Directors Who Make a Difference
Email

For two decades, School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” has focused the spotlight on outstanding music educators from each of these United States.

Honored directors were nominated by students, former and current colleagues, band parents, administrators, friends, former band directors who might have even taught them, and sometimes a spouse of a director who admires the hard work and dedication their other half gives to their school music programs.

This year, we pored over 880 nominations, and narrowing it down was as difficult as ever. With the selections made, and with letters and emails sent, we asked each director to tell us of their proudest teaching moments, how they hope to make a difference in students’ lives, and the most important lessons they try to teach their students. Their answers are as varied and wonderful as the words spoken about them by those who submitted them for this recognition.

And with that, SBO presents the 2017 Class of 50 Directors Who Make a Difference.

 

ALABAMA

Missy Lindley

Albertville Middle School

Albertville, Alabama

Total Years Teaching: 26 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator had to be signing my own twin girls up for the Aggie Band. They had grown up in it since the age of 14 months, but actually watching them become a part of it was a shining moment as a mom and educator. I’m always excited to see the next class of beginners sign up and choose instruments but seeing my own girls “continuing the tradition” was so incredible. I think I will add that another shining moment will come on January 1, 2018, as we march in the Rose Parade as a family. That will be a Kleenex moment for sure!

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

I try to not only instill a lifelong love for an activity my students can do well past school ages years, but also mold them into responsible, respectful, caring young people. Teaching middle school, you are at times a counselor, mom, a cheering section, and a shoulder to cry on. I try to treat each student as my own child. They know that “Momma L” is here for them. I establish high expectations in the classroom for our band and love them through the process.

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

The lesson I hope would live in my students’ hearts is to be kind, do for others, and be a good person. If all young people would do the right thing when nobody is watching, we would all live in a much better place. We all have the capacity to “Make a Difference” (which happens to be the theme of the Rose Parade in 2018) for someone; it’s our choice!

 

ALASKA

Audra Faris

Nikiski North Star Elementary

Nikiski, Alaska

Total years teaching: 14 years regular education, 4 years elementary music

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had several. Whenever a student is smiling and enjoying themselves while performing, I am thrilled. There are thousands of those little moments that happen, not only during a performance, but while they are here in the classroom. But most of all, when a student continues music beyond my classroom, it lets me know that I have planted a seed in their hearts and sparked an interest that may not have been there before.

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

I want students to enjoy music. I want them to experience something really cool here in my classroom that makes them stop and say, “Wow, that was fun,” or “Wow, that makes me want to know more!” Music should be more than just a break from the regular classroom, it should be an enlightening adventure to exposing a part of who they already are. It should be a compliment to the wonderful person they are inside!

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

Truly, it is that music is in everything. It is hard to imagine our daily lives without music: a radio in the morning on our way to work, the school song on the intercom, the students sharing their favorite artists and songs. But music goes beyond that. It is in the fluency of which we read and talk. It is the counting rules and fractions in math, it is our history that brought about many changes in our culture and diversity. Music is in everything. I talk often with my students about how what we are learning fits in to what they are already experiencing. It is not a hard bridge to cross. Rhythm, improvisation, theory, melody, playing an instrument and all that music encompasses can be sewn into a lesson pertaining to our daily routines and lives.

 

ARIZONA

Brendon T. Vega-Foley

Mesquite Junior High School

Gilbert, Arizona

Total Years Teaching: 6 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

The experience of forming a United Sound ensemble at my school. The power of music is beautiful, remarkable and magical; it can reach all children across all lines of difference. United Sound is the perfect opportunity for students with learning differences to be not just included in the band, but to be successful and have a truly meaningful and transformational experience. It was my privilege to witness the absolute joy of new musicians having their very own instrument and to celebrate their first sounds. Through the process, both new musicians and mentors made tremendous growth musically, but even more importantly, our shared love of music helped us to grow together as humans and friends. I ran into a former new musician from our United Sound program at a marching band competition a few weeks ago. We spent some quality time catching up and I learned that she was going to continue playing trombone in United Sound at ASU. That is what it’s all about!

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

I hope to help my students discover and begin to develop their identity. The band hall is still a musical temple, but also becomes a safe haven for students to open up, to begin to learn and embrace who they are, and celebrate their discovery! As students fall in love with making music, they develop a trust for each other and an investment in the band program. Making more and more music fosters independent thinking, creativity, pride, and passion. Students soon realize and understand that I love them, that I believe in them, that I am their biggest fan.

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

Never give up! Never settle! Be relentless in the pursuit of your goals. From good, to great, to unstoppable, here we grow.

 

ARKANSAS

Brady Massey

Pocahontas High School

Pocahontas, Arkansas

Total Years Teaching: 28 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It’s difficult to narrow down a few proudest moments, much less just one. All of them, however, relate to kids and their eyes. That look on their face when they’ve achieved a goal or had a great performance - those moments are the ones that stay with you.

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

When they look back on the time we spent together, it is my hope that they have fond memories, of course. More importantly, however, is that I want them to realize who they became while they shared that portion of their life with me. I hope to create and foster a culture in which kids feel welcome and encouraged to step outside of their comfort zone. As one of my mentors taught me, “There are some kids who need us more than we need them.”

I’ve had countless experiences in which kids who were barely contributing magically transform themselves into true leaders and establish themselves as the students who have earned the respect of their peers and their teachers.

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

Positive life skills. I want them to embrace integrity, professionalism, maturity, responsibility, accountability, goal-setting and achieving, and that they have a vital role in the success of other people. It’s pretty great that we can produce some wonderful music together, too!

 

CALIFORNIA

Sandra L. Lewis

Henry M. Gunn High School

Palo Alto, California

Total Years Teaching: 29 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is difficult to choose just one, I guess I would say that working on music that challenges and encourages students to work to their full potential, technically, musically and as team. Our two orchestras are mixed in ability and yet everyone works to their full potential. All individuals in the group are valued for their contribution to our rehearsals and concerts. I feel that we have a unique community where the older members mentor the incoming freshmen and sophomores and their example sets a tone for the work ethic and compassion that is necessary to be a successful ensemble.

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

Well I try to be a good listener, not just as a musician but also as a person. At the end of the day a student may not remember all the information about some of the works of literature that they may have performed but I am convinced that they will remember the way in which you worked with them and engaged them in the music making process.

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

Nobody is perfect and music can be very messy when you are trying to find the correct path to convey your musical intent to an audience. Playing a perfect set at festival, while thrilling is nothing compared to seeing the look on the faces of seniors when performing in a care home or introducing the instruments to pre-school children for the first time. Music is something that should be shared and enjoyed by everyone. Saying you have to play something “perfect” in order to communicate your voice is contradictory and ultimately destructive to all that is artistic in the human experience.

 

COLORADO

Heather Schenck

Mountain Range High School

Westminster, Colorado

Total Years Teaching: 17 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

One of the proudest moments for me was when my choir was selected to perform at our state educator’s conference. The journey we took together to prepare and present the music was incredibly rewarding. Many of those students are now music educators themselves and they say that this experience drove them to choose music as a career.

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

Of course, I want my students to feel passion for their music and become artists but the biggest difference I want to make is to ensure that my choir students learn true music literacy skills so they are considered musicians just as much as instrumentalists. I want them to be self-reliant and independent in their music learning and performing.

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

I want students to be able to glean life-skills from the way we make music and most of all to find joy in the process and share it with others.

 

CONNECTICUT

Michael Wyatt

Westhill High School

Stamford, Connecticut

Total Years Teaching: 8 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I believe I have a series of proud moments in my daily career as an educator: the epiphany when a struggling student hits that breakthrough, the euphoria the students feel after a strong performance, the elation of their acceptance into the ensembles and colleges that they audition for. If I had to choose a single moment, though, it would be the first time that I had a student tell me that they wanted to major in music education in order to impact children’s lives the way that I had impacted theirs.

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

I hope I make a difference by letting them know that someone cares. The instrumental music room, to me and the majority of my students, is a home. We are a family, we work together to achieve our goals, and our success is only measured by our collective growth, not by any other external metric.

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

It is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we grow, and how we learn. I’m seeing more and more students that are afraid to fail, even temporarily. I try to teach them that the only failure is giving up when those mistakes happen. And a strong work ethic overcomes all.

 

DELAWARE

DuWane Sandlin

Caesar Rodney High School

Camden, Delaware

Total Years Teaching: 40 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Many of my proudest memories focus around our student musicians finally “getting it”, the “a-ha” moments, achieving things that were thought to be unachievable. I’ve been at this a while, so I am teaching children of former students. I find it incredibly gratifying that my past students realize the importance of a music education in their adult lives; they want this for their own children, as did I. I was incredibly fortunate to have my own two children as music students during their high school years.

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

I often say that we are teaching more than music. We are teaching cooperation, rising above adversity, creativity, citizenship, thinking outside the box – skills that everyone needs to succeed in life. I share an office with two of my colleagues (one of them is my wife), and the three of us constantly collaborate – in the office, in the stadium bleachers, on the bus. I know our students recognize this model of cooperation and mutual respect, because I observe them doing the same thing – working together to achieve a common goal.

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

It all boils down to a simple equation: Effort = Success. And that’s in everything – in music, in relationships, in careers, in life.

 

FLORIDA

Dr. Lamont S. Snyder

William Dandy Middle

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Total Years Teaching: 29 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator is when I received The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation Award in recognition of my service to my students and to my profession. This award was presented at Carnegie Hall in New York City were five music teachers were selected from across the country. U.S. senator John Glenn presided over the ceremony and personally presented the award to each recipient. This award was not just for me it was for me and my students. I am very proud to say this is one of my proudest moments as an educator.

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

I hope to make a difference in my students lives by continuing to empower the students with the necessary tools that will shape their future and the decisions they will make as they move on from middle school, and high school to becoming productive members of society and in their community. Also, I encourage and cultivate an atmosphere for building academic and musical development. This is how I hope to make a difference in my students lives.

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

As a teaching professional, I have a commitment to the success of each and every student that comes through my class. I envisioned a program that would teach discipline, self esteem and build character, tolerance and tenacity. I also hope that while teaching those skills, I would teach the students to love music and give them an opportunity to further their education in college with those skills. My commitment and love for music are apparent not only in the time and energy I have invested in sharing with my students, but also in the lessons I have that will be of use to my students outside of the classroom. This is the most important lesson that I will try to teach my students.

 

GEORGIA

Barbara Baker

McIntosh High School

Peachtree City, Georgia

Total Years Teaching: 27 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is difficult to single out one moment as my proudest. There have been several life changing moments throughout my career involving many students and families. One of my most proud moments was several years ago at our district level state music evaluation. We were near the end of our piece and all of the lights went out in the venue. Our students did not stop playing in the darkness and that was an amazing experience to share with them.

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

I hope that the difference that I make is showing them that anything is possible. They are not defined by any one moment but an accumulation of those moments over time. Music has a power that at times cannot be expressed in words but only through emotion. It is the most powerful communication that we have as human beings in a world that at times can be a lonely place. Hopefully music will be a part of my kids’ lives for a lifetime and not just for the years that they work with me.

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

I try to teach my students that you will be less than perfect in all aspects of your life. You will make mistakes but they will only define you if you choose to swim in that mistake. Life is about recovering so quickly that people doubt that the error ever occurred at all. I teach them that this attitude when performing translates to everything that you do in life. If you master an understanding of this philosophy and apply it in life it can help you succeed.

 

HAWAII

Gregg Akamine

James Campbell High School

Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Total Years Teaching: 1 year

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment has been seeing the students overcome the adversity of losing both of their former high school directors half-way through last year. Losing both of their band teachers within a two-month span is something completely unheard of and really shook students. They not only had to cope with the loss of two teachers they were very close to, but also had to help and get used to a newly hired, fresh-out-of-college teacher, who knew absolutely nothing. For the band to have come together, pull through, and to have received such generous applause and a standing ovation at our end-of-semester Aloha Concert this past May, was the best moment I have had so far as an educator.

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

I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives by providing great experiences and a sense of community where the students can be themselves. I hope that the students are proud to be a part of the JCHS Band Program and happy with the experiences and education they are receiving. In the years after they graduate, I would like my students to be able to look back on the friendships, lessons, and memories they made through music and simply smile, knowing they had the time of their lives with the best people in the world.

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

The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is to give and do all they can to be the best person they can be. Though everyone is flawed and not equally privileged, this should not deter any of them from being the best and improving in every way they can. Whether it be right now as a musician and student, or later in their careers, always be the best people they can possibly be. As a result, they will be successful, achieve remarkable things, and make a positive difference in this world.

 

IDAHO

Enrique Martinez

East Junior High School

Boise, Idaho

Total Years Teaching: 10 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I’m proud any time I get to see my students experience the joy that comes with musical achievement. It’s exciting to see their eyes widen as they realize they’re starting to make mature sounds and when they realize how much they are growing as musicians! It’s even more wonderful when they start to become autonomous and explore their own musical vision, realizing they can get better and learn without my guidance. Mostly, I take pride in knowing my students will continue to value music and see it not as a trivial luxury, but as a necessity for human existence.

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

I hope that students leave my program with a sense that they can accomplish incredible things through hard work, dedication, and teamwork. I want to give students the realization that they have the power to achieve greatness uncommon for people their age, and that they can do that regardless of their background or where they started. They learn that the path to success is not always comfortable or easy, and that if they persist they’ll be capable of doing things they never would have thought possible.

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

I try to teach my students that the same qualities that make amazing musicians make amazing humans and citizens. The band is made of individuals that each need to prepare and perform their part, and at the same time, each individual must compromise, listen attentively, and have awareness of their role in order for the ensemble to achieve. I hope that a sense of personal responsibility and a simultaneous value of community is something that they will carry into their lives.

 

ILLINOIS

Mary Emily Binder

Neuqua Valley High School

Naperville, Illinois

Total Years Teaching: 23 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am most proud as an educator when I see students helping others and deriving pleasure from the success of others. My colleagues and I work very hard to help students notice and appreciate the beauty and gifts in everything around them. Through our Guided Practice Teacher program, marching band and pep band Student Leadership Teams, and summer music High School Helper Leadership Academy, we provide opportunities for students to practice mentoring and servant leadership. There is nothing better than watching a high school student beaming with pride at the performance of their 6th, 7th or 8th grade student.

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

I hope to help every student feel valued and aware that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone belongs and has a gift or gifts to bring to the ensemble. It’s my job to help them see the gift or gifts in themselves and show them how to share. Through a devotion to the music and a student- centered process, we can all achieve and produce something beautiful and rewarding.

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

Be good humans. At the end of the day, all we really have is how we treat each other. Every person matters and we have an obligation to each other to be kind and respectful.

 

INDIANA

Tim Cox

Decatur Central High School

Indianapolis, Indiana

Total Years Teaching: 25 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had countless proud moments as a band director. Some of the best moments include having my children in my ensembles. It has been a joy and pleasure to see them grow into the people they are today. They have taught me how to be a better director and a better person. I have also experienced taking our band to its first ever state finals appearance in marching band, winning state titles, and performing in front of people all over the country. I am grateful for my school district’s support and the fact that I was able to have input in the design of the new state-of-the-art fine arts center where we host dozens of contests for the state of Indiana. I am very proud of the booster organization at Decatur Central and the time I have spent working with an outstanding band and guard staff members.

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

I want my students to know the about the joy of making music and the amount of time, dedication and sacrifice it takes to be successful. I want to be an example of what it looks like to be a servant leader and how they can apply the skills they learn in our group to the rest of their lives. “To be early is to be on time” is something we say a lot in our bands and color guard. I want them to know how to treat others well and have pride in what they do and who they are. I want them to believe in themselves and to believe in others.

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

One of the most important lessons I want to teach my students is about family. I am blessed to have a wife, kids and extended family that are the true example of this. My twin brother is one of the best band directors in Indiana. In this day and age, I believe it is so important to build a community of people who love and support others. It is my hope that my students have felt this at DCHS. Through the years, the awards and trophies will gather dust, but the memories and friendships you built as a member of a group will sustain you for years to come.

 

IOWA

Peter Carlson

Sibley-Ocheyedan High School

Sibley, Iowa

Total Years Teaching: 21 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Guiding students and ensembles in the process towards specific goals and outstanding achievements, that once seemed impossible.

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

Knowing that my expectations are for them to carry the same disciplines they learned through participation in music into their daily lives.

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

Appreciate and learn from all the roller coaster experiences of being a musician, to become of a life-long fan of music.

 

 

 

KANSAS

Robert E. Foster, Jr.

Starside Elementary School

Lexington Trails Middle School

De Soto High School

De Soto, Kansas

Total Years Teaching: 26 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am proudest when my students are successful. These moments could be a beginner clarinet going over the break or a 6th grader learning to double tongue. Or, it could also be when one of my students in selected into the All-State Band or a former band student choosing to pursue a music education or music performance degree! For me, the joy of teaching is encouraging and inspiring young people to become as successful on their instrument as possible.

How do I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives?

I hope that the students in my band program will develop the same passion for music that I have. I was fortunate to grow up in a very musical family. My father, Bob Foster, was the University of Kansas Band Director for 30 years, and my grandfather, Estill Foster, was an accomplished high school band director in South Texas. These influences, as well as studying and working alongside great music educators and mentors, have helped me to develop into the musician that I am. Music has changed my life, and I hope that I can pass on this same love for music.

What is the most important lesson to teach my students?

The most important lesson I can teach my students is that the work that goes into becoming a great musician, can have a positive impact on their life. For instance, their dedication, their work ethic, their ability to work with others, and their ability to set extremely high personal goals not only benefits my students in music but also will benefit them in other professional fields outside of the field of music. If young musicians have the desire and commitment to become great musicians on their instrument, then this desire and commitment will also prepare them to be successful once they graduate high school or college. It is extremely rewarding to see former band students become not only successful music educators and professional players, but also doctors, teachers, lawyers, policemen, plumbers, and other contributing members of society!

 

KENTUCKY

Paul Shepherd

Formerly Ballard High School

Louisville, Kentucky

Total Years Teaching: 15 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is when the goose bumps raise the hairs on your arms. The ensemble breathes, almost as a single organism; at that moment when weeks of classroom instruction converge with student learning and music happens. The notes lift from the page and it is no longer about bar lines and time signatures, but rather a shared collective experience that only this art medium can offer. Throughout my career as a music educator, it has never been about chasing the resume building accolades, but rather striving to create moments such as these which transcend the ordinary classroom or even the most prestigious concert hall. These are my mountain top experiences.

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

Teaching music is a tremendous vehicle for connecting with and mentoring young people. My high school band director was not only a brilliant educator, but he was a much-needed mentor that brought a steadying hand to my life during a time of great challenges. He is the reason I am a teacher, and I have always felt the desire to give back what was given to me. His love of music was contagious and anyone that came in contact with him not only learned to love music, but they learned to have an incredible work ethic. He also impressed upon me the importance of balancing work with family. I am always aware that the voice I have in my students lives goes well beyond the music or an academic platform. With the increasing amount of challenges facing our students and the overwhelming stress that is being put on our educational system, I feel that is of great importance to step into a support role that will help my students meet their highest potential.

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

A few months ago, I received a picture text of poster that one of my former students had made and pinned up in her dorm room that read “It’s not hard, it’s unfamiliar.” Anyone in my classroom has inevitably heard this phrase a thousand times. We are often impaired by our belief or someone else’s imposed belief that something is hard. There are very few things in this life that are truly hard. Most tasks and challenges simply require thoughtful and diligent practice over a consistent period of time. This is the resounding message that I hope to impart upon to all of my students.

 

LOUISIANA

Guy C. Wood

Archbishop Shaw High School

Marrero, Louisiana

Total Years Teaching: 50 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are so many over the years that I can’t pick just one. I’m always very proud when my former students come back to saythanks and to let me know how much the band meant to them. Many of my students are now band directors, themselves. The one moment that will always stand out in my memory, though, is seeing a fifteen-year-old student in his coffin at his wake with his mallets in the casket with him and his solo & ensemble medal pinned to his lapel. It was only my second year in the urban New Orleans Public Schools, but I knew that it was God telling me I was where I was supposed to be. I stayed eighteen years.

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

I hope to make a difference in their lives by instilling in them a life-long love of music that will enrich their lives after they graduate. I also want them to know that the Band is their second family and that the band room is a safe place for them no matter what challenges they may be having at home at that moment. They must know that they are wanted and that they are so important to me and everyone else in the Band. Self-esteem is so important to high school-age students. I hope to let them know how loved they are and that they make a real difference to the band’s success.

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

There are so many besides musicianship. One is to always strive to do your very best. If you fall short, knowing you gave it your all will get you through any temporary failures. Life isn’t always fair, and learning that fact in high school prepares them to the reality of life. Band teaches kids to believe in themselves and work as a team to solve problems. The responsibility that students learn from having the other band members depend on them will carry on through their lives. Learning to work hard to achieve your goal, to believe in yourself, to be responsible for your actions, and to work successfully with others are essential for success throughout life. I always try not to use the kids to teach music, but to use the music to teach kids.

 

MAINE

Susan Brady Barre

Waterville Public Schools, Band 5-12

Waterville, Maine

Total Years Teaching: 26 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments are the “light bulb” moments. The opportunity to see students make a discovery and realize the significance. Over just the last week I think of the student in 5th grade who began to develop the skill of practicing resulting in measurable improvement or the magic of tech week when the sophomore performs with the pit orchestra for the first time and everything comes together. The spark in the eye that says, “I just did that.” Those moments are my proudest moments, those moments are the reason I teach.

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

It is my hope that the lessons that students learn in band, musical and others, result in each one of them becoming lifelong advocates and consumers of and for music and music education. Music Education is a venue to refine musical skills and so many other skills. Students learn to work together towards a common goal, compromise, deal with conflict, overcome disappointment and celebrate success and at times and comfort each other in times of sorrow. Students learn the importance of civic engagement through parades and performances and the significance one person can have within an organization and as an organization. If these lessons are carried forward into their adult lives I feel I have made a difference.

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

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is to follow their passion. When we talk about careers after high school I speak to finding something they love to do and then finding a way to get paid for it. I am fortunate enough to still love my job after twenty-eight years. If through my words and action I can teach students that if you love your work it does not feel like work and more importantly that beyond work family always comes first then I feeI that I have succeeded.

 

MARYLAND

Richard McCready

River Hill High School

Clarksville, Maryland

Total Years Teaching: 23 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I always get several students in my Beginner Guitar class who have not yet found anything they can be successful at. I teach them to believe in themselves. At the end of each year we hold a big guitar concert, called Guitarpalooza, and every year I am thrilled to see those unsure beginners jamming out on stage along with advanced students, guests, and alumni, as we play a big finale such as “Hotel California” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” In that moment, I see that those students realize they are in the music, and the music is in them.

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

I hope to make them understand that they are always musicians, whether they choose music as a career or not. I want them to never stop creating music, playing music, listening to music, and sharing that joy. The skills we build are not just for class, they are for life.

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

Music is a gift, and we are the bearers of that gift for others. We must always share the gift.

 

MASSACHUSETTS

Ted Greely

Sharon Middle School

Sharon, Massachusetts

Total Years Teaching: 20 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator was when I was working with a student who was having a challenging time with an audition piece for a local music festival. I took what I learned from a book called “The Inner Game of Tennis” (after which another book, “The Inner Game of Music” was published with the same concepts) and suggested she quiet the critical voice in her head, and just focus on what she noticed about her playing without actively trying to fix it. It worked wonders, she got out of her own way, and succeeded not only in her audition, but was able to apply that concept to other areas in her life successfully.

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

I hope to help them realize that it’s the careful, accurate, and deliberate effort they put into learning their instrument and reading music that will help them to be successful.

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

Growth mindset and brain malleability are the keys to success and confidence. That being a musician isn’t based on talent, but slow, deliberate, efficient effort. I often will ask the students if they’ve ever traced a shape over and over again in wet sand at the beach, and how, if it’s retraced the same way, it gets deeper into the sand. Then I tell them that the brain works the same way — if we do the same thing over and over again, whether it’s right or wrong, it gets deeper and deeper into their brain that way, which is why it’s more efficient to practice slowly, accurately, and deliberately, rather than practicing mistakes that then have to be relearned.

 

MICHIGAN

Thomas A. Torrento

Lincoln High School & Middle School

Warren, Michigan

Total Years Teaching: 6 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Upon accepting the position of director of bands at Lincoln in 2012, I quickly realized that unless I did something to acquire an inventory of instruments for students to utilize, that the program would die. Low socio-economics would not prevent a child from experiencing the arts in my program. Through meticulous grant writing ($275,000 to date) I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation grant. In December of 2014 we hosted a celebration concert. Local dignitaries were on sight to see our amazing students perform on brand new equipment! Watching my students beaming that day was without question my proudest moment!

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

Most teachers only have the privilege to impact their students’ lives for a year. As the sole director at the secondary level within the Van Dyke Public School system, I have 7 years to get to know my students as individuals. If I can use music as a vehicle to bring my students together, regardless of all of their individual baggage, and have them working and existing as a team, then I feel I have taught skills required to be more successful throughout life. Of course, helping them discover a love of different types of music is also very important.

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

If you are persistent, motivated, and work hard anything is possible provided you manage your time and put in the required preparation. For my kids, this might apply to performing beautifully on their instruments, raising their GPA to ensure they are meeting academic standards of excellence, or balancing schoolwork and a job. I want them to shoot for the stars and be willing to take risks understanding that even in failure there is opportunity for growth. Failure does not define you! Having the strength to continue to move forward in spite of failure, is an invaluable skill.

 

MINNESOTA

Erin Holmes

Farmington High School

Farmington, Minnesota

Total Years Teaching: 18 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator has yet to come. Each day brings a new experience that challenges my mindset, intellect, and emotions on such a wide-ranging scale. Each year has also brought my own expertise to new levels. To try and define my pride of what we have created here in Farmington to one moment just isn’t possible.

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

I want to be consistent for them. High School is a vastly different experience for each and every student that comes through our classrooms. For some it is full, fun, vibrant, and they will fondly look back at their time in high school. For others it is confusing, full of anxiety, and can even be torturous at times. On any given day, I want to be sure kids know that I genuinely care about what I do and they consistently understand why I think any given topic or task is so important. I feel when students really get why I am passionate about education and music it will give them a more authentic feel and buy into what we do every day.

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

The most important lesson I want to teach my students is a global perspective for those around them and why that is important. I want them to learn how to function in society with care for themselves by learning how to identify, cultivate, and prosper, as their own unique self while also understanding how that individualism aligns, fits, and adds value to the larger community for a real sense of daily purpose.

 

MISSOURI

Lori Hutton

Marshfield High School & Junior High

Marshfield, Missouri

Total Years Teaching: 25 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am very proud of having many former students become music educators and professional musicians, and equally proud of watching our students grow into wonderful citizens by starting them in the sixth grade and seeing them through our band program until they graduate. However, the one moment that brings tears of joy to me is when our High School Band traveled to Washington D.C. to perform at the WWII memorial. We had finished our concert and getting ready for more sightseeing when several buses of an Honor Flight pulled in. Our students wanted to stay and help the WWII veterans off the bus as many were in wheel chairs. They talked to the vets and thanked them for their service. As the Honor Flight veterans were getting ready to see their Memorial, our students lined up on each side of the sidewalk and started clapping as the veterans walked/wheeled by. Tears were flowing from both the veterans and our students. They gave up an afternoon to spend with the WWII veterans who gave so much to us. This gift of giving back from our students incredibly touched my heart.

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

By letting each student know how important they are and that I believe in them. I try to build their confidence, motivate and inspire to excel so it spreads to all areas of their lives. Also teaching the students teamwork, responsibility, and leadership is something I feel important so they can take those qualities into whatever career they choose.

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

I try to teach my students to have a life-long love of music and to see beauty in everything and everyone. I hope to make them aware of what they are truly capable of, not only in music, but in life.

 

MISSISSIPPI

Richard Shirey

South Panola High School

Batesville, Mississippi

Total Years Teaching: 14 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

In my fifth year of teaching, I took a job as the head band director in a rural north-Mississippi town. Within a couple of years, my assistant and I had worked hard to double the number of students in middle school band; we had outgrown the high school band hall by then, too. Boosters fundraised and were able to rally enough community support to build a new band facility. The design process was a lot of work, but watching the construction was exciting. Seeing the pride on our students’ faces as they moved into their new band “home” was so much fun. Creating a foundation for future generations of band students is a priceless memory.

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

When I run into former students that are now in college or have started their own careers, they tell me how much they miss being in high school band. They talk about marching off the field at a contest or something funny that happened while preparing for a concert, but I know what they mean – they miss how they felt at those moments. I may lose sight of it quite often, but creating more good moments for my students is how I hope to keep making a difference in their lives.

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

I find myself teaching resiliency more than I have in the past. Band students can do incredible things, but, for example, the process of cleaning foot timing in a drill segment or adjusting intonation in a particular phrase can be tedious. My students, many of whom are growing up in poverty, need to know that working hard, being positive, and maintaining focus on a particular task will result in achieving goals. Learning to perform music takes time, so we work on being resilient to get us through the difficult moments.

 

MONTANA

Kelly Berdahl

Bozeman High School

Bozeman, Montana

Total Years Teaching: 26 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I think we all have “proudest moments of musical achievements” throughout our careers, none really able to outweigh another. But I think my proudest moment(s) was learning that our bands literally gave kids the reason to stay in school, to make it through high school, and in at least one case, save the life of a former suicidal student. The fact that the environment and community we foster in our bands had that affect and purpose in those kids is where I find the most gratification.

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

I would hope my students truly “felt emotion” at some point in our journey together. Music is the doorway to emotion, the attribute that truly makes us human. Whether the thrill of a high-energy piece, or the solemn angst of a mournful elegy, I try to convey that passion in my own teaching, (with intensity, humor, analogy, or energy), directing kids towards that deeper and sometimes untapped pool of meaning. Hopefully, an awareness of enriching one’s life.

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

Compassion and perseverance are fairly equal in importance. What can we do in this world as a band? Not only can we share the joy and power of music, but showing compassion, kindness and support to others is our duty as fellow human beings. The importance of extending compassion by giving to those in need is something I can only hope to have taught successfully. Perseverance needs no explanation. The very nature of high school band demands it. To bear witness to such a vast array of different individuals working together, persevering through challenge, towards this common and amazing goal, and the subsequent achievement, sharing this magical event with their peers, is nothing short of profound. But, remember, to do so without compassion would be no different than a machine.

 

NEBRASKA

Chiyo (Kamada) Trauernicht

Gerald Otte-Blair Middle School

Blair, Nebraska

Total Years Teaching: 10 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

What makes me smile the most is seeing my band room full of students after school. There are students all over the room. Some are practicing for an honor band audition coming up, practicing their jazz band solos, helping friends with fingerings, working on fundraising projects, strumming on ukulele, and organizing the music library. Others need me to fix their instruments (always!) — and then there are some just hanging out. What gives me goose bumps the most is that moment of total silence after a fermata in the middle of a song that you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium during G.P. In that moment, the students and I know that we reached the level beyond notes and rhythms.

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

I hope to make a difference by helping one student at a time. Our profession, in a way, is saving the lives of these children. Middle school years were not an easy time for me. Students are growing everyday physically, intellectually, mentally, socially, and frankly, it is a challenge. Whether they know it or not, they need a lot of help. I want to give them my time, my classroom, my heart, and my expertise to help them grow. Years later, I want them to feel like they had at least one safe place to belong in their middle school lives.

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

I try to nurture their innate ability to love and appreciate all the beautiful things in the world. Music is a beautiful thing. Music is a universal language. It is a way to connect us to other people, past experiences, our homes, our countries, culture, history, nature, earth and even the universe. I want my students to have a deep emotional connection to the music. When you experience the power and importance of music, you learn to appreciate others’ music, arts, culture, and lives. It becomes impossible for us to hurt others or try to take away what is important to others.

 

NEVADA

Geoff Neuman

Bishop Gorman High School

Las Vegas, Nevada

Total Years Teaching: 20 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Of all the proudest moments in my career I find it difficult to pick just one. I have had the honor of conducting my student ensembles at The Midwest Clinic, Carnegie Hall and other stages around the world. However, witnessing my students’ educational journey and personal growth into young men and women is what I am most proud. As an educator, I embrace helping students with not only the tools to learn music but also essential skills needed in the future stages of their lives.

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

I want the students to be proud of the legacy they leave after graduation. They may not remember every performance or piece of music performed but I hope they take the non-musical influence as much as the musical ones with them. As music educators, we understand the self-discipline and teamwork aspect in our lessons. But students may not realize this until later in life. It is also my hope that students love music no matter if they continue as music majors in college, make it a profession or just become a listener.

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

Beyond all the fundamentals and technical aspects of learning an instrument and music I want the students to learn that hard work does pay off. Also, being a good citizen is important. Being there for your family, friends and community is something that should be part of our routine not an afterthought.

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

David Wilson

Mascoma Valley Regional High School

Canaan, New Hampshire

Total Years Teaching: 38 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There was a piece of music that the senior members of the band had played as freshmen, and they really wanted to perform it as seniors. So, for about three weeks they set up secret rehearsals with the full band. The night of the concert one of the seniors led me to a chair, borrowed my baton, and let me sit back and watch them performed their masterpiece. You know that your students are successful when they no longer need you to hold their hand.

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

On a daily basis, I am privileged to stand in front of some of the most talented, intelligent, and diversified students the school has to offer. And all I have to do is show up, look down at my feet to remind me of where I am supposed to be each day, and share in the process as the young people I interact with grow, develop, and mature. I cannot solve all of their problems, but I can help them find their way. I am blessed that I have the power of music as my motivator.

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

You are not solving world hunger, you’re just playing a musical instrument. So, relax, enjoy the moment, and work to develop your craft. And if you get nervous, embrace the feeling. Nerves are God’s way of shaking the best out of you.

 

NEW JERSEY

Brian P. Timmons

Bergenfield High School

Bergenfield, New Jersey

Total Years Teaching: 20 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

While major performances are thrilling, my proudest moment as an educator is to see the success my students have in life after they leave the band room, utilizing the skills that they learned there. Regardless of what they choose to do in life, seeing and hearing about commitment, dedication, teamwork, passion and artistry in their daily actions is very gratifying. I am very proud of those who have chosen to carry the torch by pursuing careers in education, and especially in music. I am honored to now call some of these former students my colleagues.

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

I hope to make a difference in students’ lives by demonstrating that music is something that they can infuse in their daily lives forever. They will always have the opportunity to continue to play or sing, and to join together with others through music. And through music-making, they can build connections like none other. As an alumnus of this program, I try to foster the same lifelong love of music that my teachers gave to me.

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

The most important lesson I try to teach is that each of them matters, both in our program, school, and in the world around them. As an ensemble member, their contribution affects the whole. If they are prepared, focused, and committed, the group finds success. When they go off into the world, the decisions they make continue to affect others all around them. If they choose to use the same skills and values they learned as a musician, the world just may be a better place because of them.

 

NEW MEXICO

April Henderson Pickrell

El Dorado Community School

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Total Years Teaching: 20 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments as an educator are when former students come back to me and tell me how band influenced their lives. Many students have gone to college to learn more about music, even though they may not be majoring in this area. It fills my heart with joy when they tell me that they have a passion for music so they perform, teach or just appreciate what being in band taught them.

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

The skills learned in our school band program — self-discipline, increased self-esteem, group cooperation, commitment, responsibility to self and to a group, and teamwork — will be reflected in a successful adult life. Knowing that great performances are the fruits of a considerable investment in preparation, hard work, and lessons learned from failure, the opportunity to enjoy a new level of communication and self-expression is the goal for every musician, young or old. Creativity is within us all, and the language of music serves as the perfect vehicle for this journey in personal growth and in the development of knowledge and skills.

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

The most important lesson for students to learn is to always strive to do their best. The study and performance of music is an opportunity that our young people of today truly need. Recent studies show that students who participate in music programs, such as band, become the strongest students, academically speaking, in their schools. When the students learn that every person is critical to the success of the band, then they are able to apply these same concepts and strive to always do their best in life.

 

NEW YORK

Jacquelin M. Kovacs

Maine-Endwell High School

Endwell, New York

Total Years Teaching: 23 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to teach and work with hundreds of students, colleagues and families. There are countless, proud moments of great performances, excellent festival evaluations, successful solo adjudications for a student who struggled and persevered. Yet, I am most proud to watch my students grow as individuals, giving each student the chance to find out something about themselves through their participation in music. I am proud when students learn how to contribute as individuals to the greater good of the group, when they accept the selflessness this requires and have the dedication to succeed.

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

The music classroom is a very diverse community. I strive to create an atmosphere where students of all backgrounds, with varied interests, can feel safe and included in the band. Music educators know that the discipline of music education will provide students the opportunity to acquire values, pride, confidence, and a sense of personal identity within our ensembles. Students will develop life skills of self-discipline, goal setting and the perseverance necessary to achieve. Each student is an integral part to the success of the ensemble. If students can take this foundation to all areas of their lives, they will make a difference.

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

I hope to instill in students the realization that everything they need to succeed can be found within themselves. I hope students can approach their life with the enthusiasm they had the first time they picked up their instrument. I want students to be go beyond their comfort zones and to realize failure is okay if they reflect and grow from the experience. I want students to know music will always be there for them, no matter where their journey takes them in life.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

LaSaundra Booth

Zebulon Gifted & Talented Magnet Middle School

Zebulon, North Carolina

Total Years Teaching: 14 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment is when I founded the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra (WFCYO). In 2013, my position at Wake Forest Middle School was cut even though I had 70 students enrolled. With my program being cut, students were left without an opportunity to participate in string orchestra. Since there was no other string program in that part of the county, I decided to create a string program outside of the school system. WFCYO started with only 3 students enrolled. Currently, WFCYO provides free instruments and instruction to 130 Pre-K through 12th grade students across three counties.

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

I hope to make a difference by touching the lives of students where they need it most. I want my students to reflect on my life story and know that there is hope. I grew up in poverty without a father. My mother worked at a gas station so that my sister and I had food. Playing the cello changed the trajectory of my life. I did not become a product of my environment, and do not want my students to. I want to be a source of inspiration that participating in music can be life changing for them as well.

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 know who they are as a person and as a musician. Many times, students come to me, and they have no idea what their name means. I use that as a starting point. I tell them that their names are important, and that they were given their name for a reason. Students must understand that because their name has special meaning, they should hold high expectations of themselves. There is no limit to what they can do. If they will only believe, they can achieve. Speak positive!

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Sara Baumann

Mandan Middle School

Mandan, North Dakota

Total Years Teaching: 16 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

The band students at Mandan Middle School provide many opportunities to be proud of them, which makes it difficult to narrow down this answer. I have two favorite concerts that make each year begin and end with success; the first concert for our 6th grade beginners and the final Spring concert for our 8th grade students. I love to see the nerves, excitement, and success of the beginners, and this year my daughter is a beginning clarinet student. I am so thrilled to see her perform in her first band concert, and I am so lucky that she is in my program! It is equally rewarding to hear our 8th graders on their final concert, who have successfully completed three years of band at the middle school and are “graduating” on to high school where they will be a member of my husband’s program. It is wonderful having the privilege to witness and be a part of the hard work and energies put forth by our students.

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

I want my students to enjoy the sense of pride and accomplishment that is a part of being in the band. Everyone should know the great value that their membership and contributions have given to the program. All our students will continue to be a consumer of music either as a listener, performer, or maybe even a future band parent, and I hope that they know that music is something that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

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

It is my wish that through participation in band at Mandan Middle School, students will develop strong musical skills. But being in band is much more than performing music. I want my students to know that with hard work comes great success, and that if they put in the effort the rewards are limitless. I hope students leave my program with the lifetime skills that will help them to be productive, caring, and compassionate citizens.

 

OHIO

Tami Pleso

Bristol High School

Bristolville, Ohio

Total Years Teaching: 20 years

What is your proudest moment as a teacher?

Every day I am touched by seemingly small moments, such as the excitement of a beginning band student, the smile of accomplishment on the face of a student who has mastered a difficult passage, or the looks of satisfaction from students when they know they have just “nailed” a performance. I am always extremely proud when my former students seek out ways to continue to play their instrument in college or in the community. Just recently I experienced a new sense of pride when I was able to watch the performance of a band under the direction of one of my own former students!

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

I hope that my students use their experiences in band to give them courage to try new experiences, confidence in themselves and their abilities, and determination to succeed even when circumstances are difficult. I hope they will always look back on their time in band and feel the excitement, passion and joy that music brought to their lives. I hope they continue to be aware of the importance that music has in the world and in our own society, and I hope they are always able to find a way to keep music in their lives and to pass it on to someone else.

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

The most important lessons we can give our students are not always academic. I try to teach my students to stay positive in difficult situations and have confidence in their own abilities, to be leaders, not followers, and to be positive role models for others. I teach them to surround themselves with people who will help them to be the best version of themselves. No matter how tough the world can be, I want them to always be kind. And most of all, I want them to remember, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think!”

 

OKLAHOMA

Kathy Eby

Prague Public School

Prague, Oklahoma

Total Years Teaching: 43 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Although I’ve been blessed by many proud moments in my career, I have to say the proudest is being inducted into the Oklahoma Bandmasters Hall of Fame. Being voted in by my peers is a moment I won’t soon forget. This honor also brings recognition to my students, administrators and the community of Prague.

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

I teach my band classes not only music but I also teach life skills which can lead to more opportunities for success now as a student and later as an adult. I believe in teaching the important life skills of punctuality, discipline, responsibility, commitment, team work, leadership and unselfishness. These skills are taught from beginner band through seniors in high school band. Adding these skills to the long list of musical studies also can lead to a higher level of self-confidence which makes a successful musician and a quality individual.

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

Commitment is the focus of my teaching. Students that take their commitment seriously can improve their musicianship skills so much faster than others that don’t really care. I try to get all my students to be dedicated and perform at their highest level for themselves and for the band. I find that dedicated students will strive for excellence in any way that will benefit everyone, even if it means sacrificing their personal wants and desires. My students have learned to be unselfish and will usually volunteer to play whichever part is weak, sometimes a player will volunteer to play third part instead of first, or play a different instrument. I believe that commitment leads to a feeling of family because we care about each other and we are all working toward the same goal.

 

OREGON

Jeff Wilson

Alder Creek Middle School

Rex Putnam High School

Milwaukie, Oregon

Total Years Teaching: 21 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Without question my proudest moments are all about watching students move from questioning whether they can be successful to the moment they achieve success. From the beginning flute player who struggled for weeks to make “the sound” on her head joint to the high school seniors who walk across the stage to get their diplomas, the smiles on their faces and the gleam in their eyes are priceless.

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

I strive to provide an atmosphere that allows students to feel safe, welcomed and valued. Regardless of their musical skill or financial status, I want them to know they are a part of a musical family that cares about them. I also want to teach them to love music. Whether they continue to play their instrument after high school or not, I want them to have a deep appreciation for the experience they had and the desire to help future generations find music.

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

I try to teach my students to care for one another, make every room they enter a better place, strive for excellence in all that they do and leave a trail of joy wherever they go.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Brian Yealy

Delone Catholic High School

McSherrystown, Pennsylvania

Total Years Teaching: 34 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

One of my proudest moments was finally completing my master’s degree in music education in 1998 after working on it part-time for seven years, teaching full-time, and helping my wife raise our toddlers simultaneously. The best part was walking at the graduation ceremony while my children held up little signs that read, “Congratulations, Daddy! We’re proud of you!” My daughter is now pursuing the same master’s degree at the same university.

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

Like most band directors, I hope that my students learn to understand, appreciate, and produce quality music while learning valuable life skills like dependability, teamwork, and persistence. Hopefully, my graduates can look back on their high school years with pride in the great music we made together, and fondness for the good times we all shared. Recently, about 20 band alumni returned to play with my current band members in the bleachers at homecoming. I loved seeing them all and catching up on what they’ve been doing. I also enjoyed working with several alumni as members of our 2017 marching band staff.

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

Lately, I find myself frequently saying, “Everyone has to contribute!” It’s surprising how often this sentence comes in handy – from creating an effective crescendo in the field show to getting the band truck loaded in a timely fashion. My school and my band are small, and each member is so important to the success of the group. I try to motivate my students to strive for excellence as individuals and as a team.

 

RHODE ISLAND

Dr. Brian M. Cardany

Univ. of Rhode Island

Kingston, Rhode Island

Total Years Teaching: 25 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I find inspiration in certain recurring events rather than a singular moment. I feel a sense of pride very time one of the music ensembles I lead makes a beautiful phrase or influences the audience in a special way. It is similar when a student or parent takes the initiative to tell me how much a piece of music we performed affected them, or when I see students proudly wearing band gear around the community, or when large numbers of alumni repeatedly return to campus to participate in music events and support the music program. Human connections through music are what I most value in my work.

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

I hope that students who participate in the ensembles I lead or the courses I teach find the musical experiences that they encounter to be substantial and meaningful in ways that motivate them to remain active in music and music making for the rest of their lives. Even if they do not continue participating in ensembles, my hope is that they will continue to seek musical experiences that are artistic and enriching. I also hope that they will promote these values among their family, friends, and community.

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

I want the students to experience the communicative power of quality music making and to develop their ability to make artistic decisions regarding the sounds that they produce and hear. There is something pure and powerful about experiencing acoustic music in person, and I hope that my students will learn to value this enough to help it endure. I am not against change, but I am concerned that we may be reaching a pace of technological development that will overwhelm our connection with the natural world. Yo-Yo Ma’s recent performance at the Hollywood Bowl was inspiring; he captivated an audience of thousands for 2-1/2 hours with a complete performance of the six cello suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. I hope that my students will value and promote such musical connections.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

Chuck Deen

North Augusta High School

North Augusta, South Carolina

Total Years Teaching: 30 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have been very fortunate over the course of my career to have witnessed many student successes. Viewing our local Christmas parade as a young child got me “hooked” on band. Since then, I have walked down Broadway in the 73rd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my band. That was an unforgettable experience. I also take pride in walking in the very same parade as an adult with the band in which I was once a member. There is something to be said for teaching in the same room that you were taught.

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

Hopefully my students have carried with them a love for instrumental music education, visual arts and performing arts throughout their life’s journey. I’m at a point in my career where children of former students are now in bands across the state and country. It’s pretty thrilling that these former students have transferred a love and interest for band, and that future generations are participating. Band provides such a meaningful enriching culture, work ethic and pride in community. Personally, I feel that we as directors owe it to our students to instill these traits.

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

Music education allows me to teach students of all economic and academic levels, family circumstances, and students with special needs and diverse learning skills and multicultural backgrounds; and when you dress them in a band uniform they’re all equal. I take pride in having many success stories of varied student levels in my career and every day I carry that history with me. It makes me a better educator for all students, current and future. I’m a better person for this and I feel there is no better example to set for students than the acceptance of others.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

Daryl L. Jesse

Dakota Valley

North Sioux City, South Dakota

Total Years Teaching: 35 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There have been many memorable moments in my career… picking just one is hard. Outstanding performances have included providing the music for Iowa Governor Brandstad’s inauguration ceremony in 1987 and being the first high school Band to perform at the Basilica to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. We were part of a televised service that included a professional choir that we accompanied and it was on live TV. But I think what impresses me as the most memorable are the students who have chosen music education as their own career. It’s gratifying to know that my love for what I do has been passed onto another generation.

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

I hope to make a difference by showing them skills that they can use their entire life long. Not just about music, but all those intangible benefits that go along with being in Band. Working together, being patient with each other, teaching each other, laughing together, crying together, persevering through difficult circumstances, planning and follow through, being adaptable and standing your ground appropriately…these are all abilities that will help my students in whatever they do.

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

The most important thing I want to leave with my students is that music is an avenue to so much more. Music should always be a part of their lives, because their lives will be so much richer. I hope that they continue to play, to listen, to be future boosters, supporters, committee and board members that work to ensure that music will always be a part of their community.

 

TENNESSEE

Allison Cowan

Centennial High School

Franklin, Tennessee

Total Years Teaching: 17 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment wasn’t about a great concert or the trophies brought home from a competition. It was about one young man with a very hard life. At my winter guitar concert, he was fascinated with the fact that his name was in the program. He had never been on stage and no one had every applauded anything he had done. As the group received a stand ovation that evening, I remember the pure wonder and joy on his face. Trophies and accolades are great, but the best part of our job is to give students amazing experiences.

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

Everyone’s dreams and aspirations are different. I hope to assist students in fulfilling their potential. For some, that may mean just graduating from high school. For others, that may mean a recording contract or that may be a music scholarship to a great college. I hope that students will know that I listened to them and did everything in my power to ensure their success.

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

I want them to have the confidence to try new things. I want them to understand that even if they fail, they learn great lessons. I want them to dust themselves off when they stumble and keep on going. We teach more than just the notes on the page. We teach students that they can achieve any goal as long as they create a plan and follow through with their plan. Ultimately, I want my students to be able to achieve their dreams, make mistakes, laugh at themselves, and keep persevering.

 

TEXAS

Crystal Hoisager

CE King Middle School

Houston, Texas

Total Years Teaching: 17 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator is when students finally understand the bigger picture — When it all comes together and they understand that what they have accomplished is the product of the team that they have created. I love when they see that all of the hard work, the dedication, the sacrifice, the failures, and the commitment to the team is what brought them the success they worked so hard to achieve. I am most proud when they take all of that passion and fire and breathe life into the music we make together. Those moments are priceless.

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

As a band director in an economically disadvantaged school, I want my students to understand that they are only bound by the limitations they put on themselves. I want to make a difference in their lives by modeling what being successful looks like. We dream big. We publish our goals. We make a plan to achieve our goals. And then we get to work. I want to show them how to succeed in life, by being a member of our Band Program. I always quote to them, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, but I am telling you, it will be worth it.” I hope to show them that nothing in life is easy; many times, it is not fair; but anything worth doing is worth the hard work it takes to achieve it.

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

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is to be kind. We each have a story. We bring all that we are, our past and our present to create our future. And somehow, we all need to come together to achieve a common goal. Do the best you can do, be the best you can be. Be responsible, be trustworthy, be humble, be a team member ... but above all, be kind.

 

UTAH

Thomas Keck

Utah Valley University

Orem, Utah

Total Years Teaching: 18 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment would be every concert or other performance that I have shared with students. When that unique group of individuals performs together on that unique evening with that unique repertoire, we create something beautiful that stands the test of time in our hearts and minds, and hopefully the audience’s. The creative process and shared outcome changes all of us at some level, and I am honored to play a part in that humanity and benevolence.

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

I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives by introducing them to meritorious music and then using it as a vehicle to develop their vulnerability, fortitude, and ultimately conviction of musical ideas. For those training to be professional musicians and educators, this is imperative. For students pursuing music as an avocation, we talk about making the transfers and seeing the parallels in other avenues of life. By providing an environment for serious, inclusive, and engaged music-making, students develop a wealth of skills and attributes to contribute meaningfully to society.

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

My father imparted many lessons on me. Two that stood out through my life are, “everything is possible, but nothing is easy,” and, “to get to second base, you have to step off first.” I have adapted these into musical contexts when working with students of any age – that they can achieve in music, school, and subsequently life through hard work and a willingness to take risks. As Vince Lombardi said, “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”

 

VERMONT

Heidi Allen

Bradford Elementary School

Bradford, Vermont

Total Years Teaching: 13 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As a music educator, I have had many proud moments, 6th grade students moving up to the High School to continue their love for music, Kindergarteners shining at their first concert, but the proudest moments in my career have always been when a struggling student achieves and excels in the music room. Watching a student discover something that they are good at, and something that they are proud of, never gets old.

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

I hope to make a difference in my students lives by showing them how a love for music can enhance their whole life. I want my students to feel and learn that through music there are endless opportunities and experiences. I hope that every student that I teach can feel the joy, happiness and elated feelings that music has to offer.

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

The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is to have confidence in your creativity. All too often, I see students backing down from musical decisions, or not taking risks. I hope to build up my students’ confidence so that they are able to create and imagine without feeling the need to second guess themselves. My wish is for all my students, is that when they leave my classroom, they feel good about themselves and the music that they have created

 

VIRGINIA

Kathleen Jacoby

Herndon High School

Herndon, Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 14 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

After a winter of heavy snows, missed rehearsals, and a series of non-musical challenges, we made a decision to put aside the day to day and only focus on making beautiful music. The resulting concert was one of the most emotional and heartfelt experiences that I have ever had the honor to be a part of. The recording of that concert can’t do justice to the live experience and the connections that were happening on stage, but it’s still my favorite music to blast on the stereo.

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

Entering high school, I want every student to feel a sense of belonging and purpose. During high school, I want them to grow as leaders and citizens. After high school, I want them to have a way to communicate and connect with the humanity of themselves and others.

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

You are a part of something bigger than yourself. You are important, and you matter.

 

WASHINGTON

Mary E. Davis

Highland Middle School

Bellevue, WA

Total Years Teaching: 7 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

The moments I live for as an educator are the “ah-ha!” moments. Moments like when a student learns how note names work, or they finally get that low B-flat to sound on their tuba, or playing an “actual song” out of the book. Those moments seem so little when you look back on your playing career, but they are huge accomplishments in that moment in time. Every year my 8th graders play a piece with the 5th graders that “feed” my school and they always want to see how fast they can play it since it seemed almost impossible to them when they were in 5th grade!

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

I also teach fifth-grade band, so I sometimes have students for four years and for some students I play the role of academic coach as well as band director. In my band classes, we practice habits of successful people. Habits like being on time, working hard, and not accepting “good enough” when you could do better. By practicing these habits, I hope that some students who do not have the support at home will have a better sense of how to tackle school and achieve their personal goals.

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

I work to instill a sense of community and an importance of service to one’s community. While there are many musical milestones I hope my students can achieve before moving on to high school, I also want them to know that being a part of something also means giving back. I hope that when they leave my program they have an idea of how to be a part of a society that helps others and that they are just great people to be around.

 

WEST VIRGINIA

Meleah Fisher

Herbert Hoover High School

Clendenin/Elkview, West Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 23 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment is seeing my students come together and work towards a common goal. Watching them learn that it takes everyone to reach a goal makes it worthwhile. The comradery built to reach that goal is indescribable. Also watching a struggling student work ceaselessly until he or she “gets it,” witnessing him or her achieve what seems to them impossible, is priceless. It is difficult to say what makes me swell up with more pride.

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

Numerous life lessons are taught in band. First, you are not going to agree with everyone you have to work with. Second, you have to be dedicated and committed to the task before you. Third, nothing but your best will do. Somedays your best fails, and that’s okay. Fourth, we need to be an encourager to one another. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to one another.

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

On June 23, 2016, we lost our school to a 1000-year flood. The band lost everything we owned —instruments, uniforms, music, etc. However, with the help of friends and strangers on local and national levels, we were able to put the band on the field for Friday night football games, Saturday competitions and in general, back on the stage. What to do or where to start was a challenge. I hope that my example during this time showed my students that hard work allows one to persevere. I also hope I convey that being grateful, appreciative of what you have, and humble goes a long way.

 

WISCONSIN

Dan Fairchild

University of Wisconsin Platteville

Platteville, Wisconsin

Total Years Teaching: 50 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Like any music educator who is dedicated to helping students succeed in life, I continue to have proud moments daily in my life as an educator. We must find these proud moments and celebrate each one. One of these big moments happened last year at the Mid-West Clinic in Chicago. In my 49th year of teaching, my wife and I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with David McCormick. Who is he? He has been one of the driving forces behind the clinic for as long as I can remember, and he was my high school band director. He will always be the person who helped me grow the most as a person, musician, and eventually a music educator. I know we all have that one special person who changed our lives. My wish is for all of you to have a long career inspiring your students, and that you will have the opportunity to thank your mentor for opening your heart and soul to our great profession.

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

It is my hope that I lead by example so that my students will do the same in their own career. You treat students with respect, live as you ask them to live, guide them in the correct direction, help them to gain a positive work ethic, engage each student to go well beyond what is expected, listen to them, provide some gentle love, and when needed, add a dash of tough love. You hope that you find a way to let each student know the everlasting joy that music brings to the world.

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

I have several short but important lessons to offer. You first must start each day with the attitude that it will be the best day ever. Secondly you must be a person who makes good things happen. Never think any task is too menial for you to conquer. Finally, remember music is a precious gift that can help make any life fuller and richer.

 

WYOMING

Colin Botts

Uinta Meadows Elementary

Evanston, Wyoming

Total Years Teaching: 10 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

“Consistent Work Breeds Success.” Rather than just one moment, I think of the many small achievements that I see on an almost daily basis. It is thrilling to observe students persevere and work to overcome obstacles in order to reach their own academic, creative, and other personal goals. I love seeing their determination and excitement as they continually challenge themselves to improve.

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

“Embrace Diversity.” I hope to inspire my students to see beyond our small community to the wonderfully diverse world around them, with all of life’s possibilities that exist. Music is an excellent vehicle for historical, cultural, and emotional exploration. Teaching music allows me the opportunity to expose my students to ideas, people, places, and times that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience.

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

“We All Play Together.” I stole this slogan from my dear friend and mentor Bob Athayde. It is the guiding principle and rule for his music program that I also try to instill in my own students. I recognize that not everyone will (or should) pursue a career in music, however the discipline, determination, cooperation, and collaboration that students must embrace to be successful in music are attributes that will enable them to succeed in life. I would hope that as my students gain an appreciation of music that, more importantly they learn to work hard and work together. Just imagine what society would be like if we all lived by the simple rule of “We All Play Together.”

 



Directors who make a Difference

For over 20 years, School Band & Orchestra Magazine has been honoring amazing music educators from all 50 states. That's more than 1000 educators recognized for their outstanding contributions to music education programs!

Do you know a fantastic K-12 instrumental music educator who is deserving of recognition in SBO? Tell us why he or she should be featured in SBO’s annual "Directors Who Make a Difference" report.

Click here to nominate a director 

On the Road

Do you have a story to tell about taking your school music groups on the road? SBO wants to hear about it!

Click Here to Submit Your Story

Sign up for the SBO newsletter

SBO App

Get the SBO App!

Get the latest issues on your mobile device!

 

 

College Search & Career Guide

Build:06202018