1000 Directors, 20 Years

Mike Lawson • Perspective • December 6, 2017

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This is the 20th annual “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” issue of SBO. During that time, we have honored a director from each state, making a total of 1000 band directors who have been selected by our editorial board to be featured in this issue’s report. It is kind of a big deal.

Being featured happens because of a submission, first and foremost. A parent, colleague, current or former student, administrator, friend, spouse, fellow director, former director who had the submitted director in their own program and now works with them – all of these people make submissions. Sometimes in the course of this happening, a director who has had a big impact on a program moves across the river to another state, but was chosen for the state they worked in during the submission, because the submission stories validated it and moved us in that direction. This happened this year with the director recognized for his outstanding work in Kentucky, though he now teaches across the river in Indiana.

Our entry selection for Texas this year highlighted the struggles and amazing work done by this band director following the catastrophic flooding of Houston, and how hard she worked to return her program and her students to normal after losing so much. In all, over 800 submissions were given this year, from every state in this great country. In the larger states, we have more teachers to sort through and learn about, and in the smaller states, we typically had fewer, but the entries were every bit as supportive, appreciative and frankly, heartwarming.

This is the toughest issue of the magazine to assemble each year. First, there is the Herculean task of reviewing the submissions and making the determination. Then there is the vetting of the nominated director. Sadly, in the times we live in, we have to Google each candidate as we narrow it down to make sure no scandals are out there. That is very time-consuming. Then we have to reach out to the districts and collect contact information for administrators, superintendents, and support staff who can help us make sure the directors know about this honor and help us nudge when needed. Next, we sent a letter this year via Priority Mail, because it is all too easy for a busy director to delete an email from me saying they were selected, thinking it was spam or an attempt to sell them something. Then, there is the emailing, which I do, one at a time, from my computer, personally addressing each director selected. And then, I wait.

Like an expectant father, I wait. Some responses come in quickly, some in the week, but most in the last days leading up to our deadline. All this is happening while I am also traveling to the NAfME conference, and gearing up to leave for NYSSMA.

It isn’t just tough on the SBO side, either. This is the craziest time of year for band and orchestra programs. Back to school quickly leads to rehearsals and then fall performances, marching band season, parades and even related parade travel, holidays music rehearsals and concert prep, and so much more. So, while each director this year was very enthusiastic about being selected, I can also feel their pain when tasked with yet one more thing to deal with on their plate. Getting a photo together, answering three questions (which will go in print and online forever), well, that can take more time than one might think.

Every piece of music begins with a time (and key) signature. Time is what is relevant in this analogy, because time is what band and orchestra directors have to manage so precisely. And this year’s class of 50 returned their information, photo and answers in record time. And I so appreciate it. I was actually able to relax over Thanksgiving with this year’s report finished the day before.

Let me take a moment to thank you for reading this year. It is always a pleasure for me to help put together great writers with interesting and informative topics each issue. My mission is to deliver a fun and insightful publication covering a wide array of topics relevant to your job teaching instrumental music. I am always open to submissions from teachers who want to help me fulfill that mission, so please use the forms on our website to submit stories, or playing tips, or to even get a jump start on nominating next year’s recipients of this annual honor.

I wish you happy holidays, amazing concerts, and a happier 2018!

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