Directors Who Make a Difference
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School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” report was compiled again having painstakingly reviewed hundreds of nominations.

Directors were nominated by students [both former and current], colleagues, musical instrument retailers, band parents, administrators, friends, former band directors who might have even taught them, and sometimes a spouse of a director who admires the hard work and dedication their other half gives to their school music programs. Some are nominated again, having been recognized previously, and no other directors from their state was nominated, but we received nominations from all states this year after aggressively promoting the honor via social media to band people, administrators, and more. The nomination stories submitted are typically stunning and detailed. Nominees not chosen this year will be held over into next year’s submissions for consideration again.

As we do with each of these special issues, each director is asked to tell us of their proudest teaching moments, how they hope to make a difference in students’ lives, and the most important lessons they try to teach their students.

And now, SBO presents 2019’s 22nd Annual Class of 50 Directors Who Make a Difference.

Alabama
Randall Key
Hartselle High School
Hartselle, Alabama
Total Years Teaching: 26 

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I have been very blessed through the years to experience many “proudest moments” in this awesome profession. On a personal level, I am very proud to have the opportunity to teach my oldest son and share that experience with my wife, youngest son, and Mom. I am very proud to work with an outstanding staff and to learn from great mentors and directors during this journey.

Musically, I am intrinsically gratified when students recognize their own achievement whether it be mastering a technical passage, understanding tuning, or playing those musical nuances not on the page. I continue to feel the same excitement when students experience success as I felt my first-year teaching.  From a non-musical aspect, I would say some of my proudest moments have been on band trips when strangers have complimented our students on their exemplary behavior or being polite and respectful. I am always proud to hear how our students represent themselves, their school, and community in a positive manner. 

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

I hope work ethic and life lessons learned through their musical experiences will help them be successful in the workplace, home, and community. It is my hope our students are able to appreciate their peers and to look for good qualities in one another. I want the students to know how much I value their hard work and dedication to our program and that every student is important. I try to end rehearsals by telling the students how much I earnestly appreciate their time, hard work, and dedication.  

What is the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
I believe that hard work coupled with a good attitude will most often yield excellent results. Many times, throughout our rehearsals I ask the students “Should I settle for mediocrity?” followed by a more important question “Should you settle for mediocrity?”  I want our students to be accountable, responsible, and proactive contributors to society. 

 

Alaska

Dan Sullivan

Stedman Elementary School

Petersburg, Alaska

Total Years Teaching: 24


What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

For a music teacher, your proudest moments are getting your kids on stage delivering an honest and heartfelt performance. I have been a part of many of those but the most moving was a guitar duet I performed with a student with limited function of his right hand. I was teaching in a small school in rural Costa Rica and I did not think at first that he would be able to participate in our middle school guitar program. His perseverance and dedication combined with some innovative ways to hold a pick allowed us to perform as an opening act at the Monteverde Music Festival. I have never seen a young musician as proud of his performance as that evening and I was honored to be part of it.

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

As an elementary school guitar teacher, my goal is to create lifelong musicians. With three chords and an inexpensive guitar, you can make music anywhere with nearly anyone. I frequently tell my students that you will likely put your guitar in the closet as the shiny brass of the middle school orchestra lures you away, but like a trusty friend, it will be there waiting when you are ready! And whether that be at church, at a family gathering, or in a rock and roll band, you will take out that instrument and make beautiful music.

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

From a musical standpoint, I have three main goals: being a good listener, playing in time, and playing in tune. The first one, listening, fosters the other two, and all three require focus and discipline. Communicating musically is a sublime and enlightening moment. If you listen well, if you work hard to develop a steady rhythm and if you develop an ear for intonation, you will experience many of those priceless moments.

 

Arizona

Jan M. Gardner II

Arcadia High School

Phoenix, Arizona

Total Years Teaching: 27

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Rather than one proud moment, there have been many instances over the years where I have been proud to see my students achieve success or receive accolades for a job well done. This can be receiving a Superior Rating at a Concert Festival, winning a State Marching Band Championship, performing an awesome concert or simply witnessing the light bulb moment when students “get it” during a rehearsal.

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

I hope that my students learn and understand how a strong work ethic and high expectations teaches them a high level of responsibility and accountability. These qualities will help my students be better prepared adults and members of society.

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

If my students work hard and stay committed to whatever they are trying to accomplish, in the short and long term they most likely will reach their goals and be successful.

 

Arkansas

Gordon Manley

Northside High School

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Total Years Teaching: 34

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

Over the years I have been fortunate to experience many memorable moments. Playing for US Presidents, group and individual accomplishments, and state and national recognitions are all important benchmarks. Working together with former students as colleagues and friends is also a wonderful experience, and the light that clicked about key signatures with my beginning horn class recently is really special. But I think I am most proud of the growth mindset we have cultivated in our program in both students and staff. Reflective practices are evident around the clock in all facets of our program and our musical growth reflects that.

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

By being kind and modelling resilience. Our guiding program philosophy is "to foster a love of music in our students.” With this philosophy, staff and students strive to demonstrate a passion for truth and beauty and to find opportunities in our lives to make our world a better place to be. We understand that our lives are filled with ups and downs and when a mistake does happen, we learn from it, put it behind us, keep going and growing, always with kindness. 

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

Be persistent, fearless, and never give up on your dreams. I think Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena quote says it best: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming..."


California

Jason Shiuan

Saratoga High School

Saratoga, California

Total Years Teaching: 4 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Truthfully, it’s rather difficult to pinpoint a singular “proudest moment.” Rarely do these moments ever present themselves as any sort of accolade or title. Rather, it’s the day-to-day intangibles that fill me with pride. I beam with joy as I reminisce about our incredibly talented color guard captain pretending not to know how to spin a flag so that the 10-year-old she was babysitting could teach her the flag routine. I cherish the moment when two students (who didn’t seem that bought in at first) had a musical experience so profound that they came running up to me after a concert, elated by that one measure that “gave us goosebumps.” I’m inspired by the student who overcame insurmountable odds yet continues to be one of the most genuine and humble human beings I know. I treasure watching the student who barely spoke as a freshman now perform with so much conviction in marching band that his mere presence demands the audience’s attention. I’m proud to teach in the community that I grew up in, that propelled me to where I am today – and I’m immensely grateful to now call my high school music director (and one of my greatest mentors) a colleague and a friend.

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

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to “invest in people – music is simply the avenue.” While I do firmly believe in an experience of musical excellence and quality, I constantly strive to empower the students to establish their self-worth and belief in themselves. I seek to propel students in ways they never thought possible. I aspire to provide a space that allows them to forge bonds with one another that will last a lifetime just as my own musical experiences have afforded me. I hope to embolden my students with a voice of their own to express and share a piece of themselves through music.

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

When I was in high school, I was extremely fortunate to learn from a close mentor, the mantra: the more you give, the more you get – the more you get, the more you have to give. This continues to be the central driving force of my teaching that I try to instill in my students each day. I hope to impart to my students the inherent value of contributing and committing to something greater than themselves. And this commitment is what will propel them in anything they strive to do.

 

Colorado

Andrea Frost Hollenbeck

Preston Middle School

Fort Collins, Colorado

Total Years Teaching: 21

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest memories encompass the daily "aha" moments. Seeing a student that isn't "first chair" compose a masterpiece that has the whole class eating out of their hands, clapping with excitement, or in tears, is always a proud moment. When I see previous students that are pursuing their passions, it makes me proud. When students stop comparing themselves to others and start to honestly believe in the power of the word, "yet," I am always humbled and proud.

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

Band is the first experience that is hard for some students. We tell them that it takes three years to become a good player. We are lucky to be able to teach students how to struggle, and we travel through those trenches together. In turn, relationships strengthen, and confidence grows.  How we accomplish that is to be kind to others, overcome adversity with mental toughness, and handle stress with grace, and never quit. I hope that students know they can pursue their passions, keep music in their lives, and dare to push themselves to be their best selves.

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

I wish to impart the campsite rule of leaving people better than you found them. That includes when any relationship ends, whether it be dating or when a friend chooses a different path, and when someone has different beliefs than you do. Everyone on this planet has something to give and may not experience love and self-actualization yet. Be kind and expect nothing in return. Constantly pay it forward. Live your best life.

 

Connecticut

Matthew Laudano

East Haven High School

East Haven, Connecticut

Total Years Teaching: 11

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator happened this fall. My competitive marching band reached the pinnacle of success by earning the title of USBands Group IIA National Champions. I was proud, not just because we won, but because we approached every rehearsal with the mindset of being “Relentless” in our dedication to improvement. Every minute of every rehearsal was better than the last. More than ever, my upperclassmen independently guided our younger members, confirming that sense of community we’ve worked so hard to build. This season was the perfect embodiment of our motto, “Where We Go One, We Go All!”

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

I try to connect with my students to encourage a supportive community. My marching band students are like a little family. Every step, every note, we are there for each other. I hope my students realize the lessons, memories, and friendships we make through music will last a lifetime. That is what makes being a music educator so rewarding. We’re teaching students so much more than just notes on a page. Rather, we are helping students become lifelong leaders, creators, thinkers, and artists. We’re helping students discover who they are as people.

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

I want my students to know music helps shape their identity and will continue to be a part of their lives well after graduation. The skills learned in music will prove useful in the future successes that await them! Music is an invaluable part of life that brings meaning to your most treasured moments. It will be there on the happiest and saddest days of your life. That is why playing music is so fulfilling. Music touches your soul and helps you connect with others on the deepest of levels.


Delaware

Joshua Palmer
Smyrna High School
Smyrna, Delaware
Total Years Teaching: 9 Years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It really is hard to pinpoint this down to one exact moment, however I think overall I would say it’s the opportunities I have been able to give the students through their performances. We have been very fortunate to play at both collegiate and professional sporting events, travel outside of the country, and honor community members and individuals from around the state through our performances. One of these performances most recently was the one I am most proud of and am honored to share with others. For the past four years I have had the honor of working with a gentleman who is a paraprofessional for one of our students and he will be retiring at the end of the school year when his student graduates. During our final home football game this season we were able to surprise him by bringing together both bands on the field as well as staff members from across the district in order to honor him. It wasn’t just the act of honoring him that I am proud of but in order to put together this performance it took a combined effort of every student from both programs and that moment is one they will all have a shared memory of that they will carry with them from now on. Those are the kinds of moments where teaching becomes bigger than just the content, but about the lives we affect.
How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

Whenever students return back to visit the school I am grateful for when they choose to come visit me. Part of that experience always includes their recounting of their time in the program, their memories and what that experience meant to them. Each one has its little differences and for each one there is some commonality. But I am thankful that they come to tell me about it and while that doesn’t seem like much in their eyes it is in mine. It is not one difference that I hope to make in the student’s lives it is the shared set of experiences both same and different that gives me a sense of pride for being a part of their life and giving them something to look back on. Each of those experiences that they come back to share with me means that it is memory that they carry with them, that shapes them from the moment that memory was created.

What's the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson that I hope to instill in my students is the importance of being a good person. Just in the past 6 months our school and community has faced several tragedies. Through these times it has been important for not only the students but the community to pull together and lift each other up. As I listen to the students perspective during all of this I am grateful that they come from a strong community, one that shows the students day in and day out how to be a good person and help one another. If they leave my program and our school having learned the importance of being good people first I know they will be successful in everything they choose to set their minds to.



Florida
Nicole Matson
Jim C Bailey Middle School
Pensacola, Florida
Total Years Teaching: 18

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have so many proud moments with my students over the past 18 years that have helped me to develop into the educator that I am. I would have to say though that my proudest moment of all would be the day my student, who was in our local foster care, became my daughter. That also led me to her brother who is now my son. Our mutual love for music and the connection we were able to make changed our family forever. I am also extremely humbled and honored to be receiving a 10 year straight superior plaque this January at the Florida Music Educators Association State conference. 

 

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

 I hope to make a difference for my students by helping them through these middle school years. They are often hard and confusing. I want them to feel like they belong and have a safe place to not only succeed but also fail. I hope to continue being an encourager long after they are gone. The small things that happen like the graduation/wedding/baby announcements, the phone calls from college, or the fact that I can't go anywhere in town without being hugged by a current or former student, makes me know that my time with those students has made a difference not only in their life but mine as well.

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

I want my students to remember the scene of belonging to our band family so they can always know what love and support feels like. I hope they continue to stay humble, helpful, and kind wherever they go. If they say they can't do something because it's hard and seems out of reach, I want them to remember that poster on the band room wall with those three capital letters, YET. I want them to always know that though they may not be able to do something YET, they can eventually get where they want to be if they are willing to change their mindset and work hard to achieve their goals. 


Georgia

Blair Callaway

Heritage High School

Ringgold, Georgia

Total Years Teaching: 28 Years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator happened this past summer when our wind ensemble was chosen to perform at our state music conference. Our band is twelve years old and we started out making long and short-term goals for our program. With the performance that will happen in January, we have met every goal on our list from 2008 which was to be recognized on a local, state, regional and national level. We live by the philosophy that what we do in the present, we do for the future. My students have always left the band in better shape than they found it. We are goal oriented and goal driven music program. It makes me proud that these students will realize that a goal is attainable through hard work, even if they are not the recipient of the reward.

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

It is so important for us as educators to be consistent and honest with our students. Most of us know or teach our students four to seven years. The impact that we have on their lives is tremendous. We must be conscious of the way we present ourselves and earn their trust. I strive to provide a safe place for any student at any time. The joy that comes from these traits is seeing them mature and come out of their shell during their high school years. This continues in their adult lives as students come back to tell me the influence that band continues to have on their life.

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

We work on being our best self every day. This may take on different meanings depending on the day and the situation, but you always work on being your best. I let them know that if they do this, no one can every ask more of them and they can feel good with the effort that they are putting forth. If there is one thing I try to instill in them is to never give up. It is never wrong to mess up in our band room. If we acknowledge the mistakes, we can then work on correcting them. A clinician friend of mine once told us, “Go for it, it is either going to be right or funny.” I want them to leave the band room knowing that I love them and will support them for the rest of their life.


Hawaii

Scot Kiyonaga  

Maui Waena Intermediate School

Kahului, Hawaii

Total Years Teaching: 25

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It’s too difficult to determine a “proudest moment.” The best moments are when the band develops the ability and trust to be autonomous and take care of themselves without the teacher’s intervention. For example, when we participate in our school's student showcase the 8th grade band plans, prepares and performs their portion of the event on their own. Just being fortunate enough to be there when the band feels like they did it on their own...those moments are special.

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

A wise person once said,” Embody what you teach, teach what you embody.” So, there is a concerted effort every day to model positive character traits for the band and lead by example. Resilience, hard work, kindness and compassion are some of the things we talk about and apply. Hopefully, the students take those concepts and apply them outside of the band room. It's an understanding that being a better human being can have a positive impact on the people we interact with every day. Another quote that’s been helpful in the art of teaching: “to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” It also serves as a reminder of the awesome responsibility that we all have as educators of music (and life).

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

Philosophically and foundationally our band program is built on three principles: Team Spirit, Aloha Spirit, and Music. Each of those elements, like the band, must work interdependently and rely on each other for harmony to exist. If we take care of each other, then we work well together. When we work well together then the music is going to come from our honest and sincere efforts. When we play together, all of the things that separate us disappear and we are in the moment, totally engaged, creating something that brings us together. Combining our efforts by contributing our unique talents to achieve a common goal despite any differences. There is no “us” versus “them” mentality when we share our music with others. Music and the arts gives us our humanity and humans are social creatures, so it is within our DNA to naturally work with one another. Together - we can do great things; Alone - not so much.


Idaho

Joe Campbell

Nezperce School District              

Nezperce, Idaho

Total Years Teaching: 8 

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments as an educator come when I see a student’s eyes light up because they got it. It might be the first time a student strums a chord on guitar, and it sounds good or when a group is rehearsing, and a piece of music finally comes together. That moment, no matter how small, is when they realize that they are able to create meaningful music. For some kids it happens in the first five minutes, and for some it might take years; but when their eyes light up, I know that they see themselves as a music maker. In that moment, I don’t have to tell them they did a good job because they recognize their own success.

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

I want them to have the ability to make music for their whole lives. It always saddens me when someone tells me that they used to play an instrument, but they don’t anymore. Although they clearly miss making music and were taught to be musically literate, in the sense that they can read musical notation, they never learned to make music independently. Conversely, my happiest moments are when former students tell me that they continue to play music in church or around the campfire with family and friends.

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

I think the most important lesson I want to share with my students is that it is called playing music for a reason. Sometimes we music teachers get hung up on the minutiae of skills, benchmarks, performances, and the latest education buzzwords but in the end if music isn’t play, an activity undertaken for enjoyment or recreation, then it is just notes and rhythms, and tests and stage fright. Music education sometimes fails to deliver its full potential because our focus is on having our students perform music and forget to teach them about playing music.

 
Illinois

Karen DeBauche

Urbana Middle School

Urbana, Illinois

Total Years Teaching: 30


What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are so many proud moments and it would be impossible to identify just one. I’m proud of the courageous students who are brave enough to try something they never believed possible and when their eyes shine with pride. The bands I have directed have been invited to all-state conferences, The University of Illinois Superstate Contest and participated in many other festivals and concerts. The moment each band finally understands the magic of playing together in a musical ensemble is magical. I am so proud of their accomplishments and I love the sense of pride and family that develops as we work towards these special opportunities. One year, a 9th grade student passed away during marching band camp. It gave me chills to watch the former 8th graders pull together and support each other as well as the student’s family. It’s exciting when a student is inspired to pursue a career in music and to have been part of their legacy. I’m thrilled to have had these opportunities to grow with my students and to be part of their lives.

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

Middle school students are constantly changing, and I want them to learn how to be a part of something larger than themselves and possess the knowledge that every one of them is vital to the band. I try to instill an environment that allows my students to develop the confidence to express themselves and enable them to grow beyond their comfort zone. I hope I have instilled a sense of passion and pride in an encouraging environment as they discover that music mastery is a skill of patience and persistence. On the first day of 6th grade, I ask my new students to look around the room and tell them they are looking at the people who will be their band family for the next seven years. Over the years many students have felt safe to come to me as their “safe” and “trusted” teacher. Band kids often become lifelong friends and music supporters. I am fortunate to have music as a tool to let students know they are important and valued.

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

As a band director, I teach many “lessons” but the most important one is to help my band students understand that they can create beautiful music and that every one of them has the ability to make the world a better place. I want them to know that with persistence and determination music can open doors to a whole new world. Most importantly, my strongest wish is that through music we provide an example that a diverse group of people can work together to make beautiful music and develop essential skills that will guide them throughout their lives.

 

Indiana

James M. Wasmundt

River Forest Middle/High School

Hobart, Indiana

Total Years Teaching: 17

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There is no one moment that I could share with you, but there are many moments. Moments when students who had nothing but your class to look forward to in school, actually defy all the odds against them and graduate, moving on to be successful adults. Moments when the student you thought you could never reach comes to you and shares how grateful they were to be a part of a group that was so special. Moments when students come back to the community they grew up in to give back.  

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

As a band director, we do so much more than offer students the opportunity to perform and love music. I hope that the acts of kindness that I show every day affect my students in such a way that they, in turn, would be kind to those around them. Many of my students come from difficult home situations. They need to know that they have worth and there are adults that care about them. Once students know that you actually care about them more than getting an award, they are willing to work hard to achieve goals placed in front of them. 

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

You only receive out of life what you put into it. Actions speak louder than words. When you have nothing to say, let the kindness of your actions be the good in the world you want to see. Anything that is worth doing takes effort.


Iowa

Deb Dunn

Waukee Middle School

Waukee, Iowa

Total Years Teaching: 33

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are so many proud moments when I’ve stood amongst students and felt a great sense of pride. In those moments I am reminded of individual student’s achievements and especially the “light bulb” moment when everything clicks for a student, and you feel a great sense of accomplishment. I am proud to work in an awesome school district with a great band staff! I am especially grateful for my close colleague and “work spouse,” Mary Crandell!

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

My hope is that music will live on in my students’ lives because of their participation in band. Not all students will go on to play their instruments in their college or adult lives, but all students will hopefully continue to enjoy music and be better consumers of music because of their experience in band. I hope to have modeled the power of day in and day out connections with individual students. Each student is different and requires different approaches. I hope my students know I value each of them as unique individuals.

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

Band is SO much more than just playing an instrument! I would hope that my students would feel the sense of being part of a team and the responsibilities that go along with being on that team. No one sits on the bench! In band, we try to teach students important life skills such as respecting each other and working together as part of the team in addition to working with students individually to better his/her own skills. All of this is intertwined with the possibility of creating so many awesome things together through music! We are training students to be “great neighbors”, someone you would want to have move in next door to you. (Thanks to my district superintendent for that phrase!) I know I am grateful for all of the music teachers and musical experiences my own kids have had and realize the personal growth they have acquired because of those opportunities.


Kansas

Victoria Edmonds Metzger

Eisenhower Middle School

Topeka, Kansas

Total Years Teaching: 23 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I think my proudest moments as an educator come along when I am forced to think outside the box to reach students.  Often times the most unconventional methods are the very ones that students respond to best. It’s always a pleasant surprise when a former student contacts me about how that method or lesson was the very one that impacted them.

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

I realize not all my students will become professional musicians or music teachers, but I hope that their experience was so positive and fun that they become active participants and supporters of their community and school programs.

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

I want my students to recognize that hard work pays off. I am a big proponent of growth mindset and grit. I hope that, in the up to 3 years I could have my students, they learn to take an intentional approach to their education and apply that to all their subjects and eventually to the career they choose


Kentucky

Chris Hedges
Conner High School

Hebron, Kentucky

Total Years Teaching: 26

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
I began my musical career amongst the mountains of Eastern Kentucky in Pikeville, Kentucky. My participation in the Pikeville High School band and the youth/music programs at First Baptist Church of Pikeville gave me a passion to pursue music education at Morehead State University. It has been a great ride! As a nomadic band director (I have taught at 8 different schools throughout my 26 years in music education), I have experienced unique successes at every stop. Each place has allowed me to grow and improve as a musician, director, and person. There have been several memorable moments at each school. These moments may be tied to a specific concert or marching band performance and an outstanding result. However, my proudest moments have occurred when I am conducting a concert ensemble, jazz ensemble, pep band, string orchestra, percussion ensemble or observing a marching band or winter guard performance and it gels. Nothing can take the place of that feeling when a group delivers a powerful musical moment and memory. I also really enjoy seeing individual students achieve their goals as I get to see all of the sweat and tears they have invested to reach their success.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?
By modeling for them a commitment to achieving success through personal, musical, and vocational pursuits. I hope that I have made a difference in their lives by staying committed to the students throughout the entire process of working towards a musical performance or individual goal. And, being supportive even when they don’t achieve their mark. Ultimately, I want to show my students that I care more about them as a person than the sum of their musical accomplishments. I want to them to know that they will also have an advocate for them even after they have graduated.

What's the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Set high goals, work hard, enjoy success, learn from failures, admit when you make mistakes, and don’t be stingy with forgiveness (with others or yourself). And, of course, keep playing. Music is for life.

 

Louisiana

Andrew J. Pizzo

Sherwood Middle Academic Magnet School

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Total Years Teaching: 21

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

This is difficult because there are so many times that an educator is proud of the students they teach. Whether it is a small moment such as a student finally getting a part mastered or when an ensemble achieves their overall goal at their music performance assessment, there are many proud moments that I have had with my present and past students. If I had to select one, it would be watching my community-based students when they have their first concert each year as they sit with my beginning band. To see the excitement on their faces and the joy in their playing, I couldn't be prouder of these students. Leading and guiding them to perform as best as they are able to, regardless of their ailments, shows the true success in the individual. To me, those moments are my proudest because those students beat the odds in being able to perform. At the same time, watching my band members cheer those particular students in their success is just icing on the cake for that proud moment. 

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

I think back to my middle school and high school band directors. Two gentlemen assisted in shaping and molding me into who I am today as a music educator and as a performing musician. I take those lessons that I learned from them many years ago and put my personal twist on them to give back to my students today. Whether a student takes my class for one, two, or three years, it is the positive strides we make as humans that I want to instill in them the most. I tell them that we will make a million mistakes this year, but that if we can learn from them and minimize their occurrences, then we are growing in strength, ability, and knowledge. One of my teaching philosophies is to "instill an appreciation and understanding of the importance of music in our society today" and have them live that in their young lives. When they realize the great that they can do with their God given talent, then the sky is the limit in the rest of their endeavors. Just showing them, this is the difference I hope to make in each student who walks through my band room doors on a daily basis. 

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

"We will never quit" is the life lesson that I'm trying to teach. Regardless of our struggles in the band room and beyond, we won't quit. We might have to work on something for a while before we master it, but we will succeed, no matter what. Regardless of the gender, ethnicity, lifestyle, or physical ability of the student, my goal is to show them the joy that music can bring to each individual and our community. I always tell them that band is full of life skills and that as we figure out the skills we are learning through our music, we must work within each of us, our sections, and the full ensemble to achieve our full potential. Watching them along their "adventure" is the best part of the lesson but seeing the ultimate goal of success in those lessons makes everything we encounter worth it for me. 

 

Maine

Jerry Barry

Falmouth Middle School

Falmouth, Maine

Total Years Teaching: 30

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There is not one single “ah-ha” moment, but what I am most proud of is that students in the Falmouth Music Program feel respected and valued as musicians and that their efforts in the performing arts matter, both within our school and the larger community. The music program is important in the town of Falmouth and it enjoys broad support from parents, teachers, and administrators. Students have a place and a space to excel as performers. The success of the K-12 music department is due to an engaging, active, purposeful collaboration of the district’s performing arts teachers supporting the education of our great students who are highly motivated and eager to learn. 

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

I hope to engage the students in a way that is enjoyable, meaningful, and encouraging to them and their effort to learn. I make a consistent effort to connect individually with the young person trying to play well on their instruments, now and in the future. They want to succeed. I strive to learn about them and their interests beyond band. Most often a bit of humor in class works really well. When there is a fun atmosphere, it promotes a positive student/teacher relationship, and then the teacher can more easily help the students connect to the content - performing music! 

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

Personal improvement is what matters most. No matter who you are or what you are doing, people should always strive to do their best ...to be a bit better tomorrow. Start with where you are, dig in, persevere, and keep moving forward. Swimmers and runners try to be just a little bit faster each time they go out. Not everyone wins, but the goal is “personal best”. There is an opportunity for everyone to provide their own unique contribution to their ensemble.


Maryland

Michael Blackman

River Hill High School

Clarksville, Maryland

Total Years Teaching: 29

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As a teacher in a very academically driven community, I always hope that my students can see music as much more than a graded class. We talk extensively about keeping our audience at the forefront of our intentions, and about music being a gift that we are responsible for wrapping up and giving away, with the primary “payback” being the satisfaction of having made others happy. We do not charge admission to our performances, and we even have a student organization that brings our love of music into local retirement communities so we can reach an even broader audience. My proudest moments are seeing kids share their passion and their gifts, without the expectation of any type of tangible reward.

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

Like most teachers, I “just want to move their world forward by one inch,” whether they major in music or pursue another interest. I always tell my community that one of my most important reasons for teaching in this subject area is that it is such a powerful vehicle for developing life skills, such as courtesy, commitment, responsibility, and cooperation. My goal is to help my students realize that these qualities are what will make them successful in both their professional and their interpersonal relationships, and to make sure that what we do together in band fosters growth in these areas.

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

I treasure the occasional opportunity to stray from the curriculum and talk with my students about larger issues, such as how they treat each other, what it means to be happy, and what kind of people they hope to be. I find that, even if they have taken the time to consider these questions, their answers often come heavily influenced by their cultures or peer groups, rather than from their hearts. The most important lesson I can teach my students is to approach these types of decisions from a fresh and honest perspective - one that reflects what they truly want for themselves and for those around them.


Massachusetts

Adria Smith

Marblehead Community Charter Public School

Marblehead, Massachusetts

Total Years Teaching: 18

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There is no proudest moment, yet rather a culmination of many proud moments, that make teaching satisfying. A moment when a student significantly improves is special. It is particularly exciting to see how a student can expressively convey a powerful message through music, and how that can affect a community. I’m also proud that I’ve built so many music programs from scratch from musicals, chorus, to jazz band... it’s not easy to brag about it.

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

Simply, my hope is to share the love and passion of high-quality music. I hope that they reap the benefits that music offers and that they become constructive contributory members of society. My hope is that they support music education, live music, and that they continue to enjoy music. I want them to know that I care about them very much and that I enjoy sharing my passion of music with them. A big shout out to all students at MCCPS.

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

It is takes positive essential habits like leadership, perseverance, integrity, initiative, dedication, grit, problem solving, kindness, and working together to be successful with whatever you do, including with music. Music has so much to offer from teaching essential habits, learning about ourselves, sharing life together, and communicating important messages. The Beatles say it all. “Love, love, love…” “Imagine all the people…”

 

Michigan

Jim Engelbert

Flat Rock Community Schools

Flat Rock, Michigan

Total Years Teaching: 29

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

It is difficult to define one moment as there have been so many. However, since I am a "one man show" in our district, having students for eight consecutive years and witnessing our time together culminate as they walk across the stage at graduation gives me great satisfaction.

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

It has always been my goal, to instill a desire within the students to strive for excellence in rehearsals and performances. Hopefully, that desire and drive will transfer beyond the school setting and be utilized in their everyday lives now and forever. 

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

Besides providing my students with a solid musical education, I aim for them to be positive and productive members of society. Our Band credo is G.R.A.C.E. It is an acronym for Gratitude, Respect, Attitude, Commitment, and Excellence. Even if their musical career ends after high school, one of the continuing influences of what we do is perpetually being decent human beings. Band teaches life.

 

Minnesota

Sieglinde Grivna

Champlin Park High School

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Total Years Teaching: 17

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am so proud of every one of the students I teach every year. Each is so special, and I cherish the time we spend learning together. These are some moments that have warmed my heart: when alums return as successful teachers themselves; when a face lights up with “I get it!;” when a wedding invitation of a former student comes in the mail; when a student receives a college acceptance letter containing a music scholarship to their #1 choice school; when the Music Listening Contest team wins the championship; when a student comes into the classroom and says, “I wish I was in this class every day.”

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

I hope to give these young people the tools and the confidence to pursue their dreams that will lead them to a happy, fulfilling life. I want them to know that they are important, and they matter to our music department and me. Each one has a gift to offer to the world – they just need to discover what that is. Being involved in music will nurture that gift by developing a creative and compassionate mind that will influence all aspects of their future in a positive and productive way. Students deal with so much stress in their lives between classes, tests, college applications, scholarship auditions, jobs, and family life that I hope they can find music as a stress-reliever in their everyday lives. Putting your heart and soul into playing an instrument can be therapeutic and good for all-around health. It can relieve stress and give students new energy and a positive outlook so that they will feel ready to tackle what lies ahead.

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

I encourage each student to continue performing after high school, whether it be in a college, university, or community ensemble. Playing in a band or orchestra can be a great “break” from deskwork (reading, writing, researching, studying); it can create a refreshed and refocused brain; and it is a wonderful place to meet friends. I hope that students will learn that music can be a lifelong hobby and that it can bring great joy to their lives as adults. Sharing music, whether by performing or attending, is a gift that can be enjoyed by everyone and bring happiness, peace, and acceptance of others to all.


Mississippi

Pam Crump Jackson

Senatobia Middle School

Senatobia, Mississippi

Total Years Teaching: 28

What is your proudest moment as educator?

There are so many moments that make me proud. I love that those happen every day in students’ personal achievements. One moment that stands out is when a grouping of students surpassed my expectations and inspired others. A few years ago, I felt moved to suggest a larger level of community service than we had ever done before. Four HS band students were asked to lead their respective grade levels within the band in adopting service projects. Amazing discussions happened, not just about local needs, but also about needs at the state, national, and even international levels. It was not important to them to receive recognition, but, rather, to know that they were helping change lives. The students took “Warrior Legacy” farther than I ever imagined and made me so proud!

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

I want students to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are valuable in this band program as individuals, that every piece of the puzzle is just as important as the next piece, that we are always family, and that they are loved.

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

Since we are always part of a bigger group – a band, a family, a community – there will always be someone watching us. It forces us into a leadership role. Whether that role has a positive or negative effect is up to each person. Show appreciation for the gifts and talents of others. Be willing to share mistakes for others to learn from. I have learned from my mistakes. I have learned more than I taught. And I am grateful that each of my students was part of that journey.


Missouri
Colin Hunt
Rockwood Summit High School/Rockwood South Middle School
St. Louis, Missouri
Total Years Teaching: 8

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is hard to select my proudest moment as an educator. I am proud every time a student leaves our program and I see a confident, self-sufficient, and responsible young adult ready to do good in the world.

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

I strive to instill our program's core values of: Family, Integrity, Resilience, Kaizen (continual growth), and Professionalism in each student. By incorporating practices from business, education, and organizational psychology I work to develop leadership skills in students that will help them succeed throughout life.

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

The most important lesson I try to teach students is known simply as Mr. Hunt’s 6 Fun Rules for Success in Band and other Endeavors: 

1. If you’re on time, you’re late.

2. Don’t know, don’t care. 

3. Nothing comes from nothing, and nothing never will. 

4. No excuses, just results. 

5. Effort, not talent, determines your fate. 

6. How you do anything, is how you do everything.


Montana

Karen Herrin

Powell County High School

Deer Lodge, Montana

Total Years Teaching: 20

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment is one that keeps recurring. It's the moment that keeps on giving and creating more moments. It's the student who develops a passion for music, that takes music further afield than school and shares it with someone else, by joining a band, or an ensemble or graduating and becoming a music educator or becoming a performer, professional or amateur. They take what they have learned, and they give back and they keep sharing. Its stronger than anything, it perpetuates, and it keeps perpetuating. 

How do I hope to make a difference in my student's lives?

I am a freelance singer with an opera background and also a professional pianoforte accompanist. I take my singing technique to my band students and instrumental techniques to my choral students. If I can teach my students to connect everything they know to everything they do, like understanding buoyancy when swimming and how the lungs work when we breathe and how to manage adrenaline at a concert, or how to bring the notes on the page to life by giving instrumental music an underlying text. If I can create light bulb moments, when a student makes a connection, grasps the meaning, takes something to the next level, then I hope I've made a difference by giving all my students a foundation to keep striving for the next illumination whether it be in baby steps or huge strides. 

What's the most important lesson that I try to teach my students?

In the end it's not just the notes, or the rhythm, or the technique, or the embouchure, or breathing, or the articulation or balance, or blend, or all the facets that make music, music. We work on all of this of course, but the composer has a story to tell and with or without text, we have to connect with the audience and bring them into that story and make them believe. It's about artistry. I try to teach my students to become artists. 


Nebraska

Maureen (Beck) Halama

Norris Public Schools Firth, Nebraska (2012--Student Teaching)

Fairbury Public Schools Fairbury, Nebraska (2012-2019 6-12 Instrumental Music)

Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools Wilber, Nebraska (2019-Present K-12 Vocal Music)

Crete, Nebraska

Total Years Teaching: 8

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There is something to be proud of as an educator each day, no matter whether that be small steps toward a larger goal or a monumental group achievement. Each year, my proudest moment has to be celebrating our successes as a music family at our final concert. While concert time almost always is extended, showcasing individual and group achievements is something that students and audience members alike enjoy. We designate a special segment of our concert to recognize our seniors and the time, talent, and fun they add to our music community. It’s a culmination of their musical career at our school, but additionally, a celebration of what they’re planning to do as life-long musicians as well.

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

Music is such a unique and special gift that each of us has the capability of carrying with us throughout our lives. Music is everywhere; it’s a part of everything. My music mantra is to create life-long musicians. Establishing a culture within the classroom of mutual respect and understanding builds the foundation to create life-long musicians. I also take great pride in modeling life-long musicianship by participating in musical endeavors and have even recently made a career change from being an instrumental music teacher to teaching vocal music in my hometown. I like to show my musicians that versatility and new challenges are key to being a life-long musician and a life-long learner. Music is an outlet of expression, a place to find comfort, and a way to exhibit joy. I hope that I not only model what life-long musicianship looks like, but also help students find their home and happy place in my music classroom and beyond.

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

The most important lesson I can impart to my students, aside from being a life-long musician, is actually more of a lesson for life. Be kind. Always. Several years ago, we had a couple who had lost their son to suicide visit our school to talk with students and staff about the pain, heartache, and life-shattering experience they had gone through losing their son. Their message and accompanying hashtag was #BeKind. Their visit truly touched my heart, encouraging me to cultivate love and kindness among the students I get the privilege to teach each day. We never know what someone else is going through, so spreading kindness and treating others with respect is such an important life skill to model, encourage, and expect from our students and ourselves. We take time in each rehearsal to check in on each other and have conversations about stresses, positives, and just life happenings in general to help encompass that sense of community and family.


Nevada

Clint Williams

Rancho High School 

Las Vegas, Nevada

Total Years Teaching:19

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

This is difficult as there have been many proud moments over the years. Earning a finalist spot in a marching competition or attaining Superior ratings at concert contest is extremely satisfying, but when a student earns a seat in an honor band and/or is awarded a college scholarship, those top my list. The "icing on the cake" is when an individual decides to be a music major, especially a future band director. These things make me smile.

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

So many of our students have untapped potential and I want their personal preventative ceiling removed. Hard work, patience, and a little psychology goes a long way when trying to push their achievement threshold. Most students will not become professional musicians, but they can be detail-oriented, mindful, and a masters of the discipline they chose. I hope all the students are successful at life and become respectful human beings, no matter their vocation. 

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

Respect and focus. Prepare your music to respect yourself and others. Maintain your equipment and skills to respect yourself and the group. Be sympathetic to the performers around you - they are going down the same path and experiencing the same success and struggles. Having "fun" is when a skill is repeatedly performed at a high level - you feel good and the audience feels good. No matter the skill or discipline, do it a thousand times so it is truly mastered, and you will experience success.   


New Hampshire

Serge Beaulieu

Londonderry High School

Londonderry, New Hampshire

Total Years Teaching: 20

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As with most music educators I’m so proud of the numerous experiences and interactions I’ve had with so many students over the years. However, my proudest moment is not necessarily one single experience, but a culmination of many where our community has shown so much support for music in our town. School administrators, school board members, parents and the general population of the town have provided the necessary support for our students to thrive in a rich musical environment.

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

Now more than ever I’m so proud to be teaching music because it requires our students for that brief 45 minutes a day to pull away from the fast pace, quick satisfaction of their digital devices and actively engage their minds in a process that requires a full class period of focus (with a little fooling around on my part). My hope is that that discipline carries over to the rest of their learning experiences and activities. 

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

That music cardinal rule #1 is – don’t breathe on a crescendo! Just kidding. I’m hoping that my students can one day look back on their music experiences and realize that it wasn’t just about performing with a musical instrument, but more about the hard work and dedication that was needed for the activity to be successful. I’m convinced that that work ethic will transfer into their careers and daily lives. 


New Jersey

Dr. Kenneth M. Piascik

Black River Middle School

Chester, New Jersey

Total Years Teaching: 19

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

How can I answer this question with “one” moment? Every single day is special in so many ways. However, moments that stand out to me are when a student who has struggled with many of life’s difficulties finally reaches a high level of musicianship. For example, to witness a student’s successful performance after several years of frustration, coordination issues, memory problems, family issues, and much more takes my breath away every time. We all know that from that point forward, that student’s journey is forever changed. The power of music is amazing and a gift for us all.

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

We are a “Family!” Our individual talents are in special areas, but we all come together to help each other. I want my students to understand fully this concept through my mentorship as well as from their peers. By building relationships, trust, honesty, humor, empathy, and compassion, the students will be inspired to reach their full potential. I hope that they understand that I truly care for who they are as an individual and that I am excited to share their dreams and ambitions for the future.

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

I teach Life… Music is just the subject that I use to teach life through. Music is my passion and I strongly want every student to understand the beauty, soul, and personal lifelong benefits that music brings to our lives forever. However, each student needs to understand the importance of the “Power Skills” for their future: responsibility, problem-solving, lifelong thinker, creativity, attention to detail, emotional intelligence, leadership, communication, lifelong learner, and vision to name just a few. As music teachers, we teach these important skills in our music classes, ensembles, and mentorship every day. As I always say, it’s in between the notes.

 
New Mexico

Matt Casarez

Rio Rancho High School

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Total Years Teaching: 15 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator is always our end of year banquet. It is always a joy to reflect on the year and remember our growth and accomplishments. It is also remarkable to look upon the senior class and see how far they have grown as musicians and as people. The smiles and tears from the students and parents are an affirmation that their journey through the band program has given them something special that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

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

I hope to make a difference in my student’s lives in several different ways. Band gives them a place to feel safe and comfortable. Having to kick kids out at the end of the day is always a good sign! Whether it be marching band, color guard, jazz band, or concert band, you must develop some form of discipline. Students who are in the band program can take that discipline and use in any other situation in their lives. Lastly, I hope that every student can walk away with a lifelong love of music regardless of what career path they end up following.

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

The most important lesson that I try and teach my students is to be good people. With the way the world is today, this is sometimes the hardest obstacle. Having to work together for a common goal every day in band helps these young students learn to work out their differences, learn to compromise, and learn that a disagreement doesn’t mean that hateful words have to be used.

 

New York

Dan Bilawsky

Oldfield Middle School and Harborfields High School

Greenlawn, New York

Total Years Teaching: 21

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
If I had to choose a specific event, it would have to be the Harborfields High School Jazz Band’s trip to New Orleans in 2017. Performing on the banks of the Mississippi, taking part in the Loyola University Jazz Festival, and soaking in the sights, sounds and history of the city all added up to one extraordinary experience. But looking beyond a single moment, I also take great pride in helping students unlock their potential by showing them that effort and positive attitude always yield results.     

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

Besides simply imparting musical knowledge, I aim to make a difference by teaching my students that education isn’t confined to the four walls of a classroom. I do everything in my power to help them experience life in a broader sense—bringing in clinicians, taking field trips, attending and performing at varied events—and I aim to help them move out of their comfort zones so they can grow as individuals. Of equal importance, I also try to show them that being a solid citizen is far more important than anything else in school and life.       

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

Everybody has their own gifts to offer music and, conversely, music has different ways of imparting joy and wisdom on each individual. If I can help my students to connect to the art form and discipline in both ways, as givers and receivers, I feel like I’ve shared a valuable lesson. The overwhelming majority of my students don’t go on to major in music or work professionally in the field, but if they develop a lifelong connection to music then I feel like I’ve accomplished my mission.   


North Carolina
Jorge A. Benitez
Havelock High School
Havelock, North Carolina
Total Years Teaching: 25 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
One of my proudest moments as an educator was watching a former student of mine conducting their own band at a concert. It was moving watching their passion while conducting. I thought back to when they first came into our program as a 9th grader. I saw the many years of work all come to fruition for this student. I know that the students on that stage were being taught well and sounded like they were enjoying their time together as a band.

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

I think it is important not only to teach students about music and how to perform music but through music we teach students how to be better people. In our band room we create a warm caring environment where learning is the focus, but people are more important. We motivate each other to do the right thing, to have the fun the right way and making each moment together unforgettable.

What's the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
The most important lesson that I try to convey to the students is that hard work pays off. Teaching a piece of music is a perfect example of that. The beginning stages of learning a piece of music is always difficult. We have many wrong notes, wrong rhythms, etc... For each piece we play they students visually see how you tackle a problem. Breaking down into smaller pieces, slowing tempos down them speeding things up is how we should tackle all problems we encounter in life.


North Dakota
Edwin G. Edpalina
Standing Rock Community Elementary School
Fort Yates, North Dakota
Total Years Teaching: 30

What is your proudest moment as an educator?
Serving the underprivileged and underserved student population is the proudest moment I have in my career as an educator. My current position as gifted and talented teacher at a Native American tribal school while directing the school choir/modern band offers me a unique opportunity. Teaching these group of students is a special calling as they are as talented and as gifted as all other children – yet, mining those “gems” takes some extraordinary care and responsibility. I am very fortunate and proud to have served my students as they have enriched my life and career as a teacher.

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?
I open “doors of opportunities” for my students to explore - hoping they would continue to delve into and discover the world ahead of them. The world of music is a fascinating thing and I want them to expand horizons and see beyond what they can do and go further where they can go. I want them to value hard work, self-discipline and perseverance in every rehearsal, every piece of music and every note they play.  

What's the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?
Music is my life and I want to share that love and passion with my students. I want my students to value this form of art as a way of life – and to make music an inspiration to direct their lives the way they want it to go. If there’s an important lesson that I try to teach my students – it’s CHANGE! Everything evolves and I always tell them: “…the only permanent thing in this world is change…” - and as a musician (and an artist), we must be flexible and adaptable to any “change” that comes our way.

 

Ohio

Tracy Paroubek

Chardon Middle School

Chardon, Ohio

Total Years Teaching: 18

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

In 18 years, there have, of course, been many proud moments during and after performances. I am most proud when my students finish a performance and don’t need to wait for me to tell them how they performed. When they can make an accurate assessment on their own, that’s when I really know they are both learning and enjoying the process. Watching students make small victories on a daily basis also brings me great pride. Whether it’s a musical passage or a personal goal like staying organized, watching students work toward a goal and finally reaching it brings me joy. 

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

I am fortunate to work with my students from 4th grade through 8th grade and beyond into high school, which allows me to build lasting relationships with my students and their families over the years. I hope to make a difference in each of their lives not only by teaching them notes and rhythms but by being a trusted adult in their lives and a role model as a musician and person. From my example I hope they learn to work hard, take pride, know their weaknesses as well as their strengths, be deliberate, and to care about what they put into the world. 

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

I want my students to know that with determination and the discipline to support it any goal can be accomplished. I try to be a daily example to students that making and enjoying music is not just a human necessity--it is a human privilege. I teach them that it is normal to make mistakes and how to recover gracefully from them to become a better person and musician the next time they encounter a challenge. Finally, I want my students to know that making music is a life-long activity. As long as you can make music with other people, there are friends, and even family, to be found.

 

Oklahoma

Teri Wyatt

Panama Bands and Choir

Panama, Oklahoma

Total Years Teaching: 24

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

This is my second year here, and after going through eight directors in seven years (yes – EIGHT) these kids have realized that they really can succeed, and that someone does believe in them. My proudest moment happened just last month, when our marching band of 38 made straight Excellent ratings at the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association contest. Though this is not the highest rating a band can receive (a Superior is the highest, and they hadn’t been to this contest in seven years), their realization that “we did this!” was the proudest moment in my entire career.

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

I grew up in this area, moved off to college, got married, and started teaching in OKC. I taught at several schools in the metropolitan area to ‘move up the ladder’ but after 19 years, I quit to stay home with our newly adopted son. However, I kept my feet in the band directing world as a judge and clinician for marching bands and color guards. Once my mom’s health started failing, I was spending a lot more time at my parents. I took a job as a Fundraiser Rep in the area to at least make some money. While I was kicking off a fund raiser near here, the band director asked me if I would finish out the second semester, and I said yes. Fast-forward four months; during a coffee shop conversation between my dad and a member of the school board, Dad stated that I might be looking for something even closer. That very day the Superintendent called me in and offered me the job. It was a difficult decision to be away from my husband for such long periods of time, but once I started teaching again, I realized how much I missed it, and my mom was in a nursing home by then.  Unfortunately, my mom passed away 1 month after school started, so it was a very emotional time for me…and the students; they thought I was going to quit and leave (like the others) because my mom was now gone. It was a very disturbing experience to see how they reacted. I assured them I was staying for a while, and that’s when their attitude changed, and began believing what I was telling them. My point is this: I hope they see my commitment to them. I hope I can inspire them to be committed to their family, their spouses, and their jobs. To be successful no matter where you came from and where you go. These kids carry around such burdens that I never even imagined, relating to poor choices by their parents, the lifestyles they deal with, the poverty that some of them live with. I am hoping that what they get from me is not just the ability to succeed at music, but the ability to succeed at LIFE. To put simply…MAKE GOOD CHOICES. That’s the difference I want to make.

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

I want them to see that happiness can be found by their own determination, by making good choices in their lives, and that they can be successful like I was, even if you came from a small town.


Oregon

Stuart Welsh

West Albany High School

Albany, Oregon

Total Years Teaching: 23

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There really isn’t one single moment that stands out as THE proudest moment. Certainly, there have been many wonderful concerts, festivals and contests at which we demonstrated outstanding artistry and really connected with each other through the music. For those performances, I am grateful, proud and lucky to have been a part. We enjoy and celebrate those performance successes together each time they happen. However, the longer I teach the more I find a sense of real accomplishment in the smallest of triumphs. Getting a student, that has struggled with a specific skill or passage, to find success is enough to warm my heart. Getting a group of younger students to play completely in tune and together, with a uniform sense of artistry for the first time has, in many ways, become more meaningful than a major performance award. While working for outstanding performances is still an important part of the process, I feel that the most magical and rewarding moments are much smaller, simpler things that help build individual relationships and skills. I consider myself extraordinarily blessed to have had all of these kinds of wonderful moments and experiences with both of my own children in my ensembles.

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

1-We work really hard to make band a family for all students – For us, this is the essence of “ensemble.” Giving kids a place to feel valued and supported—cared for and loved—a place where we can work incredibly hard towards exceptionally high standards, but also laugh and be silly: this is the experience I want my students to have now, and to seek later in life. While this balance is tough to find, it is well worth the effort. We strive to create a space that supports students, regardless of who they are. Everybody has a voice and the ability to make music. Empowering students to develop their musicianship and ownership, through the process of making great music, helps them understand the power and meaning of “ensemble.”

2- I hope that students see my work ethic and passion for teaching, and music as an example of how to live and work. All of my greatest mentors have an extraordinary work ethic and dedication to their craft. I was inspired by those great role models throughout middle school, high school, and college. I continue to be inspired by many of my colleagues both in and out of music today. I hope that I can instill this kind of passion and inspiration for my work and for music in my students. I see this as an act of paying forward the gifts and lessons that my role models so selflessly shared with me.

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

I am a big believer in hard work. I believe that our world seems to have forgotten the value and deep sense of pride one receives for hard-earned craftsmanship. This process is not something that comes easily and is not the result of talent. It is not glamorous and may bring much frustration along the way. It takes patience and toughness to deal with the many failures in this process, and yet persevere. It takes intrinsic motivation to seek the best tools and teachers; then listen and assimilate all they have to offer. This process brings resilience and self confidence that is transferable to every facet of your life. While many of my students will find careers in things other than music, I believe all of them will need this kind of work ethic to thrive.

 

Pennsylvania

John J. Brackbill

Manheim Central High School

Manheim, Pennsylvania

Total Years Teaching: 18

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It’s hard to pick a seminal proud moment with kids of whom you’re always proud! A few years ago, we performed Frank Ticheli’s “American Elegy.” In rehearsals, we discussed the impetus of the piece, the emotion, etc. and they worked HARD to get it right, and to understand how to convey that in a performance. When we performed it in concert, after the last note sounded, there was a brief silence in the auditorium that was charged with emotion. I saw some students with tears, and the audience’s clapping was different. In that moment, I knew they understood: THIS is music; THIS is the power of music.

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

 I hope to give them an outlet for emotion; I hope to give them a skill that will improve the quality of their lives far after they leave high school; I hope to show them their humanity, and how to keep in touch with it.

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

 Music is more than music, and band is more than band. Not all of my students will become professional musicians, music educators, etc., but what it takes to be successful in band, and what they get out of being part of the band program will influence and impact the rest of their lives. Band is a microcosm of life, including all its interactions, challenges, successes, failures and potential, so seize the opportunity to “fail forward” and be “confidently wrong”—the greatest indicator of future success is often present, fearless failure.

 
Rhode Island

Jessica Mathias

Warwick Public School District, Elementary Instrumental Director

Warwick, Rhode Island

Total Years Teaching: 19

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments are whenever a student accomplishes something they didn’t think they were capable of doing. I work with beginners, most have never played an instrument before and many who may not feel successful in other areas of their education, have difficult situations at home, or come to my class with the preconceived idea that they are not talented and can’t play an instrument. Every time a student learns to play their first song and looks up excitedly to make sure you heard them, or finishes their first concert and rushes to see what their family or friends thought, or comes back to visit me years later and talk about their time in my class, I am proud.

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

I want to make a difference by giving students the opportunity to make music, play an instrument, and be a part of the group, whether it’s through band, orchestra, modern band, or some other unique ensemble that develops from their imaginations. So many of my students would not have this opportunity without someone advocating for them. I know the positive impact learning to play an instrument and making music can have on a student, and it is my goal as an educator to make sure they have this chance, regardless of the obstacles music teachers often face

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

I want my student to learn that effort and perseverance are the best ways to achieve you goals. Don’t let negative thoughts prevent you from succeeding, because you are capable of doing things that are difficult and accomplishing things you didn’t think were possible. While most of my efforts in these lessons revolve around learning to play an instrument and working past the many frustrations that beginners encounter, it is a lesson, and a belief in themselves, that I want them to carry over to other parts of their life and learning and to take with them when they leave my classroom.

 

South Carolina

Christie Hodge

Ware Shoals School District 51

Ware Shoals, South Carolina

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I took over a struggling program in 2007. We saw moderate success in the beginning, but in 2010 the band made the State Finals in Marching Band for the first time. I stood on the field beside a director from another program as they called the bands who had not qualified. When they did not say our name, we knew we had made it. Then they said, “In 6th place….” And it wasn’t us! I felt surely we would be 5th place, but then they said, “In 5th place with a score of 80.2…” The other director reached over and shook my hand. He assumed that it was us in 5th place as well and he told me congratulations. As we were shaking hands, they actually called out the name of his school. I was absolutely floored. Our band finished 4th place that night and it was a turning point for our program. I told them that they laid the foundation for all of the successes that were to come, but never in my career would I forget that band, on that night, on that field when they reached the goal that we set three years earlier.

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

For me, band was a way out of a difficult situation that I had growing up. I was able to play my instrument when I was frustrated, angry or sad and it had to take everything I gave it. I could play loud, and strong and forceful and the instrument could not talk back. It was one of the few things that I was in control of, and I want my students to know that band gives them hope for a future, a way out of a bad situation and it provides a means to pay for their college. I want them to know that they can call me at any time, day or night because if the teacher does not first care about them, the music never will.

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

One bad decision does not make a bad life. Every problem has a solution. You just have to work to find it.


South Dakota

Mary Cogswell

Camelot Intermediate School

Brookings, South Dakota

Total Years Teaching: 29

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are a growing number of in and out of school activities that pull students in different directions and I know that not all of my students will continue with band. Therefore, my proudest moment happens each spring when the seniors are recognized at their final high school band concert. I am the beginning band director in our district and being able to see these students progress, grow and flourish as people and musicians in our band program is truly one of the most gratifying experiences. 

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

I believe it’s my responsibility to continually show my beginners examples of all the unique opportunities that are available when one is a band member. It’s also my responsibility to give them a solid musical foundation that will instill in them the desire to pursue playing their instrument. My hope is with a combination of these two components, they will appreciate music/band from the listening and/or performing aspect for their entire lives.

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

I want my students to know that band is a community where everyone can belong regardless of skill level, race, gender or age. Every individual brings something different to the ensemble. We all do some things well and we all make mistakes. In the process, we help each other learn from our mistakes and build on what we do well to achieve our goal of being a band program with high standards and excellence.

 

Tennessee

Shannon Hornady Stephens

Lookout Valley Middle High School

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Total Years Teaching: 10

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator came this year, and it wasn't some big production or performance. It has been watching the growth and success that these students have achieved. They actively take part in their music education, signing up for non-mandatory performance ensembles and opportunities, stepping up into leadership positions and doing everything that they can, from staying after school to help their band members when there are no scheduled rehearsals to voluntarily mentoring beginning band students for the reason that "our success depends on their success" with no input or request from me. It has taken a long time to build this sense of pride in them, and now that they have it, they are a force to be reckoned with from seniors down to sixth graders.

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

I hope that my students know that no matter what, that there is always someone who is there for them and that will be their cheerleader. We will hold them accountable; we will correct mistakes, we will push them harder and further than they think they can be pushed, and that we do it all because we (as a faculty and staff) care deeply for them. I want them to graduate from this program with a work ethic and understanding that regardless of talent or ability, hard work will win out every time and hopefully that work ethic will carry them to success, regardless of what they choose to do with their lives.

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

I want students to leave the Lookout Valley Band Program with the same thing that my own high school director instilled in us, PRIDE. The value of Preparation, building a positive Reputation for yourself, being Inspired to be the best that they can be regardless of the circumstances, being Dedicated to the choices that they make, and having the highest Expectations for themselves. That is a series of active choices that I hope these students take forward with them and apply to their lives outside of and beyond music.


Texas

Christian Rodriguez

Canutillo Middle School

Canutillo, Texas

Total Years Teaching: 13

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have had many proud moments as a music educator but the most recent one has been when our honor band perform at Carnegie Hall this past April. Seeing that look on all of my student’s face after the performance (when everything comes together and we experience that “wow” moment) on stage, it was priceless! When you work hard for a common goal, are consistent, persistent, and dedicated, the result will always blow our minds away. But I would say that what blew my mind was the relationships we created along the way with our community members.

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

I hope that my students will take with them a livelong and appreciation for music and the arts. Being that band is just a vehicle for my students’ academic success, it is one way for them to learn responsibility, discipline, personal accountability, and perseverance; skills needed for them to be successful in whatever career they choose in life. For some of my students, playing music is the only place they have to be themselves, be able to express their emotions, and to belong. Through this, I hope that they would have a solid foundation for them to be a unique individual and succeed at whatever they set their minds to do.

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

That nothing in this world is impossible when you work hard, being consistent, have dedication, and have perseverance toward a goal (no matter how small or big that goal might be). Although there might be hurtles or mountains you might need to climb, the only person that can and will hold you back is yourself.

“Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.” -James Cook

 

Utah

Ashley M. Braithwaite

Vista Heights Middle School & Lake Mountain Middle School

Saratoga Springs, Utah

Total Years Teaching: 7

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

A few years ago, we had the opportunity to perform at our State Festival. The festival itself was an honor the students had worked hard for, but that specific performance was extra special. The audience members in the concert hall were settling down from the stage transition, finishing up their conversations, and shuffling a bit in their seats. As soon as we began our first note, every head snapped to the stage and every eye and ear was glued to what we were performing. Conversations halted mid-sentence, and the audience and judges were riveted by the purity of that first note. The remainder of the performance was stellar, and afterward the kiddos could hardly contain their excitement. They had taken everything they had been learning for the previous three years and applied it in one near-perfect performance. I was so pleased to see both the emotional and technical connections the students were making to the music, their instruments, and each other.

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

I hope to help every student understand how loved they are. The music only happens when we all work together as a team with love and trust. If my students feel that I love them, they are more likely to take risks in their playing and trust that even when they make mistakes, it doesn't devalue them as a person or a musician. The same thing applies when they love and trust each other. The friendships they form in my orchestra classroom become life-long because of the deep connections they make here.

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

First and foremost, I try to instill grit and perseverance in my students. Learning an instrument is extremely difficult; there is no way around that. However, if the kiddos learn to put in the work, practice effectively, and keep trying when things get tricky or overwhelming, they will be able to apply those skills to every area of their lives and be truly successful.

 

Vermont

Daniel Bruce

Peoples Academy

Morrisville, Vermont

Total Years Teaching: 25

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

 It's hard to isolate a single incident, because obviously there are always plenty to choose from. I remember one performance years ago with a high school band accustomed to playing Grade 3 and 4 music. We performed Frank Ticheli's "Blue Shades," which I loved for its use of jazz idioms. It made a great teaching piece but was definitely a stretch for them. In the concert I had sticky notes on my stand with rehearsal numbers written on them in magic marker to hold up in case they got lost. The performance may have been average by musical standards - but I never got over seeing the look of accomplishment and pride in their eyes at the conclusion.

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

We don't have a huge, high-powered program with dozens of students going on to study music in college, although we have sent several into the profession. Rather, we have a high involvement of students who will go off into the military, workforce, or higher education -- united by the common joy of making music together. I emphasize to them daily the importance of being involved in music lifelong, and the rewards it can bring. I hope they will leave here and be patrons of the arts, as well as making music in any fashion -- whether it be a garage band, church choir, or community orchestra. 

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

You need music! It's a discipline unto itself - it doesn't exist to make you better at test scores or to get scholarship money for college. The communication that happens in a musical performance (including rehearsals) is something powerful that cannot be replicated in any other arena, and requires a sophisticated, complex set of brain operations like no other discipline. It's a connection to art, to beauty -- and a way to communicate something that cannot be articulated in words.


Virginia

Catrina Tangchittsumran

Thomas Jefferson Middle School

Arlington, Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 16

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Most of the proudest moments I have had are small--little glimmers and flickers where something finally clicks for a student. Last year, many of my students experienced that collectively while on stage during District Assessment. Many of my students face personal challenges to even be able to participate in band, so it was inspiring and humbling to help lead them through such an exciting and nuanced performance. I have always known they were great, but it was validating to know the adjudicators recognized it too as my students earned straight Superiors for the first time in school memory!

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

I hope that every student who passes through my classroom develops a deep appreciation for music. While not every student will become a lifelong musician, I believe all students benefit from learning skills in collaboration, interdependence, discipline, perseverance, and self-expression that are taught through music ensembles.

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

The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is that working hard can lead to success but is also a goal in its own right. Taking on a challenging task, putting forth your best effort, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people you can will always be satisfying. I also hope they learn the importance of using deodorant on long bus trips.

 
Washington

Jeremy Faxon

Fairview Middle School

Silverdale, Washington

Total Years Teaching: 16

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Honestly, right now I’m exhausted. Proudest moment? Perhaps that I’ve stuck it out through all the hard spots so far. Cool events are fun, and a lot of times I’m just proud of the kids when we have an awesome rehearsal. Or you have a kiddo who has stuck with it and practiced, and it has finally clicked for. But our profession is hard, and the system is rather broken. It’s hard to keep going. To find another way to push through an obstacle. This year I re-invented myself. I was tired of being depressed and not enjoying what I did each day. Tired of hearing from angry Parents each day. Tired of seeing my colleagues leave the profession because it’s so hard and they don’t feel supported. Tired because it feels like it’s you against the world trying to uphold expectations. This year I’m trying to not react to behaviors that occur. To be matter of fact, give redirection, and move on without engaging in argument. I’ve removed the focus on academics and the gradebook and am just focusing on having productive rehearsals with consistent expectations, communicating with families, and keeping a positive rapport with all my kids. So far, so good. I’ve found that kids that in the past would have had low grades that led to a negative relationship, are still able to receive feedback and reminders from me. So that’s not the typical answer to this question, but it’s what I’m working on now and I’m proud of my efforts to keep going and keep things positive.

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

Two parts: One, I hope to show them the fun opportunities that music can lend them throughout their life. And two, I hope that they enjoy our time together. The enjoyment of a productive rehearsal with their peers, and the camaraderie of sharing all those experiences with your team as you go through rehearsals and events and build lifelong friendships.

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

To do your best each day. Plan ahead and prepare for your day. Work hard and find enjoyment in that hard work and the growth that comes from it.


West Virginia

Christopher Rucker

Grafton High School

Grafton, West Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 23

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

April 19, 2019, we lost one of our band students in an automobile accident. She was a senior on the cusp of graduation and had her entire life ahead of her. I teach in a small community in rural West Virginia and her death was devastating to our community, our school, and especially our band program. Band is unlike any class in the school. We spend countless hours together perfecting music, travelling to events, and taking overnight trips together. Band becomes a family. Although we may not always get along, band students know that they can count on one another in difficult times. This was prevalent as we dealt with the loss of our band mate. I watched as my students consoled one another, pulled together and continued to prepare for the remaining performances. Ironically, we were preparing And the Angels Called by James Swearingen, a piece written for three high school students in Ohio who were killed in an automobile accident. Four days after we laid our band mate to rest, we had to perform this for the Regional Adjudication Festival. It wasn’t the best performance in my 23 years as a bandmaster, but it was the most important. It began the healing process for our band students and me. The students overcame adversity to give the best performance they could while wiping away tears. Therefore, this is my proudest moment as an educator.

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

I want to give students opportunities they would not normally get if it weren’t for band. For example, I take students to Walt Disney World every four years and each trip I make I schedule one day at the beach. Coming from rural West Virginia, many of these students have never seen the ocean before I take them. For some of them, this may be their only chance of experiencing a vacation. Winning trophies is great but over time trophies become dust collectors and fall apart. The memories that students gain by being in band is priceless.

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

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is that band is being a part of something bigger than yourself. I want to provide them the tools to be lifelong musicians but above all else I want to instill in them that the way they treat one another and the way they treat other humans is the most important thing. Yes, I am going to work hard and teach them to the best of my capabilities to be the best band that we can be. However, music is only a tool in which we reach people. The way we treat one another is how we change the world.


Wisconsin

Chris Gleason

Patrick Marsh Middle School

Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Total Years Teaching: 22 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Ten years ago, I posed an audacious question to my middle school band: “If we were to commission a composer to write a piece of music for us, what would the piece be about and why?” Through collaboration with nationally renowned composer Samuel R. Hazo, the class decided to create a sonic representation of Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Blue and Green Music. My students dove into the project with zeal, researching O’Keeffe, the painting, and her connection to our city. Our mayor, who is also an O’Keeffe expert, joined the ensemble on a tour of local historic sites on our way to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see O’Keeffe paintings. The world premiere performance took place at the Wisconsin State Music Conference with the composer conducting and members of O’Keeffe’s family in the audience. At the conclusion of the performance the students, who recognized the significance of the moment, didn’t want to leave the stage. I’ll never forget that moment.

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

My goal is to have students leave my classroom more curious every day. As Ken Robinson stated in his 2013 Ted Talk about the growth of the human mind, “Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” We need to harness the research and strategies to create schools that spark children’s imaginations. A student’s educational journey to graduation should really resemble a crescendo building toward a celebratory ending, full of hope and promise for the future, rather than fading out through a gradual diminuendo and nearly silent final note.

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

I do not teach music; I teach through music. Recently, my seventh-grade bands studied Salvation Is Created, by Pavel Chesnokov. The students learned that this work was one of Chesnokov’s final sacred works. Russia mandated that he write music for his country only. Unbelievably, Chesnokov never heard Salvation Is Created performed. After listening to this utterly magnificent work in class, I softly whispered to my students: “Can you imagine writing something this beautiful and never hearing it performed? What must it have been like to be Chesnokov?” Students responded with words like hollow, empty, sad, abandoned. This was my entry point into a broader goal of teaching my students about empathy.


Wyoming

Corinne Eastwood

Dean Morgan Middle School

Casper, Wyoming

Total Years Teaching: 17

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Many of my proudest moments are very small moments that are only witnessed by the student achieving a goal, and me. I think my day gets made most often by a single student who has an “ah-ha” moment, or who plays a tricky passage perfectly for the first time. These are small moments with a huge payoff. On a larger scale, one of my favorite moments happened last school year. My band teaching counterpart and I combine groups to form a middle school symphony for a short portion of each school year. The ensemble combines 7th and 8th grade band and orchestra students, and for many it’s what they look forward to the most during the year. This ensemble was playing the last song on the final concert of the year; the student’s favorite piece. They nailed it. It was a goosebump-inciting performance. As soon as they finished, rather than the polite applause that a middle school concert usually generates, the whole crowd jumped up in excitement because the energy that the kids were feeling poured out of them through the music. It was a moment of immense pride for the students, and the perfect ending to our concert season.

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

Music is such an integral piece of who we are as human beings. I have yet to find anyone who does not enjoy some aspect of music; be it listening in the car, singing in the shower, dancing to it, etc. I hope to make a difference in my student’s lives by giving them an avenue to create their own music. I believe that music is good for the soul, whether you are a bystander, a consumer, or if you produce your own music. However, if you have the gift to be able to make your own music, you give yourself something to enjoy for life. I hope my students find a way to enjoy, nurture, and grow their gift. 

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

The wonderful thing about a music ensemble is that there are always students on varying levels of musicianship with each student coming from a different musical background. Despite the differences each student brings into the classroom, they all come together and create something that is one of a kind and beautiful. Students from all different walks of life come together in a music ensemble and they each contribute something unique and personal to the group. The lesson I try to instill in my students is that everyone is important, valued, and a part of our group. No two ensembles are the same because of the individuals in them. 



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