Dr. Dave Fullmer: Building Bridges Through Music Ed

Mike Lawson • ArchivesChoral • June 21, 2007

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Timpview High School in Provo, Utah merits the notoriety it has received for musical excellence, having achieved superior ratings at state festivals for each the symphonic band, marching band, jazz ensemble, and percussion ensemble going on 18 consecutive years.

However, another element generating buzz in the music department is the innovative program implemented five years ago by director of bands, Dr. Dave Fullmer. Dave has forged an accord between Timpview High and nearby Utah Valley State College in which music education students from the college come to Timpview as part of their coursework to get hands-on training with the high school bands, observing and assisting the director. This has been made possible by Fullmer’s unique connection to both educational institutions: in addition to his duties as director of bands at Timpview, he’s also an associate professor of Music Education at Utah Valley State.

SBO recently caught up with Dr. Fullmer, who shed some light on the origin of this unique symbiotic arrangement.

School Band & Orchestra: How did you first become involved with music?
Dave Fullmer: I’ve had an interest in music my whole life. My parents weren’t necessarily musicians, certainly not professional musicians, but they always tried to have good music in the house. I started taking piano lessons in 3rd or 4th grade and then picked up the trumpet in 5th grade. I went through the whole public school music scene and just really enjoyed playing my instrument and the music. Later on, I had the opportunity to learn some other instruments and perform with some other groups, which was especially interesting to me. I always enjoyed the conducting aspect as well.

SBO: Did you play jazz? Marching band? Orchestra?
DF: I didn’t have much orchestral experience. The band program in my high school was not very strong. It didn’t really have a marching band to speak of, except for a few parades. But I found myself sitting in those rehearsals thinking, “You know, I wonder what would happen if we tried to do things this way.” Even as a high school student, the notion of managing and directing a music program was intriguing to me. I went on to BYU for my freshman year in school and participated in the marching band and the top wind ensemble there, and that was very eye opening as to what was possible. That was very inspiring for me.

I took two years off to serve an LDS [Latter-day Saints] mission to Germany, then I came back and I really struggled. I had a lot of voices telling me that choosing education wasn’t really a wise path and I kind of fought it for a little while. I actually took several courses designed to help me choose a career, but everything pointed me right back towards music education. I remember how settled it felt when I finally declared music education as my major; I’ve enjoyed it ever since. It’s tremendously challenging and a lot of hard work, but it has really been a wonderful way to go.

SBO: Did you finish your undergrad at BYU?
DF: Yes, I finished at BYU and then, over the course of four summers, I completed a Masters degree there. In ’97, I took a sabbatical leave and went to the University of Washington, where I did my doctoral studies with Tim Salzman and Peter Eros.

SBO: I see. What was your first teaching or conducting gig?
DF: My first job was in Pleasant Grove High School, in Pleasant Grove, Utah. I started in the fall of ’86. Utah has parades in the summers and I’d been working with the Pleasant Grove parade bands as an undergrad, for a summer job. The principal liked what he saw, so that got me a leg into my first fulltime job. When I finished my undergrad, I taught there for four years and then moved on to become the director of bands at Timpview High School.

SBO: Where you are now?
DF. Right, although I’m technically part-time. I’ve been nominally part-time at the high school for five years because I’m also an associate professor at Utah Valley State College – but I’m still doing everything at Timpview that I did when I was fulltime!

SBO: Wow… what’s the Timpview music program like?
DF: We’ve got about 150 students in the band, and that’s grades 9-12, maybe 1,400 kids total in the high school. One thing that’s interesting about this school is that it’s very success-oriented in all of its programs. We have a very fine orchestra and a very fine choir, as well as sports and academic programs – they’re all very strong. The 150 that we have are terrific kids – very dedicated and serious about their music. I have two concert bands and an audition group of about 85 students and our second band usually is around 55 or 60 students. We have a percussion ensemble and a jazz ensemble. Those are the four classes that I teach every morning before I go over to the college.

In the fall, we have a marching band that rehearses twice a week. We actually rehearse less than four hours total every week, not including sectionals. We’ve adopted a “work smarter, not longer” philosophy simply because we don’t have a choice. I’m fulltime over at the college and we don’t have any more time than that. So we have to be very smart about how we use rehearsal time, which, frankly, is terrific because it means that it’s not all-consuming for me or the students. They’re able to take heavy academic loads or not have marching band be the only thing they do in the fall.

SBO: The marching band is purely extracurricular?
DF: The students in the marching band are required to be enrolled in one of the bands during the school day, but it’s not a requirement for the kids in the classes to be in the marching band – that is a voluntary group.

SBO: Is there distinct material for the marching band?
DF: The marching band has a competition show that we put together. We don’t do more than one show, and we compete five or six times throughout the fall. We might take a trip to Las Vegas or California once in a while. We start with camp in mid-August. We hit it pretty hard for a week-and-a-half or two weeks, learn the show, then, once school starts, we have to back off to about three-and-a-half hours per week with the full group.

The interesting thing is that we do not rehearse that music during the school day. The two concert bands rehearse as concert bands throughout the fall semester, which I think makes for better musical presentation in the marching band.

SBO: Potentially – it puts a little more on their plate.
DF: Right, it does, but I think it keeps the music a little fresher. And if you’re building musicianship in those concert bands, it transfers to the other groups. The exception to that is the drum line. We take a little more time in class to go over material with the drum line. But, by and large, we put on a fall concert with the concert groups at the end of October and it seems to work pretty well.

SBO: Has the music program changed in the time you’ve been at Timpview High School?
DF: I started in the fall of 1990, but we didn’t have a marching band when I first got there. The marching band started in the fall of 1991.

SBO: Was that your creation?
DF: Yeah, we put that together. I think there was a marching band for a few years when the school first opened in the ’70s, but that really wasn’t a competitive unit. Timpview has since done very well. It’s ironic to me: we don’t talk about the other schools or make [competitive achievement] our goal as far as the season goes; we just try to improve on the previous show and perform the best we can. The awards and recognitions have come – we’ve had our share of success in that realm, but the irony is that we’ve never really focused on that aspect of it.

SBO: Tell me about the crossover in your positions at Timpview and Utah Valley State?
DF: I don’t know if this is unique to our situation or if there are other programs doing this around the country, but the faculty at UVSC felt that as much hands-on experience our students could receive, the better equipped they’d be to step into their first job, so we set up a lab at the high school. Again, even though working at the high school is only a part-time job, it’s not like I’m going in to assist anybody or we have a team of assistant directors – this isn’t Texas: at the high school we only have one band director and he runs the show.

Basically, the students at UVSC have an open invitation to come into the high school music classes at any time, without having to set up an appointment or arrange it in advance with the director. They know me because they’re my students, too, and they can come in and observe. However, more often than not, when they come to observe me, I put them to work on the podium. And the students at Timpview are used to having student teachers – we’ve had student teachers from UVSC and also BYU.

SBO: So it’s like a mentoring program?
DF: Well, it is. The applications of this lab have been so diverse and beneficial to the programs at both schools that I actually think it’s been much better than we anticipated in many respects. For example, next fall I’ll be teaching a marching bands methods course at the college. As part of that, the students at UVSC will be standing on the ladder rehearsing the Timpview marching band. That will be required. They will be on staff with the marching band, learning how that band is put together and how to rehearse a marching show. It’s very hands-on – not all theoretical like it was for me when I went through those courses. They’re actually living it with real, live students.

SBO: Sounds like everybody wins.
DF: I think so. And I’m certainly not opposed to having the help at the high school. It’s interesting, I think the jury is still out a little bit at the college: some folks see it as very cutting edge, and the outreach to the public school program they think is ideal, and others are still not sure if they think it’s wise to have an assistant professor not showing up at the college campus until noon every day. But we’ve been doing it for five years.

If nothing else, it keeps me grounded – I’m teaching music and teaching music teachers. I can look at my students at UVSC and say, “Here is what I did in class this morning. How would you deal with this? Here are some ideas that I had.” It keeps me very much in touch with what’s happening in the classroom.

SBO: Since you’ve implemented this lab program, have you noticed an impact or difference in student response?
DF: There’s been no question that it’s been a beneficial thing for both schools. The only area that’s still a little uncertain is that UVSC has just gotten its four-year accreditation, as of last fall, so we are just now having our first music education graduates come out. The impact that these kids will have on the music in the state will be interesting to watch, but it seemed like an intriguing idea to me to have that opportunity available to the students. I’ve also talked to my colleagues at the high school, the orchestra teacher and choir teacher, who both run outstanding programs, and they are both thrilled to be on board with this. We now have choral, orchestra and band available in our music lab.

SBO: You are simply maximizing your resources.
DF: That’s the idea, and we are kind of learning as we go because I don’t know if there’s much of a precedent for it. Again, we have some administrators at the college who are very intrigued by the outreach, so we’ll see how it develops. In the meantime, it continues as a unique opportunity for the students at both Utah Valley State College and Timpview High School.

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