to participate in some kind of ensemble in college. They wanted to continue their involvement in music, and many of them chose schools based on if they would be able to participate in music. I know that many of my past students have stayed involved with music, but this group felt extra special. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I really want my students to know that there is a place for everyone in music, and that the ability to interact with music as a performer is something that they can carry with them always.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I really try to impress on my students that anything worth doing is worth doing well. I very often describe being in a music ensemble as the ultimate team sport. We don’t have a bench to go to when someone isn’t performing their best. Our outcome is dependent on everyone putting in the work and making an effort to improve. Only when everyone is working together, listening to one another, and applying themselves as musicians will we achieve the desired outcome.
 
NEW MEXICO
Name: Donna O’Bryant
School: Gattis Middle School
City, State: Clovis, NM
Total years teaching: 18
Years at this school: one year opened it as a brand new school!
Number of students in instrumental music program: 250
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
My proudest moment as a band director (music educator) is when my students realize that they can do it! When they have made all district, all region, all area, all state! The overwhelming feeling is when the band corporately accomplishes a goal like Sweepstakes. When they realize that they are capable and succeed, there is no prouder moment.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
By facilitating a love for music as well as holding them to the highest-standards musically. It changes their heart and they are never the same or satisfied with status quo. Inspire them to chase perfection...no one achieves that, however excellence is the result!

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Be true to yourself! Celebrate who you are and run with it. You are unique and amazing… live as if you are thankful for being made that way.
 
NEW YORK
Name: Richard F. Guillen
School: Arlington High School 
City, State: LaGrangeville, NY 
Total years teaching: 26
Years at this school: 18 
Number of students in instrumental music program: 600
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
There is no way I could pinpoint just one “proudest moment.” There are so many wonderful moments that I have been so fortunate to have been a part of and I’ve worked with so many wonderful educators and students in my career. I think the proudest moments come when former students, parents, or colleagues are kind enough to share with me the positive impact I’ve had in their lives and the wonderful memories they have. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope to instill in my students a deeper love and understanding for music on as many levels as possible and to never let them settle for anything less than their best, most passionate efforts in all they do. Whether they choose music as a career or they simply become consumers and supporters of music, I hope they look back on their time in our program with joy, fond memories of their experiences, and appreciation for the skills and lessons they learned. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I believe in pushing my students to be the very best they can be, to never stop believing in their potential, and encourage them to have a voice in the process. I hope they take with them the skills that participation in music has taught them: dedication, perseverance, teamwork, commitment, dignity, and pride in one’s work. While competition is a great motivator, I’m really proud when students realize that it isn’t just about winning, high scores, championships, or festivals, but the hard work, pride, and team-spirit that come as by-products of that journey. 
 
NORTH CAROLINA
Name: Rodney K. Workman
School: Central Davidson Middle School
City, State: Lexington, NC
Total years teaching: 10
Years at this school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 296
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
Our eighth grade band presented a clinic at our North Carolina Music Educator’s Convention a few years ago with Paula Crider. The effort the students put into preparing the music we performed and the materials for the clinic was very impressive to me throughout that semester. When I sat down in the audience and watched how they interacted with her, I was struck by how independent and expressive many of the students were with her. To watch my students be successful on a stage without me was definitely a proud moment for me as a teacher. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
A lot of the time the attitude and apathy that can be associated with the middle school age group, especially 7th grade, is really just an act. When students are encouraged and pushed to achieve true success we are giving them a sense of accomplishment, belonging, and a boost to their self-esteem that they will take with them when they leave our band room. I believe in teaching the individual, pushing individual musicianship, and relentlessly demanding the best in our students. We do it not just because it helps the band to be better, but more importantly because it makes our students better people and gives them the confidence they need to be successful in everything they do. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I try to teach my students to do their best and to never settle for anything less. I listened to an interview recently with William Revelli in which he stated that he and his students had “a mutual agreement that just about right was not good enough.” If my students learn that lesson in my band room and take that kind of attitude into everything they do at school and in their lives they are going to be much better for it.
 
NORTH DAKOTA
Name: Sue Jordahl
School: West Fargo High School
City, State: West Fargo, ND 
Total years teaching: 34 years
Years at this school: 20
Number of students in instrumental music program: 90 Band students
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
Whenever my students volunteer their time and energy to play for people. Veteran’s Day Program, Pep Band, Jazz groups, Summer Community Band. They take their time, outside of school, to play their instruments because they can!

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
I hope my students have a real love for making music. I hope they continue to play for the rest of their lives – community bands, college bands, family gatherings, church functions as just a few examples.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
To be a great person, love what you do, be responsible, and always enjoy music.
 
OHIO
Name: Alan G. Notestine
School: Dempsey Middle School, Willis Intermediate and Hayes HS
City, State: Delaware, OH 
Total years teaching: 23
Years at current school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 240
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My first thought is of one of my first students, who took a winding road to pursue his passion as a music teacher but has arrived and absolutely loves what he does. The second is watching the faces and excitement of the students when they take the field at the Buckeye Invitational. Lastly, looking at the permanent smiles as my beginning band students make their first sound and then play their first song.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
To create relationships with my students that encourages them to do their best, challenges them when they struggling, and celebrating their successes from the time that they enter my program until they graduate and/or for the rest of their lives

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
That playing your instrument is a skill that you can do your entire life. You can enjoy being part of a community band, church group or playing professionally for as long as you want to play.
 
OKLAHOMA
Name: Wendy Benford          
School: Bartlesville Mid-High School & Madison Middle School
City, State: Bartlesville, OK
Total years teaching: 12
Years at this school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 684
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
My proudest moment as an educator came earlier this year while helping some of the students that started in 6th grade with me a few years ago prepare for All-State auditions. Listening to them manage the musical and technical demands of their music with ease is, and continues to be, a bright spot for me.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
By showing my students how much I care about them, not only as musicians but also as human beings, I hope that it will help them in their future lives to have a strong appreciation for the arts and to affect positive change in the world.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Students rarely know what they are truly capable of. One of the phrases that is forbidden in my classroom is “I can’t do it.” I always tell them that “you can do it” and when they experience success, I remind them that perseverance will always pay off and that the only way they can fail is by giving up or simply not trying.  
 

OREGON
Names: James Nowickas
School: West Salem High School & Harritt Elementary School
City, State: Salem, OR
Total Years Teaching: 13
Years at School: 8 at Harritt (teaching Beginning Band & General Music), 3 at West Salem High School (Assistant Band Director)
Number of Students in instrumental program: 30 in Beginning Band at Harritt Elementary School, 120 in Band Program at West Salem High School
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I always want to improve and strive for excellence in my students and myself. I’m proud any time I help a student develop a love and appreciation for music. I must say it’s amazing to have students I started my first year with now be seniors. These seniors are now members of the state champion West Salem High School Wind Ensemble under the direction of Todd Zimbelman. I couldn’t be more proud!  

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I make a difference in students’ lives by being there for them as a teacher they can trust and depend on. I also try to provide structure in my teaching to give my students the tools they need to be successful when they leave my classroom. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is that they are all capable of doing great things with hard work and determination. The hard work and dedication a musician puts into their craft is rewarded by a lifetime of joy in the world of music.
 
PENNSYLVANIA
Name: Lisa E. Hummel
School: Union School District
City, State: Rimersburg, PA
Total Years Teaching: 24 
Years at this school: 24 
Number of Students in Instrumental Program: 144 students 4th-12th grade
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moments as an educator are seeing my students perform while in school and after they have graduated with both small ensembles and large performance groups.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I hope to make a difference by teaching my students to be a good person in both their professional and personal lives.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson I instill in my students is to have a strong work ethic and high personal standards that will continue to help them long after they have left Union.
 
RHODE ISLAND
Name: Marc Blanchette
School: Mount Saint Charles Academy
City, State: Woonsocket, RI
Total years teaching: 34
Years at this school: 34
Number of students in instrumental music program: 150
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Every four years I organize an alumni band to perform at our Christmas Concert. For the past 20 years or so, the alumni band has grown large enough to perform by themselves. We usually have between 110 and 130 alumni perform in the concert. The reason they return is to experience the joy of playing in an ensemble. They all talk about their memories of the joy playing music brought them and how their love of music continues. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
If you can be part of an aesthetic experience once in your life, you will have become a richer person. Once you feel and understand what an aesthetic experience is, you will be drawn to live life on a deeper level.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Live life with passion and dedication. There should be joy in each and every day (even if it is sometimes only in the band room).
 
SOUTH CAROLINA
Name: Kevin D. Hebert
School: Chapin High School
City, State: Chapin, SC
Total years teaching: 13
Years at this school: 5
Number of students in instrumental music program: 120
 

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had many proud moments of winning competitions, state championships, and Ratings. However, I am most proud when I see my students reach the level of performing to the highest level so that they move their audience and share their gift with others.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
I strive to be a good role model for my students everyday. I want to instill in them, not only a love for music, but a desire to be a good citizen and to be the best they can be in all aspects of their life. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
The most important lesson I try to teach my students is that “the will to succeed is important but the will to prepare is equally important.” In today’s society, we want everything right now. Learning a musical instrument does not work that way. Band helps us learn that if you work diligently at something you can achieve greatness. Set yourself goals and don’t quit until you achieve them. 
 
SOUTH DAKOTA
Name: Jason Groon
School: Harrisburg High School
City, State: Harrisburg, SD
Total years teaching: 12
Years at this school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 85 at HS
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
While it would be impossible to identify any single moment as my proudest moment as an educator, there is one recent event that stands out.

This past fall was our first season of competitive field marching. We had 47 students with little or no field marching experience sign up for the ensemble, and, over the course of the season, these students demonstrated a work ethic and drive to perfection that left the entire staff in awe. By the end of the first day of drill camp it became clear that this group of students was determined to exceed any set of expectations we had established — something that proved true time and time again throughout the course of the season. I was incredibly proud to be associated with this outstanding group of students.

How do you hope to make a difference in students¹ lives?
One of my greatest hopes is that participation in band provides my students with a sense of belonging. The journey through high school can be difficult at best. It is my hope that starting the day (and often times ending the day) with 100 of your closest friends helps ease that journey.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Band is about so much more than playing the notes on the page. While I do work to teach the fundamentals of rhythm, pitch, technical facility, etc., I also strive to extend beyond musical skills and help students develop the life skills that are necessary for success not only in the music classroom, but outside of the classroom as well. The work ethic, teamwork skills, self-discipline, and resilience required to be successful in band will also serve them well in life.
 
TENNESSEE
Name: Darrell Boston
School: Loretto High School
City, State: Loretto, TN
Total years teaching: 26
Years at this school: 9
Number of students in instrumental music program: 36 high school and 45 middle school

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Although I am proud of my students, it is their awards that fill this room, and I am happy to be a small part of their accomplishments. We were invited to attend the “Festival of Lights” Christmas Parade in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 2012. We are a small band program. All of the students worked so hard to raise money for the trip. I had tears running down my face as we marched through downtown Gatlinburg. The sparkle in my students’ eyes was far brighter than that of all the Christmas lights. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I try to offer each student a smile as they enter the band room. I want them to feel loved and welcome. I want my students to know I am willing to help them in any way possible. I often tell the students, we are a family. As the leader of the family, I tell them that brothers and sisters sometimes disagree on things, but we have to learn to work with each other and not against each other. I want to try and focus on what the students do best and work from there. I hope it makes a difference to my students to know that I care about and love each one of them. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I try to teach my students to always be fair and honest, and I hope I am leading by example. I try to instill in each student the importance of always doing the right thing and making the right choice even when no one is watching. I want them to have the courage to always do what is right.  

TEXAS
Name: Art Ruangtip
School: Creekview High School
City, State: Carrollton, TX
Total years teaching: 15
Years at this school: 3
Number of students in instrumental music program: 150
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment is when our band students continue their musical endeavors. Regardless if they become music majors or continue to perform in college marching band and/or concert band, the evidence that music has become an integral part of their lives is fulfilling.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I make all efforts to lead by example and demonstrate that music can serve as a positive role in their lives. Though they may take different roads, music is inevitably their common bond. Ten or twenty years from now when they become viable citizens, they will always share the path of music. In the words of one of the former drum majors, “band’s not a class; it’s a way of life.”

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Be a good person. As simple as that may seem, the fine arts is one of the best teachers of life skills and kindred spirit.
 
UTAH
Name: Bret Hughes, Director of Percussion
School: Park City High School (10-12) and Treasure Mountain Junior High School (8-9)
City, State: Park City, UT
Total years teaching: 7
Years at this school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 322 (Grades 8-12)
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moment as an educator was watching the reactions of my students when they received a standing ovation at the 2014 National School Boards Association Annual Conference. To receive genuine applause from a crowd of that size helped validate the work they had done. So often in music, it is the job of the teacher and parents to provide the positive feedback, but when people who have no connection with the students let the students know that they appreciate the music they are performing, that provides a drive and fuel that can burn for a long time within my program.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
I care about their lives outside of percussion, I care about their accomplishments, I care about their future, and I care about them as people. By the time my seniors graduate this year, those students will have been in my class for the past five years. They learn they can trust me and talk to me about anything that is stressing them out in their lives, and anything they need to celebrate in their lives. My hope is that by learning the skills of hard work and motivation in my classroom, they will be able to transfer those skills to other parts of their lives and become excellent students, positively-contributing members of society, and leaders in their profession.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Even if a student stops playing music when they finish high school, it is important that they always value hard work and good citizenship. Those two skills will serve them far better in life than the technical ability to play an instrument. The second is instilling an understanding in the students that accomplishment and genuine recognition are the by-product of hard work and sacrifice.
In the words of Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, “commitment usually means: giving up convenience, going the extra mile, inviting personal discomfort, embracing confrontation, sacrificing instant gratification for the mission at hand. There are no miracle solutions. Excellence is achieved through commitment!”

If my students can leave our program knowing that there is a mathematical relationship between commitment and level of success, then our students are one step closer to being successful in life. 
 
VERMONT
Name: Stephen Rice
School: Brattleboro Union High School
City, State: Brattleboro, VT
Total years teaching: 27
Years at this school: 27
Number of students in instrumental music program: 75
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Bringing band to Presidential Inaugural Parade in 2009.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
By helping them to experience the rewards of hard work in rich and meaningful ways – high quality experience with great music changes lives.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
That participating wholeheartedly and consistently giving their best effort allows them to experience life more fully.
 
VIRGINIA
Name: Jodi Austin
Schools: Meadowbrook High School and Falling Creek Middle School
City, State: Chesterfield, VA
Total years teaching: 12
Years at this school: 12 and 2 respectively
Number of students in instrumental music program: 91 in the strings program 

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
At a field trip to see cellist David Finckel in concert, I overheard my students during intermission. They were comparing a lesser-known Debussy cello piece to other works by Debussy and to the baroque piece at the beginning of the program. They had insights that could not have been found in the program notes, so I asked them where they learned about Debussy. “From the concert you took us to last year!” I still don’t remember that particular concert, but the students did! There have been many other proud moments for me, but nothing compared to overhearing these guitar students discussing Debussy.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
For me, music classes were the only places where I felt accepted and wanted, and I hope my students feel the same acceptance in my class. I hope that my students learn to use music as an outlet to express the frustrations and the joys of life. I hope that success in music class spills over into their other academics like it did mine. For some, I may be the only adult they feel like they can reach out to. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Not all of our students will pursue music as a career route, but all of them will be able use the employable skills learned in their music classes – time management, goal setting, how to work independently as well as how to work in a group, how to give and accept constructive feedback, and confidence under pressure. Every audition is practice for future job interviews!
 
WASHINGTON
Name:  Steven Herrick
School: Lynden High School
City, State: Lynden, WA
Total years teaching: 41
Years at this school: 37
Number of students in instrumental music program: 70
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator? 
Difficult to answer as there have been so many. Perhaps earning a “Excellence in Education” award from Western Washington University and/or watching my students premier a Sean O’Laughlin commissioned work on stage with Mr. O’Laughlin conducting.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
Through the medium of music I hope to instill a passion for the arts, caring for humanity, and a giving of oneself to others.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
That learning is a lifelong skill and ultimately it is the process not the product that is of substance and value in that quest.
 
WEST VIRGINIA
Name: K. Chadsey Conant
School: Shepherdstown Middle School
City, State: Shepherdstown, WV
Total years teaching: 17
Years at this school: 7
Number of students in instrumental music program: 120

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
My proudest moments are hearing the students give outstanding performances. Two performances stand out: performing at the WV Arts Alive Concert at the Clay Center in Charleston, WV, and performing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at a ceremony to honor Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin. Drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Bernie Williams sat in with our jazz band! Everyone was happy and the kids were thrilled. My other proudest moments are when a student who has been struggling nails a performance quiz and the band bursts into spontaneous applause.

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
Attaining excellence in music performance requires the same effort as attaining excellence in almost any endeavor. I hope that the practices that have given them success in music will stay with them throughout their lives.

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Doing your best requires time, practice, patience, and perseverance. Good things will happen when you truly do your best.
 
WISCONSIN
Name: Becky Sue Marcus
School: Kiel Middle School
City, State: Kiel, WI
Total years teaching: 13
Years at this school: 10
Number of students in instrumental music program: 160
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I find it difficult to pinpoint any one particular moment, but the few that stick out involve the pride I see on the faces of my students when they are finished performing, accepting the applause for their work. Whether it went fantastic or not , it was their work. One year we had a group that just attacked everything I gave them. That little group of 17 kids brought the entire gym to its feet while they were playing! It was definitely a high point of my time here! My past jazz kids also come back and play with my middle school summer group! 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives? 
I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives by showing them someone cares. Someone cares enough to notice if they’re not behaving quite the same as normal. Someone cares if they do great! Someone cares if they don’t do so great. Someone expects them to be great! Someone will still be a part of their lives whether they follow through on their commitments or not.  Middle school can be a particularly trying time for kids and they need someone to be their rock and I’m alright being that. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students? 
Band is a family and also like a military squadron. You may have your disagreements, but in the end, you get past it, work it out, and it’s no man left behind. We are all part of a bigger whole. Band is just one example of that in our lives, but I hope to help them understand how that applies to every aspect of life. 
 
WYOMING
Name: Diane Knutson
School: Sheridan High School
City, State: Sheridan, WY
Total years teaching: 33
Years at this school: 11
Number of students in instrumental music program: 115
 
What is your proudest moment as an educator?
In truth, I have a “proudest moment” as an educator almost every day. This week they include seeing my guitar player in jazz band confidently play a solo at our concert after being terrified to do so last year, watching a student who has returned from rehab regain his life and music future, having a clarinet player who doubts her playing ability go through with her All-State audition, seeing a student who has been consistently late to morning practices make the effort to be early every morning, and the list goes on. 

How do you hope to make a difference in students’ lives?
With each student comes a different answer to the question of how to make a difference in their lives. I will say I hope to instill in them that with hard work and a positive attitude, good things will happen in their lives. I have been accused of teaching as many life lessons as music lessons and I’m okay with that. 

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I asked some of my students what the most important lesson they feel I teach them is and received many answers including to be truthful, treat everyone with respect, and to not find an excuse for why they couldn’t do something. But the most common response was to be where they are supposed to be on time. My students hear it all the time. I want them to know that being late is really saying to others that your time is more valuable than my time. 



 


On the Road

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This year, our primary major band travel is for:

Festival Competitions - 42.5%
Public Performances - 30%
Educational Workshops - 5%
Some of All of the Above - 20%

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