Tone Deaf Comics

Tom’s Tips

SBO+: I get asked to present quite a few conducting workshops, especially for busy music educators who may not have the time or money to attend the many summer symposia that are out there. From time to time, I will share some of the things I often include in those workshops.

Your Body is Your Instrument

Personal Fitness –  great conductors are athletes!

Warm-up and Stretching – you need to warm-up too

Wear and Tear on the Hands and Wrist – use a thicker baton to reduce strain on the wrist. Warm up your wrists, relax your fingers.

Know What You Look Like (especially from behind)

Your body

Your face

Your attire – no panty lines!

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses. Work on the
Weaknesses and Accentuate the Strengths

Your Stance

  Feet shoulder width apart

  Don’t move your feet without a good reason

  Stand up straight, shoulders back, chest open

  Don’t bend knees or at the waist

  Get up on your toes for emphasis

  What do you look like from the back?

Texas Christian University

The TCU School of Music offers an uncommon musical environment in which students learn and grow as artists, educators and individuals. Under the direction of our renowned faculty and through a broad array of performance and scholarly programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, our students are well prepared to pursue their music careers anywhere in the world.

One of six schools and departments within the TCU College of Fine Arts, the School of Music is a vital and dynamic member of the local arts community, bringing hundreds of performances and guest artists to the campus and greater Fort Worth each year. From recitals, master classes and seminars by faculty and guest artists to award-winning student ensemble performances and festivals, the School of Music offers a distinctive variety and depth of programming.

We believe in music as an integral part of a liberal arts education and recognize its extraordinary capacity to draw together audiences from around the globe. While teaching our students about what has come before, we prepare them to become part of a global future. We invite you to join us as we continue our tradition of excellence and enjoy the transformative experiences of our programs and performances.

Visit our website to learn about the application process to become a TCU School of Music student:


Ask a Conductor

SBO+: These ideas are equally applicable to all ensembles and general music classrooms.

Question: My morale coming back from winter break is low, and I’m struggling to get myself and my students excited about a new semester. What are your favorite games or activities, especially geared toward getting students out of their shells and engaged in the learning process?

From Mark Lawley, director of choirs, Willard High School Willard, Missouri 

I have found these ideas to be both safe and engaging: 

1) “What I Like About You!” I have a little jingle that I sing with this activity using those words. Everyone stands up, you are allowed to sit once you tell someone in the ensemble something you like about them. Students are encouraged to name a noble character trait (like I love the way that Brigham is an example of how a young man can be both masculine and caring). Students are encouraged to avoid comments like “hey nice shoes!” This activity proves to be heartwarming, sometimes funny but always brings us together. 

2) “The Hope Awards” This semester for the first time we began with what I called “The Hope Awards!” I shared with the students the reasons that they give me hope for our future. Then each student told why another person in the ensemble gives them hope. This entry to the semester was heartwarming and brought a few tears. In the end many felt closer and described the ensemble as their family.

3) “Tell Me Something Good”  There’s a popular song that has these words in it, and I sing to the choir in between them sharing something good that is happening in their life! 

4) “Pows and Wows” Let’s face it life isn’t happiness. This activity allows students to get negativity out if they want to. “Pows” are negative things in our lives, and “wows” are positive things. Some students share both pows and wows. 

5) BIRTHDAYS – after singing happy birthday to the person we are celebrating – everyone opens their backpacks and finds a random gift to give to the birthday boy or girl! This is so fun! Some give actual presents and others might give just a stick of gum! FUN! Life is so serious and isolating right now, I love employing these ideas to get students out of their own story and engage in and with others. 

From Jason Leigh, general music and choral director, Poquessing Middle School Feasterville-Trevose, Pennsylvania

Many years ago, I created a summer session for my choir students. The purpose of the session was to bring new members into the culture of the group, teach our warmups, and begin working on our repertoire. I soon discovered that one of the most popular segments of the camp was those dedicated to getting to know one another. I did this primarily with theatre games. While I am the musical theatre director at my school, I somehow underestimated how successful these same exercises and games would be for the entire choir. I wish I had realized sooner that you don’t need to be a member of the school musical to reap the benefits of these theatre games. 

With that in mind, I pick a Saturday just after winter break where we have a day-long event that reprises all the best parts of our summer session. I am always pleasantly surprised by how quickly the singers want to revisit the theatre games, no matter how many times we have played them! Use your school’s stage and let your students use these games to explore the space, their relationship to themselves, and to one another. Some choir directors may hesitate to do this because they may not feel comfortable in the theatre realm. I understand that hesitancy! However, with just a handful of games and some general directions, you can empower your students to essentially run the games on their own. Trust me, you have some kids in your choir who can’t wait to show you their improvisation skills. What always floors me is how many of them want to participate and the overall effect that has on our morale. Once one group goes, hands quickly go up after that. Who knows, maybe they’ll have you up there too and perhaps you’ll enjoy it! 

Don’t underestimate, too, the power of being vulnerable in front of your singers and how that might encourage them to take more musical chances. The internet is a great resource for these games and, if you don’t direct theatre, I guarantee you have a colleague close by who does and knows some games to recommend. A classic that my kids love is known as “party host.” One student (the host) leaves the room while 3 or 4 students tell the choir who they will be. It could be someone famous, a teacher, a movie character, etc. If they choose someone familiar (you will inevitably be chosen!), it is helpful to remind everyone to keep things respectful. The Host returns and one by one the host “answers the door” as the “party-goers” enter. After several minutes, the Host attempts to guess who has entered the party. After the first round, many hands will go up! These games don’t need to be relegated to a few times a year. They can be sprinkled throughout rehearsals, especially when you feel energy or morale lagging. They have certainly served me well, and I hope you will find them useful, too! 

Reprinted from ChorTeach with Permission from ACDA

Join the Team That is Your School: Be a Teacher-Leader

Imagine you have a loaf of bread. This loaf is finite, it has borders. There’s only so much bread. You can tear off a piece and use it. Sometimes you get something back for your bread, sometimes you waste it.  

Now, shift this analogy to your political capital: in your school, in your district, with teachers and parents/community members. Your loaf is finite, and you spend it in so many ways: when you ask for money, when there’s conflicts with parents or students, when you need help moving equipment or supervising kids or you need a parent to run your bake sale. 

The problem is, we always think we have more bread than we do, or we’re not aware there’s bread at all. We start to wonder why people say no to us, not approving budget requests, not helping with equipment, not understanding what you need out of the master schedule. You’re simply out of bread.

This is my twentieth-year teaching and my twentieth year at Windsor Middle school, and I’ve done all sorts of things with my bread. I’ve spent it, I’ve saved it, I’ve even burnt my toast doing stupid things. The best thing I’ve ever done for my loaf of bread is join our school’s instructional leadership team. Being a teacher-leader in my building has been one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences of my career. 

So, what is a teacher-leader? Our team is composed of representatives from around the school, teachers in all the core subjects at all grade levels, administration, special education teachers, and teacher coaches. We meet weekly and discuss everything from the school’s strategic plan to master schedule to how to structure and implement professional development. We are also expected to be team leads and run team meetings and PLCs.

The experience has increased my global perspective. I now have a window into operations and an understanding of what admin is facing and why decisions are being made. I understand more than ever how my bands and orchestras fit into the fabric of the entire school. I’ve begun to understand the experiences of other teachers, the challenges of their worlds. I’ve learned just how hard consensus is to achieve and how important it is to the implementation of meaningful change for all our students. 

Over the course of my time on the team, I’ve had opportunities to mentor teachers and facilitate their learning as well as learn alongside them. Not just other music teachers but the shop teacher, the STEM teacher, the drama teacher, etc. This work is new, refreshing, and twenty years in, it’s rewarding.

These experiences have made me a better teacher. So many times, throughout my career, I’ve felt like an island. I’m the only instrumental music teacher in my building and one of only a handful in my district. There are very few to lean on and it so often felt as though things happened to me rather than from my own agency. Now things have changed because my perspective has changed. 

So, back to my bread. I’ve got a little more these days. I’m in a position where I can advocate for my program, where my administration and I understand each other. We don’t always agree, and I don’t always get what I want, but they listen. We move toward our goals together, part of a cohesive whole. If nothing else, I’ve earned a seat at the table.

The lesson? Too many of us have an adversarial relationship with our administrators. We see them as the barrier to getting what we need for our program and our kids. We see other teachers in this light as well, their demands and needs as a burden on the systems and resources we also depend upon to operate. We are in competition with them, or at least I’m guilty of having viewed it that way. 

It could do us all some good to listen to each other. To sit at the table and understand how we all view things differently. At the center of it, we’re all here for the same reasons. We want to help kids learn and to love learning. We want them to achieve and be able to succeed in the world. Be on your school’s team, however that looks. Get off your island and learn how to serve others. Who knows, maybe next time the master schedule comes out, you’ll get that class you’ve been wanting. Or you’ll get funding for that new drum set. Or you’ll simply be seen as necessary and vital to your school because you were able to convince the right people that you serve the same interests they do, and that music is part of how we create a better future for our students. 

Cory Swanson is a teacher at Windsor Middle School in Windsor, Colorado.

Inspiring a Love of Music, By Frank Battisti and Scott Rush

Imagine being at a conference for music educators and running into one (or more!) of the teaching/conducting/composing icons of our day! What would you ask them if you had the chance? What could you learn in the span of a brief introductory chat? Inspiring a Love of Music not only provides the questions for you in a thoughtful and meaningful manner, but it provides you with their responses! This book is another excellent resource for modern music educators gleaning from the experience and wisdom of several of the leading and most prominent music educators.

The book is divided into two sections. Part One deals with each contributor responding to questions and sharing their thoughts and insights as individuals. Part Two combines some of the contributors’ responses under one topic heading.

Part One

Each contributor responded to each of the following:

1. Describe what music means to you.

2. What should the making of music do for young students?

3. Describe the musical experience you provide for your students in your teaching.

4. What strategies do you employ to help students understand and feel/experience the “expressive power of music?”

5. Since “listening” is such a critical element in the “discovery” of making music, do you have specific strategies you use to develop this important skill with students?

6. How do you select music to use in your teaching? Do employee and criterion? If so, what are the priority factors in your evaluation and selection?

7. Name ten musical compositions you have used to create meaningful expressive music-making experiences for your students.

8. Are students offered opportunities to comment on the music selected for study, rehearsal, or performance?

9. Are students offered opportunities to comment on the way the music is interpreted?

10. What opportunities for creativity do you provide for your students within the music-making process?

11. How do you evaluate the comprehensive musical development of your students?

Part Two

This section shares additional insights and strategies from other successful music educators and ensemble conductors. Responses are combined into single topics that could easily be questions you might ask of these music education giants if you had the opportunity. The topics include:

The Personal Meaning of Music

How Music Making Affects Young Students

Providing Musical Experiences

Strategies for Musical Expression

Strategies for Active Listening

The Selection of High-Quality Music

The Collaborative Process

Creativity, Expression, and Imagination

The Music Educator/ Teacher

The Conductor/Ensemble Director

Final Thoughts

The list of contributors includes:

Sarah Ball – Orchestra – North Gwinnett Middle School – Gwinnett County, GA.

Scott Casagrande – Band – John Hersey High School (retired) – Arlington Heights, IL.

Lafe Cook – Band – Dobyns-Bennett High School – Kingsport,  TN.

Chuck Cushinery – Orchestra – Clark High School – Las Vegas, NV

Roy Holder – Band – Fairfax County Public Schools (retired) – Fairfax, VA

Mike Howard – Band – Vandegrift High School – Leander, TX

Chadwick Kamei – Band – Pearl City High School – Pearl City, HI

Alex Kaminsky – Band – VanderCook College of Music – Chicago, IL

Diane Koutsulis – Band – Green Valley High School (retired) – Henderson, NV

Scott Laird – Orchestra – The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics – Durham, NC

Ed Lisk – Band – Oswego High School (retired) – Oswego, NY

Stephen Massey – Band – Foxboro Public Schools (retired) – Foxboro, MA

Elizabeth Reed – Orchestra – Miami University – Miami, OH

Jeff Scott – Band – Cairo Middle School – Mount Pleasant, SC

Andy Sealy – Band – Hebron High School – Carrollton, TX

Christopher Selby – Orchestra – School of the Arts – Charleston, SC

Kim Shuttlesworth – Band – Coppell High School – Coppell, TX

Susan Waters – Band – Oliver Middle School – Nashville, TN

Alfred L. Watkins – Band – Lassiter High School (retired) – Marietta, GA

Darcy Vogt Williams – Band – Stiles Middle School – Leander, TX

Inspiring a Love of Music not only gives you a glimpse inside the minds of some of our most accomplished educators/conductors, but it also will provoke introspection on the part of the reader. Comparing your responses to those of the contributors can be both educational and reaffirming.

Inspiring a Love of Music

Ideas, Insights, and Strategies from Successful High School and Middle School Instrumental Music Educators and Ensemble Directors

By Frank Battisti and Scott Rush

2022 • Meredith Music Publications • 179pp • $24.95

Five Tips to Master Your New Music Director Role

You got the music director gig—congratulations! You are about to step into a great new working environment that promises to be a step up from what you were doing before. But now what? Here are some helpful tips for gaining mastery over your new music director role.

Communicate Your Vision

Communicating your vision to your new community is one of the key actions you’ll need to do to smooth the transition to your new school. This doesn’t mean everyone will agree to, or even care for, your new vision, but it creates an environment of honesty where all cards are laid on the table, and parents and students can decide whether your vision is something they want to participate in. 

These points should be broad enough that they are able to meet at least a few expectations of every person currently in the music program. You can even add bits and pieces of your vision into your email signature so there is a constant reminder of your vision whenever there is correspondence between you and your students.

Be sure whatever your vision is, it is well thought-out and clear. Share it often. Explain when circumstances fall in line with the vision of the program and when they don’t. Celebrate the moments when your vision is encapsulated in the students’ stellar work. Sharing your vision creates a clearer path for you to lead and for students to follow.

Make Incremental Changes

Changing the culture of a music program takes time. Whether the change you are bringing about is a slight shift or a major overhaul, it must be meaningful and incremental. Change for the sake of change can be self-defeating, and change that is too fast and broad can be overwhelming. It is helpful to map out the current realities of your program versus where you would eventually like to see the program end up. Then it is much easier to plot a step-by-step plan of action for getting there. 

Whatever change you are committed to bringing to your new program, make sure it suits your vision and you map out the realities of where you currently are versus where you would eventually like to see the program end up. Have a step-by-step action plan with practical tools and a time frame to see the results of the changes you are implementing. 

Building Community

As you begin establishing yourself in your new position, be sure community building is at the top of your priorities. A cohesive social fabric between the students in the program will create a deeper sense of investment and accountability toward each other. This will also help create a strong layer of trust in you as their leader because you have helped foster such a positive and enjoyable atmosphere for their music education journey.

Always strive to develop a professional yet caring relationship with your students. Pay attention to whether students feel they can talk to you about a wide range of topics, such as music, sports, their athletic games, difficulties in other classes, food, and vacations. Efforts to build community and convey your care for your students do not have to be overthought or overly complicated. 

Let Your Concert Embody Your Vision of Excellence

A successful concert has the potential to recruit students, parents, and administrators to your cause. Being the emcee of the concert, you literally have the microphone and can gracefully drop truth nuggets on your audience. The reality is, the floor is yours to say what you want (positive comments only and within reason) to help bolster goodwill, buy-in, and commitment to the program.

Have fun and incorporate appropriate humor.

Briefly mention the highlights of your time with the students on stage.

Don’t over-program a concert with music that is too hard.

Choose varied repertoire. Be mindful of how long your concert will be. Leave the audience wanting more.

Giving Yourself Grace

As you walk through your transition, it is good to be positive, have a good outlook, and set high expectations. Our circumstances may very well not meet our expectations. The job may be harder than it appeared to be at the outset. Maybe you haven’t made the connections you thought you would have made with colleagues. Whatever the imperfect case may be, give yourself grace! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept and embrace where you are and give yourself the freedom to adjust to the unknown demands you are just discovering. Placing too much pressure on yourself can be self-defeating, obscuring the critically important fact that any profession working with children is never an exact science. Be kind to yourself and remember your aim should be progress instead of perfection.

No matter what your situation is, remember to always work hard, stay positive, be kind, be creative, be organized, be methodical, have fun, and, most importantly, take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally!

Oberlin College and Conservatory—Where Creativity Flourishes

Founded in 1865 and situated amid the intellectual vitality of Oberlin College, Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music is one of the world’s foremost professional training institutions, and the only major music school that focuses on educating undergraduates.

This is a place of intensive study and immersive performance experiences, and is your launching pad to the world’s stages. We prepare musicians for remarkable careers, showcasing students on tour, in recordings, and via live stream in front of top critics and discerning audiences alike. In the past decade alone, Oberlin ensembles have performed in important concert halls in New York City, Chicago, Shanghai, Beijing, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. 

We educate our students for life and equip them to succeed. It is one of the reasons why Oberlin invented the double degree nearly 100 years ago, and it is the impetus for the entrepreneurship program which provides students with resources to launch ventures, artistic and otherwise. Through their work on campus and beyond, Oberlin students, faculty, and alumni play a critical role in elevating communities worldwide through music.

Oberlin alumni have won countless Grammy Awards, prominent fellowships, and international competitions. They have attained international stature as performers, conductors, and composers, among them Sullivan Fortner, James McBride, Rhiannon Giddens, Claire Chase, Jennifer Koh, Steven Isserlis, Jeremy Denk, Alyson Cambridge, George Walker, Christopher Rouse, Du Yun, Robert Spano, and Jeannette Sorrell. The contemporary music sphere enjoys the contributions of Oberlin-trained Eighth Blackbird, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Oberlin alumni perform in the early music ensembles of Apollo’s Fire and Rebel, as well as in string quartets including Miró, Pacifica, and Jupiter. Graduates hold key roles in major orchestras throughout the world. Still others go on to prominence as scholars, educators, and arts administrators. Oberlin leads all undergraduate institutions in the number of graduates who go on to earn doctorates in music. 

Deepen your skill, artistry, perspective, and confidence at Oberlin, and set a course for bringing your ambitions to life.

Keeping Your Saxophone in Top Shape

The saxophone is a fantastic instrument and certainly has its place in music history and on many stages and classrooms. It is no wonder people love the saxophone, the way it sounds and where it fits into almost every genre of music.

Whether you’re a beginner exploring the first notes or a seasoned musician, maintaining your saxophone is crucial for preserving its tonal quality and ensuring longevity. As a saxophone player and a repair technician, one of the things I see quite often is the lack of knowledge about how to best take care of your saxophone to keep it in its best playing condition. Aside from visiting your local repair technician every year, there are some things you can do to look after your saxophone to keep it playing optimally.

Here are a few tips I recommend to everyone to keep your saxophone in top shape.

Pad maintenance:

First, make sure you get yourself a pull-through body swab. It is surprising how many people don’t own or use one. A good quality swab is important as it wicks away condensation effectively in a few passes through the instrument. I always recommend swabbing your instrument after around twenty minutes of playing, as most condensation happens within that time. Then, if you swab again when you’re finished playing, you’ll notice very little condensation. This helps the pads last for a very long time. Bonus tip – Get rid of the fluffy “pad savers” as they don’t really save the pads at all.

Key leaves: 

An awesome product that helps reduce that all too common sticky G# key and the dirty EH key. The key leaves product props open the Eb key and the low C# key, which also opens the G# key, allowing those pads to dry properly. Also remember to leave your case open for a while after swabbing your instrument so it can properly dry.

Neck plug:

The second most important thing is your neck plug – when you put your instrument in the case, make sure you use your neck plug. This keeps the instrument secure in the case, and also protects the octave pip from damage. 


Regularly clean your mouthpiece with cold soapy water and a soft brush. The mouthpiece is one of the most important parts of the saxophone, so take care of it. Do not leave your reed on the mouthpiece. This is the quickest way to have to purchase more reeds, which are not cheap. 


The keys of your saxophone require proper lubrication to maintain smooth movement and prevent friction. Every few months, apply a small amount of key oil to the pivot points and gently work the keys to distribute the lubricant evenly. Be cautious not to over-oil, as excess oil can attract dust and dirt. Make sure you wipe any excess oil with a soft cloth.

Reed care:

The reed is a vital component that significantly influences your saxophone’s tone quality. After each use, remove the reed from the mouthpiece and rinse it with water. Gently pat it dry with a clean cloth and store it in a reed case or reed guard to maintain its shape and prevent warping. Rotate between multiple reeds to allow them to dry completely, enhancing their lifespan and preserving their responsiveness. Regularly inspect your reeds for signs of wear or damage and replace them as needed. A well-maintained reed ensures a crisp and clear sound.

Schedule regular visits to a repair shop:

If something doesn’t feel quite right with your instrument, take the time to go and visit your local repair technician to get your saxophone checked over and explain what you are experiencing. Most repair technicians are friendly and will know how to fix it relatively quickly. Sometimes it may cost a bit of money if you haven’t been for some time. Remember it is much like your car, which needs periodic oil changes and a few tweaks to keep it in top running condition and most people are happy to pay for that. It’s the same with your saxophone. It literally needs an oil change and some tweaks to keep it in top playing condition so you can keep making beautiful music. Remember your repair technician knows what keys move together and how to adjust them so they work together perfectly.

I consider it an absolute pleasure to be a repair technician, to serve the music community around me and to make a difference in the way our local musicians’ instruments play. Each time a customer of mine sends me a message saying, “thank you so much, my saxophone is so much easier to play” or “I just really enjoy playing again, I just can’t put it down,” it inspires me find more ways to help musicians enjoy music. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to study saxophone repair and learn all the skills to be able to do this for my local music community.

Music really can and does change the world for the better, not only in the lives of those listening to the music, but those making the music. 

Duke Smith-Holley, The Saxophone Shoppe, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Groovin’ Up ‘n Down in D

SBO+: We issued a call for teachers who have written pieces for their students and have received several that are working through the review process now. Check out this piece by George Edwin Smith.

Your students will enjoy “Groovin’ Up ‘n Down in D”, a study in the key of D major for first-year string players, which provides an excellent opportunity to practice going up and down the D major scale, with appropriate interval preparation and harmonies, while employing pizzicato and arco techniques. You and your students can download free individual instrument rehearsal click tracks for practice at home or in small groups or for virtual practice, by going to and clicking on “Free String mp3 Rehearsal Tracks”. Then find the appropriate mp3 sound file for their part. This piece is available at J.W. Pepper.

Specialist William Esterling: Maestro on a Mission

In the world of music, there are individuals whose talents extend far beyond the stage into the realms of service and devotion to their country. Army Specialist (SPC) William F. Esterling III stands as a shining example of such figures. His journey, stretching from Delaware’s Cab Calloway School of the Arts to the Delaware National Guard’s 287th Army Band, serves as an inspiring testament to unyielding commitment and an unbridled passion for both music and service.

Early Harmonies: The Roots of a Musical Odyssey

Bear, Delaware, served as the backdrop for the commencement of William Esterling’s musical odyssey. It all began when he first laid hands on the trombone in the fourth grade. Little did he know that this modest introduction would ignite an enduring flame. His passion for music flourished during his formative years at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, where he ascended to the position of senior drum major of the school’s illustrious marching band.

Next was Ithaca College, where he earned a Bachelor of Music in music education and trombone performance. His academic pursuits continued at the Catholic University of America, where he earned a master’s degree in conducting. These significant accomplishments firmly established him as a proficient conductor and marked the inception of a in music.

Building His Musical Resume: A Conductor and Musician

Before venturing into military service, Esterling meticulously crafted his career, accumulating a wealth of experience as both a conductor and a musician. He served as the assistant conductor for the New Orchestra of Washington and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra. Yet, Esterling’s passion was not confined to the stage and the conductor’s podium alone. He also dedicated his time to education. Assuming the role of winds & brass coordinator at the Levine Community Music School, he sculpted young talents into skilled musicians, nurturing the next generation. In a slightly different direction, he led the pep band at American University in Washington, D.C., approaching every performance with vivacity and enthusiasm.

Today, Esterling wears multiple hats. As the music teacher at Tyler Elementary in southeast Washington, D.C., he imparts his knowledge and passion to budding musicians. Simultaneously, he serves as the music director of the COSMIC Symphony in southern Maryland, where his enthusiasm for music shines brightly. In every role, he remains steadfast in his commitment to nurturing the next generation of musicians, passing on the invaluable knowledge he has accrued over the years.

Answering the Call to Service: A Legacy of Duty and Honor

Esterling’s decision to serve in the military was not solely a personal choice; it was a homage to a deep-rooted family tradition of duty and honor. With a father who was a Navy veteran and a mother who had served in the Delaware National Guard, Esterling was raised with a profound respect for those who choose to serve their nation. This sentiment was further bolstered by the service of both his grandfathers.

This legacy of service stirred something profound within Esterling, compelling him to explore opportunities to better himself and give back to his community. Upon completing his master’s degree, he embraced this calling, embarking on a new chapter in his life. His high school band director and a close friend, both of whom were members of the 287th Army Band, played a pivotal role in motivating him to join.

In the summer of 2021, SPC Esterling underwent basic combat training and joined the 287th Army Band. Since joining the Delaware National Guard, he has had the privilege of conducting the 287th Army Band in numerous public performances, serving as a bridge between the military and the civilian world. Through his musical talents, he connects with audiences and fellow service members.

A Life in Harmony: A Symphonic Narrative of Commitment

The journey of William Esterling, from a fourth-grade trombonist to a specialist in the 287th Army Band, is a narrative that weaves dedication to music, education, and service together. His unwavering commitment to his passions has orchestrated a beautiful symphony that resonates not only in his life but also in the lives of all those he touches.

In Esterling, we discover an individual who has masterfully orchestrated a life where music, education, and service seamlessly blend. He serves as a living testament to how the pursuit of one’s passions can create a profoundly meaningful impact on others. His journey embodies the harmony of commitment, dedication, and a resounding love for music, exemplifying how one person can make a lasting impact through the power of their passions.

Esterling’s story is a testament to the power of dedication and passion. His journey from a young musician to a specialist in the military band shows how one person can make a profound impact through their love for music and dedication to their country. As his music continues to resonate, it serves as a reminder that the pursuit of one’s passions can create a meaningful life, touching the hearts of all who have the privilege to listen.


Change is in the air. This time of year, we experience the change of seasons from fall to winter and many of our music programs are in transition from marching band to concert band season or knee-deep in preparations for a holiday or winter concert. Although it can be easy to just move from one season to the next without resetting, regrouping, and re-examining our purpose, we can gain so much when we intentionally embrace transitions to focus on all that we are grateful for. Beyond feeling gratitude, it is important to share gratitude for others.

How can leaders extend gratitude to create meaningful connections and encouragement for those they lead? Consider that a significant role of a leader is to shine the spotlight on others. Here are five leadership tips to help those you lead shine brightly.

1. Go out of your way and take time to let folks know you value them. Everyone wants to feel they provide value to the group. 

2. Find opportunities to let students know they matter and the ensemble or class would not be the same without them. 

3. Let individuals know they make a difference. When we feel our efforts, work, and participation contribute toward achieving a larger goal, we are inspired to continue moving on a positive pathway forward.

4. Highlight what you appreciate about those you lead or teach. 

5. Provide and create space for others to be in the spotlight to showcase their skills and light within.

The more we can help others shine the more the entire group will shine. When students feel that they are valued, that they matter, and that they make a difference, their own inner light will shine brightly and illuminate everyone else around them. Shine on!

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