2012 ’50 Directors Who Make a Difference’ Report

Mike Lawson • ChoralFeatures • December 14, 2012

Share This:

SBO’s 15th annual “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” report comes at a pivotal time for music education in the United States. Even with the divisive and acrimonious Presidential election finally behind us, a great deal of uncertainty still lies ahead. Incessant talk of increasing national debt and other lagging economic indicators kindles fears of another recession that would undoubtedly put even more pressure on school budgets and, consequently, could be disastrous for arts programs nationwide.

And yet, in the midst of monumental national and local economic challenges and dour budget forecasts, music educators continue to excel in classrooms across the country. Take heart in this report, which sheds light on exemplary teachers who run thriving, and vibrant programs in schools big and small, elementary through high school, from coast to coast. These following 50 band directors, orchestra directors, and instrumental music teachers are joined by their common cause of spreading the language of music and, through it, the life lessons that are manifest in the dedication to this endeavor. In this 2012 edition of the “50 Directors” report, educators share their teaching philosophy, how they hope to affect overall student development, and the most important lesson they’ve learned since entering the teaching profession.


Ryan Fitchpatrick
Hoover High School
Years at School: 3
Total Years Teaching: 14
Instrumental Music Students: 250

Teaching Philosophy: I emphasize a strong foundation in fundamentals of playing as it pertains to each student’s particular instrument. I work to combine that with an understanding and appreciation of the artistry of music and musicianship. I believe in teaching students to take ownership of their musical experience. I desire for the students to see themselves on a musical journey that is intertwined with their peers.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that after my students leave our program, they will have a stronger belief in their ability to accomplish goals and the clarity to envision a purposeful and enriching experience, both musically and otherwise.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I am routinely setting both large and small goals for our program, and I am always excited to see the students reaching these goals along the way. It is with great fondness that I look back on the step by step experiences that the students and I have had as we worked together to not only accomplish a goal, but to create a bond and an appreciation for one another.



Liesl Wietgrefe
West Valley High School
Years at School: 5
Total Years Teaching: 8
Instrumental Music Students: 71

Teaching Philosophy: Music teaches two important skills to students that they will use indefinitely. First, music teaches students how to express their feelings and emotions in a way that everyone can understand. The second skill music teaches student’s is the value of hard work, self-discipline, and dedication resulting in a glorious product, especially at the secondary level.

Affecting Student Development: It is my feeling that young adults that are coming out of this generation have a poor work ethic, very little real communication skills (like with real human beings, not computers), and an expectation that things will come to them without much work on their part. It’s my hope that by working in an ensemble setting, always having to be responsible for their part of the product, relying on and communicating with others, students will gain skills that can be used throughout life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Don’t underestimate any student. People take different amounts of time to blossom. I’ve had students who were horrible musicians during their 7th-grade year but when I had them again in their junior and senior years, it seemed like all those things I told them years ago were suddenly put into place.


George Hattendorf
Mountain Ridge High School
Years at School: 9
Total Years Teaching: 40
Instrumental Music Students: 155

Teaching Philosophy: Set high yet reasonable expectations, be consistent, be passionate yet caring, and treat your students with dignity and respect. Each has their special way of learning and excelling. Most importantly, be a positive role model for your students in and out of the classroom. Always produce your most beautiful and characteristic sound on your instrument, always be aware of your musical surroundings, and never miss an opportunity to turn a musical phrase.

Affecting Student Development: My goal is that my students will develop a lifelong love and passion for music in all of its forms and, most importantly, become advocates for school instrumental music and spearhead the next generation of arts supporters in the 21st century. I also hope that they have learned life skills that will aid them well into their adult lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned: If less is your goal, then less is what you will get. Set high yet reasonable expectations, provide meaningful engagement with timely feedback coupled with a sincere passion for what you do, and they will deliver time and time again.


Joe Trusty
Cabot High School
Years at School: 30
Total Years Teaching: 31
Instrumental Music Students: 234

Teaching Philosophy: I try to find a students’ strengths and weaknesses and then work at developing each of them into the best musician and person they can become. It is more than teaching music. I try to teach life!

Affecting Student Development: Nothing makes me happier than running into a former student and have them tell me “I still play my horn at church” or “I heard a recording of the Holst ‘2nd Suite’ and it reminded me of how much fun we had playing that in high school.”

Most Important Lesson Learned: I am the biggest influence in my classroom. Programs come and go. Finances change constantly. The constant is me! It is my responsibility to teach every student every day to the best of my ability.


D.L. Johnson
North Monterey County High School
Years at School: 29
Total Years Teaching: 38
Instrumental Music Students: 120

Teaching Philosophy: After 38 years it is not the trophy that is most important, it is performing your best that is important. Music is important to every child. I find tremendous joy in helping kids create music.

Affecting Student Development: Our job as music educators is to prepare young people to face a new world without fear. Creating music is as important as listening to music. The musical experience of playing or singing in a school music group has so many positive implications to future success.

Most Important Lesson Learned: If you’re not in music for the joy of helping kids make music, get out. A positive honest attitude is what will give you success. Teach with your strengths, and continue to work and study your weaknesses. No one knows it all and learning is constant. Identify and design a music program your school and community are truly capable of to be successful, rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses. You and your students and parents will be happier. If your love for creating music is in the right place, you can dream and achieve any goal you want. I have, many times over.


Daniel Berard
Fossil Ridge High School
Fort Collins
Years at School: 9
Total Years Teaching: 20
Instrumental Music Students: 275

Teaching Philosophy: Each day is an opportunity for all of us to get better: as people, musicians, teachers, and learners. We set high expectations for ourselves and our students, work each day to be better than the last, hold each other accountable for achieving those standards, and celebrate the steps along the way.

Affecting Student Development: I hope to inspire my students to find their passion in life (whatever that may be) by relentlessly living mine. I love what I get to do each day, and feel so fortunate to be able to do it with so many incredible students who put their faith and trust in me. Music, in and of itself, enriches our loves in so many powerful ways, and the skills learned through participating in music making transcend the band hall. Our goals all revolve around helping students understand higher levels of personal excellence, and applying that level of excellence to all that they do.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the more we invest in the people around us and the relationships we build with our students rather than the desired outcome of x-rehearsal or y-performance, the more those students are willing to strive to meet the challenges we give them.


Thomas Scavone
Canton High School
Years at School: 12
Total Years Teaching: 25
Instrumental Music Students: 560

Teaching Philosophy: I believe that every student must be valued and each has a unique contribution to make to our program. My goal is to create “lifetime” memories for our students. Early in my career, my mentor stated that in 20 years, our profession would become one of the last bastions of humanity in the public school. That drives my beliefs and philosophy.

Affecting Student Development: Two overriding beliefs exist in our music room: 1) the hardest workers succeed in life; and 2) if you cannot be polite and help each other, then you cannot be an artist.

To overcome diminishing interpersonal verbal skills, when they see me anywhere in the school, every student in our program must say “Good Morning!” to me while maintaining eye contact. Finally, every student in our program learns to recite the following, “Fun is the end result of hard work, everything else is cheap entertainment. Is cheap entertainment important? Absolutely! But know the difference.” Our goal is to make every day “fun.”

Most Important Lesson Learned: Do not underestimate the impact we have on students’ lives. I am constantly surprised when a former student cites a memorable instance that I would not think of as significant. In musical terms, the success of our students is due to a high quality, articulate K-12 music education program where skills are developed and the love of music is embedded from an early age.


Andrew Jason Rogers
Laurel School District
Years at School: 26
Total Years Teaching: 26
Students in Music Program: 239

Teaching Philosophy: A teacher striving to be exemplary is the teacher making a commitment to having a classroom full of students that could be identified as exemplary students. My daily professional practice is based on my belief that this is one incredibly important instructional day out of a very limited number of very important instructional days. To have exemplary students I must do several things. I must have a shared vision of purpose and mission with my students and parents, base instruction on clearly defined outcomes and theories of practice for music as identified by the “Enduring Understandings” of the Delaware content standards. I need written, clearly defined, but flexible daily lesson plans based on best educational practices. I must teach “bell to bell” and be able to identify the individual learning needs of all students and take action!

Affecting Student Development: It is my intent to have each student accept and become a part of a classroom culture of high performance teaching and learning. It is my hope that my students develop the capacity to share their knowledge of music and guide themselves and others in developing communication skills related to leadership and critical thinking.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The most important lessons that I’ve learned so far are simple – Be prepared! Plan for success! Being prepared is the key to any successful teaching or performance endeavor. Focus on student achievement! Focus on communication skills that convey your confidence in your students’ ability to be high achievers! Set achievable but challenging instructional goals! Establish and maintain a safe and nurturing learning environment!


Laurie Zentz
Switzerland Point Middle School
Years at School: 2
Total Years Teaching: 25
Instrumental Music Students: 360

Teaching Philosophy: My broad experience teaching elementary, secondary, and special needs kids has taught me that I need to listen more than talk, make clear connections, never cut corners, never underestimate a child, and make sure they are solidly grounded in fundamentals of good musicianship.

Affecting Student Development: If I can help young people discover strengths and talents that they never knew they had, and develop those strengths with confidence, focus, poise, attention to detail, and perseverance, I feel I have done my job well. I hope they leave my classroom knowing they were each a valued member of our ensembles with fond memories of making music together.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Every student is someone’s child – handle with care!


William Kilgore
West Jackson Middle School
Years at School: 12
Total Years Teaching: 18
Instrumental Music Students: 354

Teaching Philosophy: As a middle school band director, my educational philosophy centers on envisioning what each band student will become and empowering them to be the best they possibly can. To promote growth, I teach each day with enthusiasm and maintain consistent, high expectations for all of my students. Through inventive techniques like the rhythm of the day, our pass-off system, and the fabulous fifties club, individuals grow musically.

Affecting Student Development: My contributions as an educator exist in the success of individual students who have excelled beyond my imagination. One of my goals is to instill in my students self-discipline, self worth, and help them to mature toward being productive, well-rounded individuals who love music for a lifetime.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Students are inspired by the teacher who hopes and never gives up on them. As a teacher, I give the students the skills and the motivation to maximize their potential.


Henry Fu
Kailua High School
Years at School: 14
Total Years Teaching: 14
Instrumental Music Students: 80

Teaching Philosophy: I feel that some directors push musical performances so much that the students have no time to do anything else at school or at home. I have adjusted how I teach over the course of many years to make practices as efficient as possible, while trying to preserve their musical integrity.

I also try to have students understand what musical performances are like outside of our state and country. We are planning on going to Japan for the second time in March 2013.

Affecting Student Development: Unlike athletes, musicians don’t get benched if they do not know their music well. A student who can perform at a high level would not be happy knowing that a student just a few seats down cannot perform his or her music well. Instead of complaining, the students need to help each other out because they are part of the same team.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I have learned that no matter how much you want your musical ensembles to succeed, don’t neglect your family. Whether or not my day goes well at school should not affect my attitude or commitment to my wife and children.


Steve Garner
South Middle School
Years at School: 5
Total Years Teaching: 7
Instrumental Music Students: 138

Teaching Philosophy: I believe in music as a way for students to enrich their everyday educational experience and to enjoy life. We must teach music in such a way that the students find and create aesthetic experiences. These aesthetic experiences drive students to want to become better musicians.

Affecting Student Development: I teach sixth grade through eighth grade band, choir, and orchestra. In those three years students change and develop a great deal. My goal as a middle school music director has always been to help the students develop into high school-ready music students.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The results I receive from my students come from a constant and vigilant effort from me. Every school, every student has the ability to progress. It comes down to the director and his/her desire to work to that end or not. When any teacher blames the group’s failures on the students, that teacher is failing to look at him or herself.


Elise Matusek
Woodland Middle School
Years at School: 14
Total Years Teaching: 29
Instrumental Music Students: 340

Teaching Philosophy: I have worked hard to create a “band family” here. When one of “our own” is sick or injured we, as a group, support that student and look out for him or her.

Affecting Student Development: My students all have fun together at an overnight band lock-in, and raise money for animals while doing this! I’m sure they don’t think I know, but they help each other with homework, lunch money, boy/girl problems, and I’d like to think the time in our small confined space contributed to all of this in a huge way!

Most Important Lesson Learned: Band kids are people too! They laugh and cry like me (and with me!), and share in the “thick and thin” of life. I have lost both of my parents to terrible illnesses during the last four years. My reserves of inner strength were fortified by the band students who knew when to offer a word or a hug, and when to laugh or get serious in any rehearsal. The result of all of that is a strong family unit within Symphonic Band 1 here at WMS. As I write this, I am looking at and hearing the most talented group of young musicians that I have had in my teaching career, spanning 29 years. I firmly believe a good deal of this is because we all work together in a very unique way.


Jim Hopkins
Battle Ground Middle School
West Lafayette
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 22
Instrumental Music Students: 285

Teaching Philosophy: When I started directing here, there were 78 band members who were disheartened with the adults in the building and felt they were losing their band program. What I eventually learned from these kids was not any superior knowledge of teaching music, but instead a basic human tenant: people have to know their leaders care and will always be there for them. What is my philosophy? Show the kids you understand them and will always be invested in their efforts and beautiful, and fun music will follow.

Affecting Student Development: I want my students to always have an appreciation for the unique beauty every student in the room brings to the music we play. Some of the most wonderful moments I have had as a band director are when some little girl or boy in my band (not the most popular, not the most pretty, not the one who will scrap for his dinner or even for what is theirs) comes into my band program and becomes someone special. The most gratifying moment I have had in my career was with a little girl named Barbara. She had done nothing particularly outstanding in her life except be a generally sweet kid. In anyone’s book this should have been enough. However in her eighth grade year she earned a spot on the final concert as a soloist on a wonderful tune called “Dark of the Moon” by Ann McGinty. Along with a host of other great musicians in her band she stepped up and played the most beautiful French horn solo. The memory of her parents and her beaming with pride will always remain in my heart. I like helping kids feel good about themselves – especially the ones who deserve it most.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Treat every student like he or she is the most important member of my band; that means never give up on any student – no matter what! I am very proud of the kids who step into my program, pick up an instrument and just start playing like they have done it all their lives. What band director wouldn’t be? However the kids who provide me the deepest sense of pride are those who struggle, and through nothing but hard work and grit, manage to become some of the best musicians I have had the privilege to teach. I am sure I was a young musician who made my band directors consider selling insurance. If they had to reflect back on me I am sure they would say the two most prominent characteristics Jim Hopkins had were hard work and persistence. This is why I have such an appreciation for the kids who start out struggling and never give up. One thing is sure: no matter how it turns out, they won’t be in the fight alone.


Thad Driskell
Jefferson High School
Cedar Rapids
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 21Instrumental Music Students: 220

Teaching Philosophy: I’m grateful for the opportunity to live our profession of music education daily. My goal is to provide meaningful guidance and instruction, with high personal and aesthetic impact for each student, on a daily basis through music. I strive to provide a welcoming and collaborative environment that fosters individual and ensemble growth musically, intellectually, socially, and emotionally. I believe and expect that all students will succeed and strive to instill a passion, understanding, and excitement for each step of the musical process.

Affecting Student Development: I hope to model and provide a vision of excellence from which the students can work toward and realize their individual and collective potential. This will not only enhance the student’s band experience, but transcend the band and carry over to all parts of their life with a lifelong impact.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The student comes first, teach to both the head and heart, and enjoy the journey.


Marion Roberts
Blue Valley North
Overland Park
Years at School: 28
Total Years Teaching: 43
Instrumental Music Students: 200

Teaching Philosophy: My teaching method is interlaced with my philosophy of music education. Teaching music to people through the performance of high-quality literature that challenges their intellectual, artistic, and emotional levels and creates a desire with greater abilities to move on to higher levels of performance. This has been my philosophy since I began teaching in the late 1960s.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that my students learn from each other in a safe environment that encourages risk taking, and challenges them to become better listeners and to take pride in their individual and collective efforts. I truly feel that the students learn to respect and appreciate each other and other musicians through their rehearsal room or field and performance arena. The experiences shared by music students with their fellows who demonstrate different technical and emotional development levels help the music student prepare for a future in professional and personal life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Each year there is a new “most important lesson learned.” I am learning that I am challenged to continue my growth in literature and in may ability to be patient as students learn. I must still try to motivate my students to learn in an ever-increasing environment of instant gratification and loss of personal interactions among the students.


Eric Hale
Bourbon County High School
Years at School: 8
Total Years Teaching: 22
Instrumental Music Students: 180

Teaching Philosophy: My method of teaching varies for each individual student. However, I do insist that all students learn how to read music (from the first day) through counting and singing their parts. My personal philosophy: If a student really enjoys band/chorus, I will do all I can to help them excel.

Affecting Student Development: I enjoy teaching students real life situations. Competitive band is subjective, and can be very political. Every year we taste victory, defeat, sorrow, and joy through competition. Although, no matter how hard you work, sometimes the results are not in your favor. I constantly remind the students that it is not about winning, but how you feel while performing, and in the end there should be “no regrets.”

Most Important Lesson Learned: I learn something different just about every day, but there is one thing that I learned a long time ago. The true desire that a student has to perform music, will always outweigh their lack of ability!


Joan Green
L.J. Alleman Middle School
Years at School: 20
Total Years Teaching: 29
Instrumental Music Students: 225

Teaching Philosophy: My philosophy and methodology is to have high expectations from every student. Students progress are evaluated on a consistent and individual basis.

Affecting Student Development: To touch all domains of learning, including the acquisition of knowledge, music appreciation, and sensitivity. The involvement in music is considered a fundamental component of human culture and behavior.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Students will take what was learned in band, whether it is perseverance, hard work ethics, or group effort and hold on to a life-long love for music.


Rebecca Edmondson
Connors Emerson School
Bar Harbor
Years at School: 23
Total Years Teaching: 27
Instrumental Music Students: 186

Teaching Philosophy: In order to keep the interest of their young musicians, their teacher must put the student in a position to have early success. If they become frustrated or overwhelmed they will quit, never returning to an instrument. In the elementary schools, my job is to nurture young musicians until they can make a practical application of their talent in a band, orchestral, small group, and ensemble settings. By planting this seed of musicality, I can then transition them into skill-appropriate challenges. Along with the usual classroom band and orchestra, I take pride in offering many optional extracurricular opportunities within the framework of my program ,such as: Swallowtail Fiddlers, TEMPO youth orchestra, and our show choir pit.

I strive to strike a balance between a high standard of excellence and the sheer enjoyment of playing within the student. Gifted musicians must always be challenged and the student seated in the last chair must feel an important contributor to the ensemble as well. When the musician leaves the lesson or rehearsal with a smile on his or her face, it is a good indication that I have reached my goal.

Affecting Student Development: I have initiated and launched several instrumental programs during my career as music educator in order to anchor the music program within the school day, provide opportunities for all children, and serve the community. At the beginning of the 1998 school year, I decided to establish a second grade class violin program in order to introduce my students to stringed instruments. After putting out a call within our district for donations of used violin, then, supplemented with the proceeds of a talent show fundraiser, our school was able to secure within two weeks of the opening of school 25 violins in varying sizes for the entire second grade Continuing today, class violin gives every child in grade two a hands on instrumental experience.

As an outgrowth of this effort, in 2002 I formed the Swallowtail Fiddlers from self-motivated string students in the middle school orchestra. The alternative style of Celtic and folk style fiddling offered the young musician a creative outlet along with the prospect of expanding their musical repertoire. The doors that have been opened to our students and the opportunities generated by our community outreach are vital links to our town. We meet professional musicians, greet cruise ships, entertain visiting dignitaries, and play for crowds of tourists, making the string program visible and valuable to Bar Harbor.

Outside of school, in the spring of 2011, I founded and am conductor of TEMPO: The Eastern Maine Pops Orchestra for Young Musicians. This self-sustaining non-profit organization was conceived to augment the school district’s music programs. TEMPO provides a full orchestra experience to the neighboring student communities of Downeast and Central Maine as an added benefit. Through these avenues, it is my hope that my students develop a love of music to continue with life-long playing.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Although music is an affirming and uplifting pursuit, without parental support and involvement in your school program, it is doomed to collapse. The music educator’s efforts must been seen as having value beyond the usual fare offered at the Christmas concert or spring recitals. What the parents must see from their child is dedication, enjoyment, growth, and social benefits when weighed against the expense, inconvenience, and commitment usually associated with a successful music program. This means that when it comes to parents or administrators evaluating your program – perception is reality. I learned early that I must be aware that I and my program are constantly being judged in a cost versus benefit equation. That’s the reality of modern life. With so many other activities available to the children, there needs to be a tangible reason for a parent to demand that their beginning student practice their instrument at home or even surrender valuable classroom time for sectional lessons.

There must be a positive impression of the music program imprinted on the school, community, and student. It is demonstrable that success breeds success. Once the parental community understands that there will be real reward for the efforts expended on behalf of their child, they will gladly provide private instructors, first rate instruments, and their time. All of these are key to maintaining a first rate program.


Mary Pitta
Severna Park Middle School
Severna Park
Years at School: 5
Total Years Teaching: 17
Instrumental Music Students: 174

Teaching Philosophy: I focus on maximizing student engagement by reaching students in many different ways. Taking advantage of technological resources helps me to teach students who thrive in the age of computers. Students may go to our class website to study videos that I have posted demonstrating skills they may need to review. I encourage them to use SmartMusic as a tool for practicing our pieces, solos, and any other music that may interest them. Students record themselves, so they can see how they are progressing and self-evaluate. It can be difficult for a student to self-assess while performing. The recording gives them an opportunity to observe their own performance, gain insight into their progress and improve. Making a game of trying to improve their performance also results in increased time spent practicing, developing problem solving skills, and the joy of a challenge. They often figure out, on their own, what they need to fix, and work to create a better recording. This gives them the power to improve and teaches the value of reflection. Students use an online composition program to write music. These online activities are introduced in class, but then are used by the students at home. Some get really excited by composing and playing their pieces, some love playing along with the latest pop tunes.

My goal is to increase the amount of time that they spend working on music and to reach students where their interests are. As long as they are working on their music and having fun, I consider it a win!

I think of music as a land of opportunities. I offer students many opportunities in music, and the freedom to choose their level of involvement. Some enjoy music but participate in many other activities, too. Some love music and take advantage of every opportunity, performance, and honor group available. It is important to give as many students as possible the opportunity to participate in music. This requires some flexibility in demands and extracurricular requirements, but the pay off is a larger, more diverse student population involved in music.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that my students will develop a love of music that comes from deeply understanding and experiencing it. I hope that they develop an understanding that all learning is connected. Music is science, and math, and history, and story telling. I hope that they also experience the pay off of hard work, dedication, and teamwork.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Collaborate! I’ve learned so much from discussions with other teachers and from observing rehearsals. Get involved with your state association. You’ll meet great teachers and build a network. As music teachers, we are often the only one teaching our subject area at our school, so building these connections is critical to keeping your teaching fresh.

Connect! Say good morning to students and colleagues in the hallways. Build lines of communication with parents. A simple word can let students know that you care and are there for them. For some students, this will make all the difference.


Steven Conant
Norwood High School
Years at School: 10
Total Years Teaching: 18
Instrumental Music Students: 100

Teaching Philosophy: I feel that all students have the potential to be successful within the school music program. I do my best to structure the instrumental music program with a variety of levels so that each student has the opportunity to experience success.

Affecting Student Development: You just can’t do it alone. My successes have relied heavily on a cooperative and supportive administration, a dedicated parents music group, private teachers, and very eager fellow staff members during and after school.

Most Important Lesson Learned: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes…” Going the extra mile gets more and more challenging with each and every passing year. No matter how exhausting it is, I always try do my best to persevere and make it happen.


Samantha J. Corrion
Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker High School
Years at School: 6
Total Years Teaching: 12
Instrumental Music Students: 125

Teaching Philosophy: I wish I could rattle off an excellent educational phrase, but I will not. I go into the class everyday to make music. All students want to be part of something that is meaningful and have some sort of success with it. That is what we try to achieve everyday and we rejoice in the little things. Also, I am not their friend, but their teacher first. They are held to high standards and are expected to try their best. As to educational philosophy, we are here to make music and have fun and learn something in the process. Maybe laugh a little on the way.

Being a band director is nothing I thought it would be. It is stressful, joyful, and fulfilling everyday. Plus, I go home with a smile and cannot wait to get to school the next day.

Affecting Student Development: I pray when they are done that they not only have an appreciation of musical arts, but all the fine arts. Not all my students will become professionals, but they will know that if they work hard and give it 110 percent, they can accomplish anything. I also pray that they will encourage their own children to someday be a part of band. I get to see them for seven years. To watch them grow up in front of my eyes, they start to feel like my own children. I always refer to my students as “my kids.” I treat them like I treat my own. That type of bond is hard to have. I hope to instill in that to be good citizens as well as musicians.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Things do not go always as you have planned. Flexibility is so key to the overall classroom and performance. In the public school setting, students are in a multitude of activities and working with coaches and staff will help the overall experience for the student.


Wayne Ivers
Marshall High School
Years at School: 30
Total Years Teaching: 36
Instrumental Music Students: 265

Teaching Philosophy: I have always felt that our job is to do more than teach notes and rhythms. We see many of the very best kids in our school – the school’s leaders and people that will be leaders later in life. I have tried to help these students become better citizens, not just in the school but always! They need to make the group or organization they belong to better because they were there – whether that means taking the time to help someone, or stand up for someone, volunteering to do something extra, or something as simple as just showing that they care! Band (music) is the “tool” I use to get this message across to them. I always tell my band members that if they leave this place better people then I feel that my time with them has been a success!

Affecting Student Development: I know they are probably not going to go on to be a professional performer, but hopefully they will be better supporters of the arts and much more understanding when they hear a band or see a marching band as to all of the hard work and effort that went into it. At a time when you are put down by your peers for being involved it is okay to be proud of your hard work and everything that you have accomplished, and to show everyone how deeply you care about what you do.

Most Important Lesson Learned: There are many battles you have to fight – choose wisely! Having to make a sacrifice right now may gain you countless advantages in the


Reuben McDowell
Columbia High School
Years at School: 21
Total years teaching: 22
Instrumental Music Students: 250

Teaching Philosophy: Have a passion for people first and your subject second, and keep them prioritized in that order. In these days of so many changes and challenges in the education field that put music education at risk, we must always focus on using the music experience (the means) to help create responsible and respectful humans (the end).

Affecting Student Development: It is my hope that what our students experience in band/music helps foster adults who feel, who care, and who have both passion and compassion. If they look back on their high school band years with fond memories and have a desire for their children to be a part of something similar in their formative years, then I feel we have made a difference. More importantly, I sincerely hope that the daily life lessons of hard work, teamwork/cooperation, and personal sacrifice carry with them through their lives and help them to become productive members of society and leave the world a better place than they found it.

Most Important Lesson Learned: For educational success, repetition is the mother of skill. But overall, it’s all about people. If you love people and they know you care about them not only as a musician, but on a personal level as well, they will do almost anything you ask of them. Treat people right and they will work hard for you.


John Trew
Bolivar Middle School
Years at School: 4
Total Years Teaching: 11
Instrumental Music Students: 295

Teaching Philosophy: It is well documented that music has a huge effect on cognitive thinking skills. This is due in large part to the fact that we rehearse these skills in a meaningful and exciting way. I try to focus on this each day in a cooperative learning environment. These cognitive performance skills translate into thinking skills that follow students into their communication arts, mathematics, and science classes. Literacy skills are reinforced when students practice reading their music. When band members are successful at performing on their instruments, they will be motivated to attend school and continue in this success.

I challenge students to work towards excellence by using failure as a springboard and inspiration to overcome obstacles. Of course, no two students are the same, so helping students find their path to success is part of my professional growth.

Affecting Student Development: I teach students that music is a universal language. It demands both individual discipline and sacrifice. It spawns individual creativity and cooperative learning. I teach them that music challenges the mind and soothes the soul. I work to develop students’ musical responsibility. Responsibilities like work ethic, dependability, punctuality, and rehearsal focus not only affect individual performance, but affect the other ensemble members as well. Most of all, I want students to love every aspect of music, as I do. When that happens, all the other details usually work themselves out.

Most Important Lesson Learned: At the end of the day, I have to remember that kids are kids. I try to remember that I am blessed to teach them music and I get to be a positive role model in their lives. Many students are in my bands for seven years, and that is an amazing opportunity to mold them into better musicians and better individuals, and that is an awesome job. Music is a perfect vehicle for students to reach these goals because the love of music will enable them to develop intrinsic motivation and cause them to strive to reach their dreams.


Martha Ilgenfritz
Corvallis School District #1
Years at School: 10
Total Years Teaching: 25
Instrumental Music Students: 271

Teaching Philosophy: In a word, “Respect” is the of my teaching and philosophy. From day one, I tell students that respect is the primary classroom rule: respect for adults (teachers, substitutes, custodians, etc.), respect for each other and respect of the instruments. Additionally, I would add that respect for our profession that instructs the next generation in the fine art of making music is a central component of my ideology.

Affecting Student Development: I would like to give students a deep appreciation for music, and encourage them to strive for excellence in every aspect of their lives. The discipline of music, performing it together in large and small ensembles, is much like the teamwork needed in the work world as well as in the athletic realm.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Never stop learning! I will never “know it all” and there is so much to learn about reaching each individual child, and imparting enthusiasm, encouragement, and challenges to hold their interest and achieve the goal of being able to play music as a gift for others.


R J Metteer
Lincoln Southeast High School
Years at School: 18
Total Years Teaching: 23
Instrumental Music Students: 150

Teaching Philosophy: I believe music is the use of sound and silence to express emotion. Thus, my goal is for students to have shared emotional experiences through the performance of music with other musicians as well as with their audience.

Affecting Student Development: My hope is for students to learn they can accomplish their goals by taking ownership and responsibility for them. Through their involvement in instrumental music ensembles I hope they grow and mature so they can take all the lessons they have learned beyond music into their daily lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Students must believe. They must believe in themselves. They must believe in you. Once that happens they can achieve their very best.


John Mueller
Incline Middle School
Incline Village
Years at School: 15
Total Years Teaching: 34
Instrumental Music Students: 135

Teaching Philosophy: I believe that if a student really wants to do something, he or she will do it. It is my job to make them want to play and then to teach the students the skills needed to reach their goal. Incline Middle School has only 215 students in the whole school. In order to have bands and orchestras we will often have students who have not played before. These students need extra effort on my part to be able join in.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that I will affect my students’ ability to not just be good musicians but also to encourage them to look beyond what they thought possible. Each year we attend an out of state music festival and the day prior we go to a university for clinics with a music professor. Several of my former students, who were the first in their families to graduate from college, told me it was these clinics that caused them to think, “I can do this.”

Most Important Lesson Learned: Students and their parents know if you care about them. In 2003, on the day before our band, jazz band, and string orchestra were to leave on our festival trip, I received a letter telling me that, due to the budget, I was to be laid off. Instead of giving up, our students worked their hardest, winning three Gold ratings and the Instrumental Sweepstakes Award. Their parents went to work talking to the school board and I’m still here.


Michael Adams
Pinkerton Academy
Years at School: 8
Total Years Teaching: 25
Instrumental Music Students: 190

Teaching Philosophy: All of the courses I teach are elective courses in that the students choose to fill one of the few holes in their schedules with an ensemble or music theory class – a fact that I need to remember each day I meet with them. At Pinkerton Academy, we are lucky to be able to offer ensembles of varying sizes and genres including several jazz ensembles, larger concert bands, and many chamber ensembles. Providing quality musical opportunities, performing good literature that is worthy of the commitment that students are making to it, and creating an atmosphere that is relaxed but focused is my job. My students, who have chosen the music program as one of their course electives, deserve no less than my best effort in doing this job every day.

Affecting Student Development: Very few of our students will go on to careers in music, but each of them is a potential consumer of the arts. With luck, a majority of my students will continue to play their instruments after high school, but the greater likelihood is that most will end their performing careers at graduation. It is these students that should be encouraged to continue to support the arts in other ways – as an audience member, financial benefactor of arts organizations, or even as a registered voter at a town meeting. With the skills developed by performing in an ensemble, music students have the potential to not only be strong advocates of their local artists and musicians, but the leaders in our communities as a whole.

Most Important Lesson Learned: There are certainly many terrific things about being a band director, but one great advantage I have is the ability to see students grow and develop both as musicians and young adults over their high school career. Although the nature and degree of the individual student’s development can vary greatly, few students go through their high school band experiences without some level of change. Generally this manifests itself as a change in attitude or commitment level about their musicianship, but it can also be the emergence of a student as a leader or role model within the program. This development can take a great deal of patience – in many instances several years – before a student’s true place within the program is obvious both to him or herself and to me. I have had many examples of students who I did not consider to be very committed to the program prove me wrong and become invaluable to our success. My greatest lesson I have learned is to not underestimate or give up on students because you can never know for sure what they will become and it is always well worth the wait!


Ben Schwartz
Elizabeth High School
Years at School: 7
Total Years Teaching: 9
Instrumental Music Students: 140

Teaching Philosophy: As an instrumental music teacher, I focus on demonstrating to students that learning to perform a piece of music resembles basic problem solving. By teaching students how to ask the right questions, they learn how to solve the problem, or play the piece. Some of the basic questions I encourage them to ask themselves are, “Am I playing the rhythms correctly?”, “Am I playing the correct notes?”, “Am I blending my sound with the person or people who are near me?” This usually leads to success, especially after they see the results for the first time.

In terms of my philosophy, I am an avid believer that hard work and persistence go much further than your final grade in my classes. For example, students can practice scales tirelessly and correctly, yet not perform them well in front of the teacher for a classroom grade. Consequently, the students still learned how to play their scales, while demanding more from themselves. As a result, they became stronger, more proficient musicians.

Affecting Student Development: I hope my students understand that music exists anywhere and everywhere they will ever go for the rest of their lives, and this is the main reason why it is so important to learn. I also think it’s crucial to teach them about music from the past, whether it was 20 years ago, or 350 years ago. It is also with great hope that my students can identify specific musical artists by ear, identify styles of music, and know the background on any music, such as who performed it, composed it, etc. It’s my firm belief that knowing this information is crucial in helping students become well-rounded intellectual members of society.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I think the most important thing I have learned so far in my teaching career is that there is no such thing as a typical student. The methods that work to educate some will certainly not work for others and vice versa. You always have to be prepared and attempt to try new things in order to get all students on the same path and really understand where you are coming from. They need to know why the message you are trying to convey is so important.


Donna Schmidt
Desert Ridge Middle School
Years at School: 16
Total Years Teaching: 20
Instrumental Music Students: 220

Teaching Philosophy: My basic belief and guiding principle is that I first and foremost teach children. I strive to teach children to love music and music making, and my emphasis has always been centered on each child in my classroom. How can I best reach him or her? How can I discover a child’s unique relationship to music and build upon it? These questions guide my daily instruction.

Affecting Student Development: I hope to show them that music is a part of a well-balanced life, and an excellent way to spend their leisure, whether it be listening to music, performing, composing or attending concerts. In short, I want my students to love music. I know that for many of my students, my program could be their only experience in a school ensemble. I want to be sure that that experience is meaningful and memorable.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I have learned that middle school students are the wackiest, weirdest, and most wonderful creatures in the universe, and that I am so lucky to be able to teach them every day of my professional life.


Chris Rand
Dover Jr/Sr High School
Dover Plains
Years at School: 27
Total Years Teaching: 30
Instrumental Music Students: 250

Teaching Philosophy: Learners of music can access concepts in different ways – various levels of knowledge, motor skills and/or the sheer love music all are in the mix. I believe my job is differentiating which the learner has a propensity for and building on that. Instructing “cookie cutter” is not my style.

Affecting Student Development: Total mastery is essential in music performance. It is then that you can fire up those higher level skills that make music’s magic happen. A test grade of 90 percent might be considered outstanding in math, but when performing music it’s remarkably deficient. Most music teachers work toward this idea; I obsess on how to relate it to my students so it’s the norm.

Most Important Lesson Learned: When I began my teaching career, a mentor of mine counseled me that it was essential to go where the school administration placed music on the same level as other academic classes. I did. It works – through the various incarnations of administrators over the years, music is still on solid ground (knock on wood).

But I have also learned that strong parental involvement is paramount to the success of the individual student and music ensembles. I have been fortunate in Dover in that my parent booster program, administration, and staff acknowledge music’s educational value.


Jerry Markoch
Athens Drive High School
Years at School: 19
Total Years Teaching: 27
Instrumental Music Students: 180

Teaching Philosophy: I want to create a healthy musical environment in our band where students love to perform music and feel respected and valued by their peers. In order for this to occur, our repertoire must be of the highest quality and the teaching must always be done in a positive manner. It is important that we spend time learning “life lessons,” as well as musical ones. When we are rehearsing, I enjoy teaching on the offensive; that is, I try to focus on the musical lessons in a given passage rather than on solely fixing problems or “chasing notes.”

Affecting Student Development: I am passionate about everything I love, including my family, music, teaching, LSU football, and golf. Above all, I want my students to find happiness as well. As Dr. Tim would say, “you are only worth what you give away…” Put another way, “You find happiness by giving to others.” From the first day of summer marching band, we teach our leaders to serve others before thinking of themselves. That attitude spreads throughout the band so that within weeks, the band is a very close family. I hope that my students will transfer the positive way in which we work in band to the way in which they will work in their chosen profession and with their family.

Most Important Lesson Learned: “It is better to succeed with help than to fail alone.” This is a lesson I learned while student teaching and it is one which is applicable to a teacher at any stage of development. I am fortunate that our band boosters provide the means to hire local professional musicians to come to our school to work with our students for sectional rehearsals. I enjoy picking their brain as to what methodology they use to help students improve. I also enjoy bringing in other directors before an important performance. Frequently I learn more from these experiences than the actual contest/festival. Directors in our county often post questions online concerning literature, instrument manufacturers, and so on. I have found that most band directors enjoy helping each other. The bottom line is that as a teacher, you are first a lifelong learner – and you will never know it all!


Jeanne Morrison
Wing Public Schools
Years at School: 23
Total Years Teaching: 34
Instrumental Music  Students: 43

Teaching Philosophy: My teaching philosophy is based on the fact that I am very fortunate to teach in a K-12 school of 110 students in Wing, North Dakota. By implementing the standards in Kindergarten, I am able to prepare students for a successful transition into band. When a student is in the 5th Grade they are able to begin their individual band lessons. They already possess a wealth of Music Theory. Learning the fingerings and the technique of blowing the instrument comes quite easily. I research different method books to find a source that will lead my students to a successful, and hopefully, close relationship with their instrument.

Affecting Student Development: Student development is affected by their ability to take ownership. When we read a new piece of music I ask for students’ input. Is the grade level appropriate for our ability? Are there meter changes, key changes, difficult instrument registers, dynamics, interesting rhythm patterns, breathing challenges, and melodic flow in this selection? Is the piece interesting? Is this a good learning piece? By having the band take part in choosing good music, they want to rehearse the selection and are excited about the new techniques to be learned and other techniques to be reinforced.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The most important lesson my teaching experience has taught me is respect. I have respect for my students, the music, my job, and myself. As an educator, I must possess these characteristics in order to instill the values of the music into the lives of my students. I love my job and my students. I tell them how important they are to me, how proud I am of them, and I hope this is all conveyed in my teaching. This rapport with the students can lead to great things. I have 65 percent of students in grades 5-12 involved in our band program. This also helps to carry over to my choral program.


David Harbart
Strongsville High School
Years at School: 25
Total Years Teaching: 27
Instrumental Music Students: 445

Teaching Philosophy: I feel that we need to teach the whole child, meaning that I don’t just teach music. I teach students important life skills that they can take with them long after high school. I like to teach the concepts in a practical manner and then go out and perform. Most of the time things go well. Sometimes they don’t, but I use it all as a teaching tool.

Affecting Student Development: I would hope that I can affect students in a positive way towards music and being good citizens. I always tell my students that I care about what they do off of the stage or field as much as I do on it. When we are in uniform performing anywhere and even when we are not, I expect them to act like ladies and gentlemen at all times.

Most Important Lesson Learned: After 28 years of teaching I think I have learned to be more patient and not to sweat the small stuff. I used to lay awake at night with my mind constantly going over things to do or improve. I learned a lot from my teachers and colleagues about being organized but also about learning to delegate responsibilities.


Adam Steuart
Hennessey Schools
Years at School: 4
Total Years Teaching: 7
Instrumental Music Students: 70

Teaching Philosophy: I am flexible and able to adjust to my kids’ moods, temperaments, and needs on a day-to-day basis. I like the Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” When I stand in front of the classes and just verbally relay lesson content, [the students] definitely forget. When they are shown, they remember, but when you involve them and get “hands on” with a lesson, they understand and remember much better. When I have my students make a personal investment into their education, they take ownership in their program. All three are important to really retain the information, to hear it, see, and then do it to make it really stick with them.

Affecting Student Development: I am teaching my students things that are helping to prepare them for their future, not just for “the test” or for the next competition, but for what is in the real world awaiting them following high school and college. It is my desire for students coming out of my program to be self-disciplined, self-controlled, respectful young adults as they move through middle school, into high school, and then into college and eventually the world.

Most Important Lesson Learned: It’s more than just me. It takes my students to believe in themselves and give their 110 percent. There are the parents who support their children and the program helping build it. There is my wife, my family, her family, my friends and their families, the administration – and the list goes on and on. It is a team effort to have a successful program. No director can do it all alone. I had a seasoned band director tell me in my student teaching to not be afraid to ask questions. My colleagues are important sources of information and have helped me getting past that “brick wall” on more than one occasion. It is also important to be able to determine what is important and what isn’t so important. I am learning to “bite my tongue” and decide which battles should be fought and which ones to just let go.


Todd Zimbelman
West Salem High School
Years at School: 4
Total Years Teaching: 19
Instrumental Music Students: 240

Teaching Philosophy: I view students as accomplished learners. I view them leaving after graduation knowing everything I would want them to know about music and being a good person – this forms my curriculum and overall approach. I believe students can achieve the highest standards possible. However, when they start getting close to achieving the standards, we raise the bar. In the journey toward perceived perfection, we constantly try to improve and strive for excellence in everything we do. Every ensemble is important and I apply high standards to every performance situation. In the ensemble setting, I strive to teach components of music theory, music analysis, music history, as well as individual and ensemble performance skills. Students will do what you expect them to do. Expect the best.

Affecting Student Development: Through various activities, ensembles, experiences, challenges, and successes, I hope students come away with a strong work ethic, a life-long love and appreciation for music, and an overall drive to get better and achieve the highest levels of excellence possible. I encourage students to develop their outgoing personalities, self-confidence, expressive abilities, and creativeness. I want them to learn responsibility, determination, compassion, work ethic, communication, respect, cooperation, problem solving, perseverance, and elegance. My goal is that they become better people who can contribute to our complex society.

Most Important Lesson Learned: What you put into it is what you get out of it. I apply this premise to teaching, but I also teach this to my students. If something is not working, look at yourself first.


Tom Elliott
Lower Merion High School
Years at School: 23
Total Years Teaching: 35
Instrumental Music Students: 180

Teaching Philosophy: Teaching a child what is beautiful by example can change their life. Let a child make mistakes but keep them moving forward. Teach them to listen to themselves, to others, and together. Focus first on what they do right, then show them what can be done to make it better.

My personal educational philosophy is to be a role model for lifestyle, discipline, and skill, as well as to draw out of a student their potential as a lover of beauty through music.

Affecting Student Development: When a child begins to love making their own music, it is good to teach them how to teach what they know. By mentoring, a child finds value in their music by sharing what they have learned. When a child learns three notes, they share what they know with a younger student. When the entire ensemble has this approach, music becomes a joyful experience in sharing with a desire to encourage each other.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I have learned just how little I know and that learning must be a life long experience.


Gregg R. Charest
Exeter-West Greenwich Jr/Sr High School
West Greenwich
Years at School: 12
Total Years Teaching: 12
Instrumental Music Students: 200

Teaching Philosophy: I teach children, not music. This philosophy guides my work on a daily basis, and I try to meet each and every student exactly where they are in their development. I use humor to get their attention, and my own mastery of the material to communicate the breadth and artistry of each work we study. I live to teach, and I teach by these three rules: 1. Teach to instill the intrinsic value of music. 2. Teach and live with high sociological and moral values. 3. Explore new ideas.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that I can inspire my students to continue on their music journey past high school and into adult life. I consider it the highest compliment to find out that one of my former students is still playing their instrument – that they are still so inspired by our art that they need to keep performing. I hope that all students leave the band room with a solid focus on the “big picture” issues in their own life, but understand how the arts, especially music, fits into their every day life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about my teaching (and it took the better part of a decade to realize this) is that I have so much more to learn. My ears keep developing, my methodology keeps improving, and my students keep me inspired to be curious about our musical world.


Edna Y. Grace
Stratford High School
Goose Creek
Years at School: 16
Total Years Teaching: 32
Instrumental Music Students: 240

Teaching Philosophy: My experiences in the educational realm have taught me a plethora of things. These are the ones I reflect on most frequently:

1. We have a strong affinity for the subject we teach.

2. We usually feel our subject is the most important in our students’ lives.

3. We will fight to the finish for its existence.

4. Most students are not in love with our subject the way we are.

5. We need to be prepared for that so that we do not force them out with our disapproval (spoken or unspoken).

6. Discipline is the central aspect key to any subject. The teacher must work to teach students ways to discipline their minds to be receptive to listening, trying, learning, and utilizing that information.

The bottom line brings us back to one of the founding principles of education – we teach students how to become good and productive citizens – and yes, that can and does happen through music!

Affecting Student Development: As I look at the students I currently teach and those of the past, I hope that I have enhanced their ability to work cooperatively and diligently (doing it until it’s right and/or completed). I hope that they have learned to appreciate and respect diversity, and not just in music, but in people. I hope they have learned that there can be multiple ways to do something correctly. I hope they have learned to appreciate music to the point that they will play or be supporters of music for their lifetimes.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The most important lesson I have learned is that no matter how many ways I have learned to teach fundamental information, there will always be another that a student or colleague will teach me. If you teach, always be ready to embrace learning a new way or something new and be happy about it. If you can’t do this, please do not spread your unhappiness to others.


Renita Dose
Lennox Middle School
Years at School: 33
Total Years Teaching: 35
Instrumental Music Students: 129

Teaching Philosophy: My teaching methodology is largely based on teaching fundamentals, both in private lessons and the performance group setting. I spend a large portion of my teaching time on the fundamentals of sound production, proper breathing, and correct embouchures. Other aspects of playing such as rhythm, articulation, technique, and musicality will fall into place if the proper tone is achieved. I strive to keep a comprehensive approach to my teaching, incorporating music history and theory. Although it is difficult to achieve, I try to keep a balance between the content standards of performing, creating, reading, listening, and understanding music’s relationship to society. I also like to keep the students actively involved in the learning process by discussion and evaluation of our rehearsals and performances. I encourage individual playing in the younger group setting (fifth and sixth), so that they develop self-confidence in playing for an audience and develop listening/evaluating skills while they listen to others. I like to incorporate writing assignments or quizzes periodically to keep students listening and accountable. When other teachers are teaching theme units, I try to incorporate related material in band as well, so that students see the correlation between subject areas.

My personal educational philosophy revolves around teaching the value of hard work, commitment and self-discipline. Although striving for excellence through intense rehearsals is very important, my top goal is for students to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and have an emotional, aesthetic experience through the creation and appreciation of music. I hope that they develop a life-long love for music. I believe that the role music will play in students’ lives depends on the level of achievement they attain as young musicians.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that students will learn the value of self-discipline and hard work in my class. I hope that they will develop self-confidence in playing and sharing ideas in front of others, which will carry through in other aspects of their lives. I hope to instill in my students a sense of pride and passion in what they do. I hope that music will affect their souls and spirits, so that they are happier, more productive people in all areas of their lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I have learned that it is important to have high expectations of all students. Every student, no matter what his/her intelligence and ability level is, has something to contribute to the group personally and musically. I have found that having high expectations of the lower level learners has amazing results. It is easy as educators to let these students slide; often they aren’t expected to achieve excellence. Being able to perform successfully instills a sense of pride and belonging in these students, which they may not feel in other areas of their lives. When students feel good about themselves, it affects the morale of the entire group.


Perry Elliott
Elizabethton High School
Years at School: 22
Total Years Teaching: 35
Instrumental Music Students: 133

Teaching Philosophy: Legend has it that Michelangelo was asked how he was able to carve the statue of David. His reply was simple and direct, “I simply removed all the stone that wasn’t David and there it was.” That, in a nutshell, is how I teach. I have in my mind what I want to accomplish musically and I take away all the sounds that simply do no fit and in the end, the music is there to be enjoyed. I believe that the students want to be challenged, but they must have a personal ownership of the end product. I try to make them feel that what we are doing will change their lives. I believe in my subject matter and, in my opinion, that is the secret to teaching.

Affecting Student Development: We strive in our program to teach our students to become complete individuals. We discuss self-motivation and self-discipline being the only ways to excel in one’s life. A student needs to be able to complete the coursework demanded by our school, but the art programs prepare them to learn these important academics. What we try to do is to develop workers, thinkers, and leaders.

Most Important Lesson Learned: When I started teaching I was confident that I knew everything. What I have learned so far is that now I’m confident that I know precious little. I discover new things every day from everyone I meet, thus I try to keep my eyes and ears open so I do not miss the next important thing!


Randy Jones
North Lamar High School
Years at School: 27
Total Years Teaching: 27
Instrumental Music Students: 400

Teaching Philosophy: I have such a passion to establish an environment within the North Lamar Band program that is as “safe and secure” as possible for students. By this I mean that those students who chose to be part of our program will find an organization that will become like a second family. In this “family,” there will be expectations, rules or boundaries, consequences of choices that they will make (both positive and negative), encouragement, the opportunity to fail while someone is there to catch them, positive fellowship, and most of all, they will be unconditionally loved. As we teach the students what our expectations will be, we begin to teach, demonstrate and help these young people learn that many times their own expectations fall far short of their abilities.

Affecting Student Development: The goal of our staff is that when a student graduates, the skills, life lessons, work ethic and character traits that have been taught, discussed and applied through our organization will follow them throughout their life and make a positive impact on their life, family, and our society.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The most important lesson that I have learned is to have patience with each student and to love them all unconditionally. There are so many issues that students are facing today and so much burden that too many students have to carry in today’s society. If we can provide a place where a student can feel secure and be successful, then hopefully we have helped a young person become a positive and productive member of our society.


Chris Taylor
Park City High School
Park City
Years at School: 18
Total Years Teaching: 18
Instrumental Music Students: 240

Teaching Philosophy: I hope to help my students develop a life long pursuit of excellence by challenging them with quality literature. I try to make my students as successful as they can be, so they can take that experience and apply it to other facets of their lives. I hope that through the challenges they face in music they learn how to be team members as well as leaders. I want them to understand that music continues after high school, even if they don’t make it a profession. They can become members of community ensembles, local pit orchestras, play in churches, or just be great audience members. We try to offer the students as many different musical opportunities that we can to get them ready for music after high school.

Affecting Student Development: I hope that students take from my music classes a sense of accomplishing something, and not just doing something. Too many students go through the motions in school, thinking, “What do I need to do to pass?” I want students to reach beyond the minimum requirements, not just in music, but in all that they do. I hope that they have gained problem solving skills that they can apply in other areas of their lives.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Don’t ever tell the students that it is hard. Most of the limitations that we put on our students come from us. Students (and teachers) need to understand that they will never know it all. Music is a life-long journey; I am still learning as much as my students are.


Christina Toner
South Burlington High School
South Burlington
Years at School: 14
Total Years Teaching: 18
Instrumental Music Students: 202

Teaching Philosophy: Each student in my classroom has strengths as well as areas of challenge. I encourage my students to work hard with their own strengths and weaknesses and not compare themselves to the folks sitting around them. I also encourage them to take risks. It’s okay to make mistakes – in fact, it’s great to make mistakes – that’s how we learn! As long as they work hard and don’t give up, they will continue to grow as musicians. That’s actually a great philosophy for life in general!

Affecting Student Development: I truly hope that I teach my students that with effort, energy and enthusiasm, great things can be achieved. I hope that they learn a love of music and they look back on their time in the South Burlington Band as rewarding and enjoyable.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I try to remember who I’m teaching and what it’s really about and not get caught up in the “product.” It’s all about the students. My students are amazing people: smart, funny, and talented, and they really just want to have great time learning about music and playing their instruments. Most of them are not going to be music majors and many of them will not even play after high school, but while they are in high school, despite the fact that their class schedules are packed, they choose to sign up for band.

My greatest joy as a teacher is that my students keep coming back, keep practicing, and continue to love making music together.


Darren Kirsch
Grafton High School
Years at School: 17 
Total Years Teaching: 18
Instrumental Music Students: 300

Teaching Philosophy: My teaching methodology revolves around simplifying things to the lowest level and adding layers as the students’ progress. We have really started to stress counting as the most basic of levels. The other thing that is really stressed is tone quality. If you can’t play it with a good tone, then who really wants to listen if your notes are rhythms are right?

My personal education philosophy is that we are here to teach students, and the student is what is most important. I always try to think of that first and foremost, and balance that with holding students accountable for their playing and actions within the band and band class.

Affecting Student Development: To be honest, I hope my students leave the program after four years with an understanding and appreciation of music that will follow them through their adult lives. The other things that band teaches – such as time management, teamwork, goal setting, hard work, and discipline – are the traits that all students will benefit from in whatever career paths that they choose.

Most Important Lesson Learned: The most important lesson is that hard work… works. You can be the best teacher in the world, but if your students do not meet you in the middle with their practice and preparation, you will not achieve your goals and the band will suffer.


Jake Bergevin
Edmonds-Woodway High School
Years at School: 13
Total Years Teaching: 20
Instrumental Music Students: 225

Teaching Philosophy: I have high expectations for music and citizenship. I believe that being a musician is an honor and an obligation to use your skills for the benefit of the school and community. It should be fun and challenging for the musicians and enjoyable for the audiences.

Affecting Student Development: I want them to love music, each other, and me! This doesn’t always happen. The teen years are pretty important and students need a place to belong. I had a great teacher in jr. high and high school named Gary Evans. He made us feel important and special. We’re still great friends. Hopefully the success my students experience in band will build their self-worth, making them able to transfer success to other areas of interest and grow up as self-confident members of society.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Music and teaching are both pretty demanding. They will take every bit of energy you can give them and still ask for more. I recommend to young teachers to fight the urge to have too many good ideas. Once you start something, it’s difficult to stop.


Greg James
Richwood High School
Years at School: 37
Total Years Teaching: 37
Instrumental Music Students: 260

Teaching Philosophy: I try to teach my students that their level of success is directly related to the amount of effort they are willing to put forth. All students can be successful, especially in music; but some may need to work a little bit harder than others. Those who are willing to work the hardest will eventually experience the greatest levels of success. My students know that anything short of success is unacceptable in our music program – the bar is very high.

Since we are a small rural school with several economically disadvantaged students, I try to make sure that the band students have the same opportunities available as their counterparts who attend larger, wealthier schools. We travel extensively, participating in parades and festivals that would usually not be accessible to schools our size. We’ve been to the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, Macy’s, not to mention pretty much every theme park in the eastern U.S. and Canada. As a school with under 400 students, we often find ourselves in the role of David facing Goliath.

Affecting Student Development: Over the years, I have had several graduates who have gone on to participate in band at the college level; and there are many of my former students who have had great success in the field of music. However, the majority of my students will never pick up an instrument again after graduating from high school. My goal is that every student develops into a responsible, independent human being with the skills needed to interact in society. By participating in the arts, students learn how to problem solve, how to cope, how to celebrate, rationalize, and think logically. It’s not about how to play notes, it’s about how to live.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Over the years, I have found that kids have a basic innate desire for structure. Although what we do in my classroom may sometimes appear to be disorganized, there is a rhyme and reason to everything. Nothing happens without planning. My students know what to expect and can usually predict what’s going to happen next. They’ve come to appreciate that – it’s just the way we do things in band. Everything has a proper place, every activity has a scheduled time, and every student has assigned expectations.


Connie Root
Hudson Middle School
Years at School: 29
Total Years Teaching: 35
Instrumental Music Students: 340

Teaching Philosophy: Our music department has always used guidelines for assessing student growth and achievement. Due to the recent emphasis on strategies, assessment, and accountability, our students have been given more defined and detailed goals, strategies, and assessments. Students know what is expected of them, and are learning strategies to accomplish or improve upon music fundamentals such as: posture, tone, preparation, theory, articulation, and technique. Our music staff has created a rubric for students and parents to follow (accessible on our individual class pages) and we assess each lesson and performance using this rubric. My personal educational philosophy is that arts education is fundamental to teaching the whole child and that every student should have the opportunity to participate in the arts in their school and community.

Affecting Student Development: Over the years I have always made it clear to students, fellow staff members, parents, and administrators that we teach so much more than music fundamentals and performance to our students. Being involved in music develops skills that will be with them their entire lives. Students are allowed to be creative, think “out of the box,” and to be expressive. Music education allows students to work as a team, and to develop personal strengths through self-discipline, poise, and public performance. Music education prepares students for life!

Most Important Lesson Learned: Never stop learning and growing within the profession. Seize every opportunity to network with colleagues at all grade levels, always strive for personal growth by attending meetings and seminars, taking coursework, attending music festivals, arranging for guest clinicians, adjudicating, and being involved with local and state honors organizations. Establish personal and professional relationships with fellow educators that put students first. Share your ideas with others. Ask your colleagues to share their great teaching strategies, literature, and innovative technology ideas with you. I’ve officially reached retirement age, but am not quite ready to retire – I still have more to learn and to share with my students and colleagues!


Michele Lazarus
Central high School
Years at School: 11
Total Years Teaching: 19
Instrumental Music Students: 96

Teaching Philosophy: I believe in strong teacher-student relationships. I want my students to know that I care about their school and personal success and that they can depend on me to help them. I strive to provide them with opportunities to succeed.

Affecting Student Development: I encourage my students to audition and perform for as many different events as possible. Each new experience gives them a higher level of confidence for both music and life.

Most Important Lesson Learned: Being a part of a musical group provides all students with a place to belong, goals to believe in, and the satisfaction of achieving success.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!