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The 23rd 50 Directors Who Make a Difference Report

SBO Staff • December 2022Directors Who Make a Difference • December 15, 2022

SBO+ Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” report was compiled after a two-year hiatus having painstakingly reviewed hundreds of nominations. Directors were nominated by students, both former and current colleagues, musical instrument retailers, parents, administrators, friends, former 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. We received nominations from all states this year after aggressively promoting the honor via social media to musicians, administrators, and more. The nomination stories submitted are typically stunning and detailed. 

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 2022’s 23rd Annual Class of 50 Directors Who Make a Difference.


Alabama

David R. Allinder

Shades Valley High School/JCIB

Birmingham, Alabama

Total Years Teaching: 30

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I think my proudest moments have always stemmed from seeing students become productive, successful adults, whatever that looks like for them. It means the world to me when a student who graduated some years ago takes the time to let me know how they are doing. Former students will come by the school to introduce me to their spouse or fiancé or newborn. Often, they drop by just to talk. Recently, I was asked to be the best man in a former student’s wedding! The fact that our time together meant enough for them to keep me as a part of their adult life is rewarding beyond measure.

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

Our organization provides an outlet for students to participate in the process of creating music with others, and that is very powerful. We help them develop friendships, learn to work as a team and have a place in the school where they feel valued and safe. Over the long haul, I hope students will become lifelong consumers of music and supporters or the arts, if not active participants. We provide them with the tools to appreciate the process and product of the creative process.

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

I teach students to apply the skills they learn in band to other areas of life. I want them to be proficient musicians but that’s not the greatest takeaway they get from being in music classes. Band offers the opportunity to develop the whole person, not just the musician. I want them to learn to work with and value other people. I hope I teach them by example that it truly matters how you treat people. That ideal can travel with them throughout life and allow them to have a positive impact on the world around them.


Alaska

Amanda Schoolland

Metlakatla High School

Metlakatla, AK

Total Years Teaching: 13

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I’ve had so many proud occasions in my career, from debuting a newly founded student orchestra to standing ovations at contests that delightfully startled my students. But I think the proudest moment was when I got to witness unprompted student leadership. I was called away unexpectedly in the middle of a class period of middle school band. I left instructions for students to practice individually until I returned. When I came into the room, a student was seated at the front of the room with her saxophone and music, conducting class as if she were the director. The band followed her directions and sparked mature conversations about dynamics, expression, and technique. The dream is to see your legacy carried out in your absence; this was a beautiful snapshot of precisely that. Instead of interrupting the incredible flow of the lesson, I grabbed my horn and jumped in to play. 

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

I hope to instill confidence in my students. I see so many kids shy away from experiences because they’re nervous or embarrassed. We talk about confidence and poise often in my classes. I try to impress upon students that they can overcome difficult obstacles; they can transfer the ability to create beautiful melodies out of inanimate band instruments to more life-sized situations. My go-to line at the conclusion of a concert is, “I am so proud of you, but more importantly, you should be proud of yourself.”  I love seeing their eyes light up with the realization that they can foster their own pride and confidence.

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

I try to impress upon my students that we’re all in this together, be it band, choir, or life in general, and the most important thing we can do is be supportive and kind to each other. It is heartwarming to see students cheering each other on with solos or playing tests. Other music students always applaud the loudest at concerts and are the first to congratulate their peers on a job well done.


Arizona

Jennifer Howard

Dobson High School
Mesa, AZ
Total Years Teaching: 11 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments as an educator are when alumni come back to visit. I have heard countless stories of how band helped shape them into who they are. It is an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience when students tell me that they felt safe and valued in my classroom. I am grateful to hear that their experiences in our band program led them to successes in many areas of their lives after graduation.

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

I want my students to learn the importance of being a part of a community. Through music education, we teach our students to work together towards a common goal. This is something that will directly impact how they work with others as they grow, graduate, and start their own careers. My hope is that the skills students learn in my class will go far beyond music-making, and that their most memorable experiences from high school will be the relationships they developed and the impact they have had on their school and community.

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 perseverance. I feel it is incredibly important for educators to teach students that failure is a necessary part of the learning process. Making mistakes is a critical part of learning music and it is also an important and inevitable part of life. I want students to feel empowered and motivated by their mistakes, and I want them to use that motivation to not just become better musicians, but better people as well.


Arkansas

Tim Hendrix

Bentonville High School

Bentonville, AR

Total Years Teaching: 15

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As hard as it is to bring a single cumulative event as my proudest, I have always been particularly proud when I have seen my students work hard toward their goals and progress as musicians, more so when it is a student who had to go through a lot of struggles to become excellent at their musical craft. 

I love how my students genuinely love and care for each other. We work hard to establish a culture of family that supports each other and to see kids extend that beyond their own circle to others is truly what makes me proud. 

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

Above all, I hope my students see I am living a life of purpose and passion and that passion inspires them to seek out the things in their life to help others and have meaning. 

In the classroom, I want to make a difference by giving my kids a consistent environment of love and high expectations. I want to provide them with the opportunities to be successful and achieve things together they would never be able to do alone. 

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

Life isn’t about competition, but cooperation. Our biggest competition is with ourselves, and we should always strive to be our best selves possible. I also want to inspire students to step out of their comfort zones and find their true potential. 

As a music educator, I want students to be instilled with an appreciation for music and for them to value the work it takes to produce and perform at a high level and apply that to their daily lives.


California

Angelo Moreno

Davis Senior High School and Holmes Junior High School

California

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

One of my proudest moments as a music educator was fighting for and winning back our Music Program in the Davis schools in the spring of 2008 after it was on the chopping due to budget cuts. I spent the 10 weeks we were given by the district after they announce the cuts were inevitable, leading many parent volunteers, community members, and alumni to raise over $220,000 by the District’s Spring deadline to secure the future of the Music Program. We not only met the goal presented but exceeded it by $40,000!! I personally was chosen by the parents and the community to walk down the isle of the school board meeting to hand the check to the School Board President as the audience that packed the chambers and spilled outside gave a standing ovation and cheered loudly for what seemed an infinity. I will never forget that incredible experience of being the chosen leader of that great effort and motivating and encouraging hundreds of families to mobilize and move to action and contribute to saving our amazing music program. It is easy to take for granted what you have been given or what has been handed down to you and to grow to expect that it will always be a certain way, but one always has a deeper appreciation and values more something that they had to fight to earn and protect.  

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

I hope to make a difference in my students lives by giving them a positive identity through music that will last a lifetime, by creating an inclusive environment for them to explore and expand their creative minds and provide them with many inspiring and motivating life experience through music that will help shape them into more positive, productive, responsible contributors to society. After 23 years of teaching thousands of students it is a joy to see my students thriving beyond their years in Junior high and High School and going on to take with them all the life skills learned in music and applying them to the many areas of their life.


Colorado

Dr. Karen Gregg

Lyons Middle Senior High School

Lyons, Colorado

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

The times when our ensembles have been chosen to play at the Colorado Music Educators Association convention rank among my proudest moments. Of course, the educators work hard at leading groups who perform at the conventions, but it’s the kids who do the playing and who make the music. Without an exceptional group of kids and their total commitment to working as a team, that kind of honor isn’t possible. And of course, watching students perform in All-State ensembles makes my heart grow as it’s the most perfect example of teamwork and collaboration that exists. 

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

A mentor once told me that teaching band is “30% music, and 70% how to be a decent person”. I try to teach my students about empathy, grit, and how to find beauty in the ordinary. They often don’t know that I’m teaching these lessons as I embed them in our daily rehearsals and in lessons about the music. I also remind them constantly about how much I love each of them. As they look back on their time in our band, I want them to remember the love I have for them and the lessons we all learned together about the human experience.

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

I know the majority of my students won’t go on to study music after high school. However, I want them to be enthusiastic supporters and lovers of live music, and to support music education in their communities as they grow into adulthood. We work hard to learn about all kinds of live music and to understand its value in our society. I want them to attend concerts and buy great recordings so we can keep music performance alive.


Connecticut

Michelle Castellano

Southwest Elementary School

Torrington, CT

Total Years Teaching: 9

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

One year I had so many students ask for more challenging music that we decided to have a recital in addition to our regular group performances. These students, all second-year players, chose their own music, decided the format of the recital, and organized a reception to celebrate with their families and friends. Each student had someone to support them that day. It was amazing to watch these students challenge themselves and make so many musical strides in such a short time. Pinpointing a proudest moment as an educator is next to impossible, but this one is a special memory.

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

Children learn best through experience. All my students are given the opportunity to explore and discover their potential in music, regardless of financial, physical, or intellectual ability. I strive to create a classroom environment that is inclusive and to provide opportunities that might not otherwise be available to this student population. Music can be a safe place in school for so many kids. I really hope my students enjoy their time playing an instrument or singing and look back fondly on their time in my ensembles. It brings me great joy to see my students staying involved in band, chorus, orchestra, or theater as they move onto middle school and high school.

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

I try to teach my students responsibility and commitment to themselves and others. Through hard work and dedication, they can create something larger than themselves. For years I have had a huge focus on group responsibility and now I find it crucial, especially coming back to in person learning, to provide consistent routines and transitions while encouraging collaboration during group lessons and ensembles.


Delaware

Blayne Salerni

HB du Pont Middle School

Hockessin, DE

Total Years Teaching: 5

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

One day, I unfortunately got into a very nasty car accident. This caused me to be away from my classroom for a couple of days. Instead of taking another day off, I decided to come in late. I walked into my 8th grade class running their own rehearsal and preparing for the concert. They were working together and being productive, and it made my entire day!

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

More than anything else, I want the band room to be a safe space for every single band student. I want them to remember me as someone who treated them as a human being, not just as students. I hope to show them through my job that following your passion is much more important than following money. 

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

The most important lesson I want my students to know is that positivity and kindness goes further than anything in the world. I also want them to know that hard work always beats out talent.


Florida

Forest Jones III

Palm Beach Lakes Community High School

West Palm Beach Florida

Total Years Teaching: 18 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

A young lady who had been a part of the band program expressed to me that she had no intentions of furthering her education. After weeks and months of informing her of the importance of a higher education she still would not budge. She explained to me that she had no financial support from home, so I convinced her to use the band as a source of income through obtaining a musical scholarship. She bought into what I was selling, had applied lessons with me four days a week and obtained a musical scholarship to the university she is currently enrolled in now.

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

By helping create opportunities for our students to further their education by obtaining as many music scholarships as they can to help ease the financial tension of going to college.

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

No matter what job or responsibility that you have or are responsible for, always do it to the best of your ability and to treat all people with the same amount of respect you intend on receiving from anyone else.


Georgia

Audrey Murphy

Hopewell Middle School

Milton, Georgia

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

When a former student thanks me for the role I played in their life, it is a proud moment. Most recently, I received a message from someone who had attended an honor band concert that I conducted. He recalled being a middle school student in an honor band that I had conducted 15 years prior. He shared that he is currently a saxophone professor and expressed his gratitude to me for being a part of his journey. I believe having a positive, lasting impact on a student is the most fulfilling aspect of being an educator.

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

I use music education as a vehicle for students to become the best versions of themselves. I hope my band room is a place where students can foster friendships, learn the value of teamwork, cheer for peers who reciprocate their encouragement, express their creativity, develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, strive for excellence, experience the thrill of success, and regard failure as a means for growth rather than a badge of defeat.

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

Band is typically one of the most diverse spaces a student inhabits daily, and every rehearsal is a group project. In many ways, it is art imitating life. An outstanding ensemble is a collection of individuals putting forth effort to maximize their potential, holding themselves accountable for mistakes and working to remedy these mistakes, actively listening to parts other than their own, deciding when it is most appropriate to lead or to support, and ultimately uniting to achieve a common musical goal. The most important lesson I try to teach my students is to abide by these principles in their daily lives.


Hawaii

Christopher Otsuka

Pearl City High School

Pearl City, Hawaii

Total Years Teaching: 7

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments are times when I see students take ownership of the band. This can take many different forms, such as students meeting outside of class to rehearse on their own, or our leadership encouraging and pushing the underclassmen during a particularly tough rehearsal. Seeing the push to improve coming from within the band itself is very uplifting to me as a director.

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

I hope that through being in my class, my students learn what it takes to pursue excellence. Pursuing musical excellence requires patience, listening, attention to detail, and commitment. Excellence isn’t easy! Music is about cultivating growth and learning, and I want this same mentality to remain with them through the rest of their lives as they move on to do important and meaningful things.

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

As a high school teacher, the most important thing I would like to teach (a better word might be

“inspire”) is a love of music. I was fortunate as a student to be surrounded by teachers and peers who loved music, and that helped me find my own passion. If my students love music and are truly invested, I believe everything else will fall into place for them as musicians and as people.


Idaho

Joel A. Williams

Fruitland High School

Fruitland. Idaho

Total Years Teaching: 32

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There have been many moments I am proud of, each of which revolve around our efforts to make our school and community look good. If I had to choose one it would be our 2018 performance at the Idaho Music Educators Association Clinic in Moscow, Idaho. The band was selected to participate as a featured performing group. 

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

I want to be a consistent piece for them. Many students don’t have that in their lives. They need to be able to come into the band room and know that they can be who they are and that by seeing me set the bar high, they can contribute at a high level to our collective success. Allowing students to see me being passionate about what I do, I believe it can show them that they can create and “do” at a high level by “going for it”.

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

That they are important; that they matter.

If they:

Show up on time (10 minutes early)

Wear the right stuff.

Cover their part.

Respect others

Our band, and our country are going to be just fine. If they do those four things, they can be employable and they can be a success. In essence, band is life.


Illinois

Dung Pham

Palatine High School

Palatine, IL

Total Years Teaching: 28

What is your proudest moment as an educator?   

It is said that more is “caught than taught” and I am humbled that students notice the work I put into improving my professional practices and use that as a model for their own goal setting and aspirations. I love that teaching allows me to accompany young adults on their journey of self-discovery. Whether that is helping students unearth their unique gifts, finding their voice to advocate for themselves, or just that “aha” moment when they have mastered a technical passage in the music, being part of those “light bulb” moments is a privilege.

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

I hope to empower them to have difficult conversations. Some of my most memorable moments were with students who had the courage to have an honest conversation with me about situations that seemed confusing, unfair, or uncomfortable for them. Most of the concerns were misunderstandings and easily remedied, but if left unclarified, would have tainted that student’s experience with music. More complicated conversations led to reflection on my part on the vastly different ways students interpret what is said and helped me to be more intentional and clearer in my communication.

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

Reflect, Refine, Re-evaluate. I hope students will continue to grow and learn, whether that is in their workplace, their relationships, or their own understanding of themselves. We can only do that by constant reflection, refining our practices, and re-evaluating. I also hope they cherish their special gift of music and the relationships they have built along with the memories they have made through music. As musicians, we can use our gifts to bring solace to the hurt, hope to the lost, comfort the grieving, and add joy and splendor to celebrations.


Indiana

Douglas Elmore

Floyd Central HS/Highland Hills MS

Floyds Knobs, Indiana

Total Years Teaching: 37

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I have two: The first is the first 5th grade beginner concert when the students show their accomplishments from their first nine weeks of learning. The pride of the kids and their parents and the wonder in the audience thrill me- every time!

The second is our high school’s annual Holocaust Memorial Assembly. Our orchestra and the social studies department bring our resources together, and the orchestra presents works by Jewish composers from the Terezin concentration camp. This solemn remembrance of the past always affects the audience of high school juniors on a profound level.

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

I hope to form a community, while leading the students to understand that we are all part of something “big, beautiful, and greater than I”. Bringing them to embrace the power and majesty of large musical ensembles, and performing the full sweep of style, articulation, and musical ideas. For educators, the collaborative process of bringing big goals to fruition in orchestra/band/choir is a vital portal into growing a child’s sense of the possible. Also, by doing “the impossible”- we stretch our goal-setting and goal-reaching capacity. Unlocking the sense that anything is possible is the biggest difference a person can make for another person.

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

Lesson number one for my interaction with students is- “good people first, good musicians second”. The mutual respect and trust we place in each other in school music groups is the bedrock for success in any organization of any age. I hope to teach the students the value of being worthy of trust, and of placing our trust in one another. I also hope to teach the lesson of “being a light” for the others around us, inspiring in one another the best parts of our humanity.


Iowa

Dr. Carl Rowles

Thomas Jefferson High School

Council Bluffs, IA

Total Years Teaching: 9

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

My students constantly make me proud. I get excited every time a student has a lightbulb moment and really grasps a new idea or connects new ideas with old information from previous classes. I recently took over this program and these students have jumped in with me feet first to rebuild it, not just in numbers but also in the quality of their work. The fact they can perform and earn compliments from area directors speaks to their work ethic and their drive to continually improve.

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

I remind my students I am often hard on them because I care. I want them to succeed in every aspect of their lives, and the way we do things in the band room is the way they should do everything, to the fullest and best extent possible! Never settle for doing less than your best and keep coming back to something and improve it.

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

The most important lesson I think I teach through my rehearsals is never settle for just “good enough.” The details matter. It takes a lot of work, but each of them has more potential than they yet see in themselves, and I try to push them to realize more and more of it each year.


Kansas

Erin Shelton

Independence High School and Middle School

Independence, Kansas

Total Years Teaching:  20

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are so many, but the one that sticks out is when one of my senior students composed a song for the high school wind ensemble and conducted it on the last concert in memory of two band students who had passed away that year. Not a dry eye in the auditorium and I thought, “this is why I do this job.: 

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

I hope their lives are more enriched and happier because of band. I hope they are excited to come to class and to go on trips and to be with friends that work hard and have fun. I hope band makes a lasting impression on them that they can be proud of. 

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

I hope by being in the Independence band program that they have a love for music, they have learned life skills through rehearsing, performing, and traveling and that they will pass down those experiences to the next generation of middle school students and eventually their own kids. Being in band just makes you better in so many ways.


Kentucky

Heather Dipasquale

Todd County Middle School

Elkton. KY

Total Years Teaching: 11

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is hard to pinpoint an exact moment, however I think overall I would say that my proudest moments have been when I knew I’d had an impact on a student. Moments when students who had nothing but my class to look forward to in school defy all the odds against them and graduate then move 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. Moments when the students have their lightbulb moments, and they begin to believe in themselves and their potential.

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. I make a consistent effort to connect individually with the young person trying to play well on their instruments, now and in the future. 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! 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. Each one has a gift to offer to the world – they just need to discover what that is.

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

“We will never stop trying to improve” is the life lesson I’m trying to teach. Regardless of our struggles in the band room and beyond, we will always find a way to improve. We might have to work on something for a while before we master it, but we will succeed. Anything that is worth doing takes effort and always handle the hard better than the time before. My goal is to show them the joy music can bring to each individual and our community. I always tell them 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 goal of success in those lessons makes everything we encounter worth it.


Louisiana

Christopher A. Frazier

Baton Rouge Magnet High School

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Total Years Teaching: 22

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As an educator, I have experienced many proud moments. However, there is one that stands out more than others. Hurricane Katrina devastated southern Louisiana in August 2005, leaving the entire city of New Orleans with thousands of students without a local school. Eventually, my orchestra grew overnight as our school became the new home for several New Orleans students. The next year, my orchestra performed in New York’s Lincoln Center, competing in the National Orchestra Cup. Even though we did not win first place, the opportunity to perform with such a dedicated group of musicians was one of my proudest moments as an orchestra director. 

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

By providing my students with opportunities to express and develop their musical gifts, I believe I can make a difference in their lives. I expose them to a wide variety and genres of music while encouraging them to love and enjoy music. Our students develop supportive and life-long relationships. Former students become connected with current students as we continue to build our orchestra Family. Our orchestra motto is “Making Music a Lifelong Endeavor/” Many of my students earn college scholarships and opportunities to perform regardless of their career path. 

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

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is love and appreciation. They learn not to take any opportunity, any orchestra member, or any musical selection for granted. Every person, every note, every performance matters. In turn our students’ level of commitment grows, blossoms, and becomes infectious amongst newcomers to the orchestra, observers, and supporters.


Maine

Philip Edelman

The University of Maine

Orono, Maine

Total Years Teaching: 18

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I don’t know that I have a single proudest moment as an educator. I taught hundreds (thousands?) of students when I was a public-school music educator, and I’d like to think each time those students made a noticeable improvement in their playing or became kinder human beings through participation in our music community, I was proud of them. Now that I teach future music educators, I’m most proud when I see my students grappling with difficult issues of philosophy, pedagogy, and equity or in those introspective moments when they wrestle with how best to reach their students and make sure they feel valued (whether they can play a Bb scale at quarter note = 144 or not). Participating in group music-making allows our students to create community and work toward achieving shared goals. My proudest moments seem to come when the musicians with whom I work see themselves as an integral part of the success of something bigger than themselves.

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

I hope I make a difference in my students’ lives by ensuring they feel heard, respected, and valued as human beings and not just as cogs in some music-making machine. I hope I challenge them to think critically and eschew the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. I hope in some way or another, I’ve modeled how to run an efficient rehearsal while also being a caring and kind music educator who centers community at the heart of music education.

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

That every single person they meet each day matters.


Katherine Geiger poses for a portrait Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Vancouver, Washington. (© 2022 Douglas C. Pizac)

Maryland

Katie Geiger

Oakland Mills Middle School 

Columbia, MD

Total Years Teaching: 8

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is impossible to pick just one moment. Being an educator is about the little moments–the small wins. My favorite collective moments are watching my students understand something for the first time or have an inherently musical moment with their peers for the first time. The best part of participating in an ensemble is the shared musical experience. That is my favorite part of being a choral educator–facilitating that experience for my students and watching them pass it on. 

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

I hope to show up for my students in whatever way they most need. I still think fondly of three teachers in my life that went above and beyond when I didn’t know I needed it. They changed the trajectory of my education and social-emotional learning. I hope to do the same for my students and help them see how they can do the same for someone else. 

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

Music–particularly singing–is one of the most vulnerable things we can do as humans. When creating a supportive and positive classroom environment, I ask my students to consider how their actions influence the people around them. While your laugh, whisper, or body language may intend one thing, think about how it may make the people around you feel. Will it empower your peers to sing proudly and take bold risks? Or might it unintentionally negatively impact your teammates? How can your actions positively impact the people around you? If we could all lead with this in mind, I feel certain the world would be a better place.


Massachusetts

James Verdone

Marlborough High School

Marlborough, MA

Total Years Teaching: 14

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

As an educator I couldn’t have been prouder watching the resolve, dedication, and passion of our music students as we returned from the pandemic. When the 2021-22 school year began, our students had not played or sang in ensembles in 16 months because the previous year we could only offer online general music. Upon returning, they demonstrated maturity and leadership to rebuild our program. I would tell them often that when they returned in 10-15 years, and saw the program thriving, it was because of what they did in 2021-22.

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

Teaching excellence and having high standards are not just for playing the notes on the page. I hope my students leave MHS not only better musicians, but better people. I like them to know that they can come and talk to me when they need help with anything. I take pride in getting to know my students beyond their part in our band. I hope that each day when my students come into my band room, they know how much I care about them and that I would move mountains for them, like my teachers did for me. 

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

Kindness matters. Growing up to be exceptional people starts with being kind to yourself and others. We strive to teach our students how to be good musicians and to play their instruments at the highest levels, but if you are not easy to work with, or your ego is more important than showing kindness to others, then your time as a gigging musician will be limited. Kindness needs to be a staple in today’s world.


Michigan

Kelly Fair

Plymouth Christian Academy

Canton, MI

Total Years Teaching: 4

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments as an educator are watching students gain the confidence to try something new. This can take years, but it is so exciting to see a student agree to step into the spotlight, run the soundboard, or even willingly contribute to a class discussion. It’s easy in Performing Arts to celebrate our “star” students, and I do! My proudest moments, however, are when a student who previously could not make eye contact with me accepts a role they never thought they would be offered in the first place, excitedly tells mom and dad about it, and invites the whole family to see them take the stage. Individual growth is one of my measures of success.

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

My greatest hope as an educator is that every student I encounter feels wanted, worthy, and loved. I hope to instill in them self-value that comes simply from being a child of God, and not one that is predicated by their performance abilities. 

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

The lesson of “Process over Product” is something I’m building my program around. Yes, we want to produce excellence and will strive to do it, but not as the cost of the process. Our process needs to be character focused and begins with cultivating an environment where we lift each other up and strive to work as an ensemble first. This needs to happen with every single student at an individual level. We practice “THINK before you speak” and follow the acronym T H I N K  – is it True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? before we communicate with our cast/ensemble-mates. At the end of the production, we have success if we have grown as an ensemble, remained supportive to one another, and sought to reconcile when we fail to do so.


Minnesota

Andrew Eric Nelson

Milaca High School

Milaca, Minnesota

Total Years of Teaching: 30

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Watching students discover the joy that music-making brings is something that fills my heart with pride and excitement. In that light, I am most proud of my involvement with our annual Veterans Day performance at Milaca High School. Working with the administration and my fellow music department members in K-12, we present a meaningful and impactful performance that honors our veterans and their families with a slideshow set to music and a guest veteran speaker. In doing this, we help the young people in our music program and school community to learn about the contributions that veterans have made and continue to make so that we can enjoy all that our country has to offer. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to make music for this reason with outstanding young musicians.

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

Our band program attracts kids from all backgrounds socially, academically, and economically. My daily mission is to make the band room a positive place. I want students to know that they are valued and appreciated in my room. I want them to know that they have something meaningful to give to everyone around them, and they can express that through music. We seldom talk about “band lessons” in my room. We talk about life lessons. The way that we interact with each other and work together matters, in band and in life. My job is to be there for them while providing an awesome musical experience. We do this by working together.

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

Everyone has a part to play. In band and in life your voice matters. If you can be successful in the band room, you will most certainly be successful in life. Some of us will lead and others will follow to create something wonderful. We will all strive to make music and make a connection with the audience through that process. At the end of every performance, you can know that you did your best and your contribution made a difference. That’s exactly what life is…it’s an opportunity to play your part to the best of your abilities every single day.


Mississippi

John Cockrell

Picayune Memorial High School

Picayune, Mississippi

Total Years of Teaching: 14

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment is not one particular time, but it is when you see the “light bulb” moment with a student. Students don’t aways arrive at the comprehension of new material at the same time. When you see students finally get the new material after they have strived to achieve it, that is what makes me proud!

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

I hope to make a difference in students’ lives by providing a program and atmosphere they were proud of and can look back on later in life and have good memories of their time in our program.

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

The most important lesson I hope my students learn is the value of hard work. Strong work ethic is needed in learning an instrument. In a world of instant gratification, developing a strong work ethic will help my students as they enter adulthood and prepare them for the challenges and hardships of life.


Missouri

Cody Young

Bolivar R-1 Schools

Bolivar, MO

Total Years Teaching: 3

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator cannot be summarized by a singular moment, but instead a bevy of experiences where students overcome obstacles they predicted as insurmountable. It is the privilege of my position to teach young musicians how to simultaneously grow as individuals and as constituents of a larger entity through the medium of music. Witnessing the growth of my students, above all else, fills me with pride beyond description. 

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

My hope with every student is to give them a space where they feel safe to create and learn. I hope to give my students the tools they need to set goals for themselves and to achieve beyond their self-created limitations. Beyond all else, I hope to share my passion for music with them so that they may find and pursue their own passions in life and share it with others. 

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

Through the fog of failure, we can glimpse the path of learning and success. I tell my students often I refuse to go into something with the mindset of failure, but when failure inevitably comes, I use it as an opportunity for growth, rather than a fixed definition of merit. Life is a sequence of failures and growth, and we must be willing to accept what we are presented with and simply give our best effort to learn and be better.


Montana

Kimberly Lorengo

Anaconda Junior/Senior High School

Anaconda, Montana

Total Years Teaching:  25 years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator happened while watching my students overcome significant loss. Three of their classmates died in the course of fifteen months. They were broken and lost as they tried to make sense of this series of tragedies. What they found was comfort in the words they sang in such songs as “You Will Be Found,” a song that quickly became their anthem, as they learned to lean on their music when things got tough. They lifted each other up, held each other together, and gave each other a place to feel loved.

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

Each day I hope my students come to my classes knowing that they have a place to belong where they are loved. In a society where they face constant judgment and ridicule, I hope they find their music classes are a place where they are accepted in spite of all their differences. When my students leave Anaconda High School, I hope they remember the connection they had to music and the bond they shared with each other through music.

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

The most important lesson I try to teach my students is that perfection is something none of us will ever reach whether it be in music or in life. However, it is the journey toward perfection that matters more than the end result, so we should always keep striving to do the best we can do and be the best we can be.


Nebraska

Cindy Sellhorst

West Point-Beemer Public Schools

West Point, Nebraska

Total Years Teaching: 39

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My “proud moments” outweigh every other aspect of my teaching. From growing a band program that was essentially nonexistent into a thriving, superior-rated group, students playing at the collegiate level, and seeing a spark lit in the eyes of a beginner. One specific student I recall was a young man that came to me as an introverted high school freshman and was possibly the most gifted musician I’ve known in my career. This young man flourished both personally and musically in band. He went to college as a music major, earned a Master of Conducting and is now a colleague teaching band in Nebraska.

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

It’s always been important to me to build strong relationships with my students. I feel that when you know the students on a personal level, they become committed to you and invest in your band program. I’ve been fortunate to teach in a 5-12th grade band setting. Watching my students grow, progress, achieve, and perform is one of my greatest joys. Getting to watch them grow up not only as musicians, but as people is really special. I am a teacher, mentor, cheerleader, counselor, and friend. I try to make a difference in their lives, but in all honesty, they’ve made a difference in mine.

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

First and foremost, I strive to instill a lifelong appreciation for music and the arts. I take pride in modeling this concept by sharing my personal performance experiences and how my musical journey has generated tremendous rewards and fulfillment in my life. I also stress to my students that through hard work, dedication and perseverance, life goals are obtainable. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new experiences will enhance your life and possibly lead you on a path you never imagined. Have confidence in yourself and your potential!


Nevada

Stephen Blanco

Las Vegas High School

Las Vegas, NV

Total Years Teaching: 5

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It was seeing my students perform for the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden. They worked so hard even during online rehearsals to make something special happen. During a time of uncertainty, grief, and extreme stress, our students persevered and put together an unforgettable performance. During this experience we were also recording a feature length record, titled JOYA. It was a song from our record that made it to the inauguration which was so special. The song was representative of the pride and passion of mariachi music, Hispanic culture, and the American phenomenon that is mariachi education.

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

We never know what our students are going through in their lives. It is my hope I can just make sure they know they have someone at school that will always be there for them. You can never have too many people in your corner, and I try hard to create a safe space for all my students in the classroom. No matter what is happening at home, in their personal lives, or in other areas of education, I want my mariachi room to be a place of positivity and joy. Vegas Mariachi students often tell me they feel like we are a family. That makes me happy to hear and I hope to continue to involve students in beautiful music making. 

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

I was taught by a great administrator an important lesson: Love first, teach second. I just want to make sure my students do one thing in this world: Good. As we go through our day, we have no idea what demons people may be dealing with. I think if we can just leave every room we walk into a little better than we found it, then we’ve done our job. I believe my students can then transfer this to the stage and bring smiles to a lot of faces in audiences across the country. The best way to put all of this into motion is to make sure they have those smiles themselves, inside and out. That’s really my goal, and I’ve devoted my life to accomplishing it. In the race to ready students for competition trips, performances for Presidents, and playing on live TV, it is easy to get caught up in trying to make sure everything sounds perfect. One of my students recently said to me “…hey mister, don’t stress, we have fun, we love each other, and we’ve learned so much. That’s all that matters…” And he was so very right.


New Hampshire

Rebecca Coughlin

McKelvie Intermediate School

Bedford, NH

Total Years Teaching: 27

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are so many proud moments it is hard to choose just one. There are amazing performances, there are thank you notes written, but my favorite moments are when I can celebrate the successes of current and former students. I love hearing how music has changed their lives for the positive and how they are now sharing that love and passion of music with others. 

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

I hope my students can find ways to have music be a part of their life. Whether they write the music themselves, perform in an ensemble or find a new band that they love, I want them to know they can use music as a creative outlet to express themselves. Music will always be there for them. 

I hope they can be proud of all we have accomplished together and they can look back on our time together with a smile.

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

The most important lessons I want my students to take away are kindness, respect, and of course, to enjoy music! I want my students to spread kindness in the world. I want them to show respect to others and in turn I hope they are respected. We talk about kindness and respect and how important those are in today’s society. Of course, I also want them to enjoy all the rewards that music has to offer.


New Jersey

Michael Montalto

Bordentown Regional High School

Bordentown, NJ

Total Years Teaching: 13

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

It is easy to recall the specific musical moments and awards that have made me and my students proud throughout the years. What has impacted me the most has been rebuilding this program. When I began my career in Bordentown, the instrumental department was very small and did not have an identity on campus. The administration gave me the support and the tools needed to succeed. Through recruitment the numbers tripled at the elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. We eventually added two more full-time instrumental music teachers to our staff. Seeing the program develop into a successful, thriving, and well-respected organization on campus has been a career highlight.

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

I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives by not only developing their musical skills but also cultivating their everyday life skills. I hope the lessons learned in band will help them outside the classroom walls, strengthening their social awareness, self-management, self-awareness, and decision-making skills. Setting a positive example for my students to work hard, lead with integrity and be there for one another are values I hope they carry with them long after high school. I try to uphold these values myself to be the best role model for them.

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

I always tell my students to have pride and to be confident in what they do. Work hard to achieve goals and be proud of your accomplishments regardless of the outcome. Many of my students may or may not continue music after high school, but I hope the lessons learned and successful milestones they achieved from being a part of this music program will always be with them.


New Mexico

Daniel Villanueva

Volcano Vista High School

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Total Years Teaching: 6 Years

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Witnessing my very first graduation as an educator has a special place in my memory. It captured the moment of realization that I was truly on the other side of the aisle and now able to celebrate with and guide those who will eventually take over what I will inevitably leave behind. The process of education became full circle for me in that moment watching my students begin the rest of their lives. 

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

I hope to inspire them to be creative, thoughtful, and persevering. I also hope every student who walks into my classroom feels welcome, whether they are directly a student of my own. 

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

The art of the music classroom involves commitment to your choices for them to be conveyed to an audience member. I feel this is often the most underdeveloped skill for most young teens and work daily to develop critical thinking skills and then a commitment to the resultant decisions.


New York

Andrew Bennett

Fredonia Central School District

Fredonia, NY

Total Years Teaching: 13

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

There are so many! My proudest moments are seeing how far the program has grown since I started here at Fredonia. Even through COVID we have almost doubled the number of students in our instrumental program. The culture our students have built, and their investment in learning and service are inspirational. I am in awe of everything we have built together. Teachers, students, parents, community. It’s amazing. Successful teaching is a delicate recipe of talent, planning, hard work, and luck. I have been blessed to have such frequent combinations of all those ingredients in my life, and I don’t take that for granted.

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

I am indebted to the music teachers I have had from kindergarten on up. I would not be the man I am without them. There is so much more than just the notes and concerts. Every time I work with a student, I want to give them a chance to make one of those memories or learning one of those life lessons. Whether it’s the importance of persistence and independent work, or developing new ways to express their feelings, or knowing they are part of a musical family that cares for them and offers them a safe place or taking them on a performance tour for their first trip outside of their zip code. It is a privilege to work with students from grades 5-12, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.

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

Great things are possible when a group of people work diligently and honestly together toward a shared goal. We must be reflective of our strengths and weaknesses to achieve that though. Yet even when we do everything right it is still possible to “fail,” or not have things go exactly as planned. Musical performance is such a great vehicle for teaching that life lesson. Life is the most beautiful and terrifying thing any of us will do. The lessons people learn through performing help them to enjoy those great moments and use the negative ones to grow.


North Carolina

Renee Todd

Ligon Magnet Middle School

Raleigh, NC

Total Years Teaching: 30

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments as an educator are witnessing the success of my students whether they are currently in my band program,   continuing on to high school band, a college music program, or beyond. I cherish seeing them reach “outside their zipcode” seeking to meet, learn and enjoy making music with students from other areas. Additionally, having the opportunity for my students to perform at The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic was an exceptional career highlight. With my family there as support and some as part of the performance, this opportunity became a memory I will always cherish. Following the performance, the photo taken with the band, my family, and all the North Carolina band directors in attendance to support us, captured the joy of the moment. 

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

I hope each student knows I believe in them. I hope they look back at their time in band and know they were a part of something bigger than themselves and the “band” was successful due to the hard work and care of many students in the program over the years. I hope they can take with them the values of dedication, commitment, and tenacity where each student can be themselves but work together as one.

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

I hope I teach them to laugh, to be curious and to realize the importance and power of working together toward a common goal. I want them to learn music is about making you feel and should be performed that way, so go Play On!


North Dakota

Mandan Middle School

Mandan, ND

Total Years Teaching: 21

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

I am very proud to be a middle school band director. I love having our students for three years and being able to watch them grow up and mature both as students and musicians. The progress that can be made from those first sounds in 6th grade to the great music they make in 8th grade is amazing! It is wonderful having the privilege to witness and be a part of the hard work and energies put forth by our students. I truly appreciate the positive relationships built in the band room that last for years.

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

I want my students to realize the value and importance of being a part of the band. I hope they understand that music is something that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. I want my students to know how much they matter to me, and that they have a space in our school where they will always belong.

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

It is my wish that through participation in band at Mandan Middle School, students will develop strong musical skills. But being in band is much more than performing music. I want my students to know that with hard work comes great success, and that if they put in the effort the rewards are limitless. I hope students leave my program with the lifetime skills that will help them to be productive, caring, and compassionate citizens.


Ohio

Darren Allen

Bay High School

Bay Village, Ohio

Total Years Teaching: 20

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moments are those where a light bulb goes on for the students I teach, and I can witness their growth as a person and musician. It is why I became a teacher in the first place. Sparking an interest in a new type of music they have not heard, helping them though something technical, or just getting a new concept through to them is so rewarding. I also love observing the unique ways each class contributes to the strength of our music program. For example, the drumline has volunteered to play at non-school events around the city, other students have organized their own jazz combos, all our students have adjusted and adapted through the trials of the pandemic. As educators, we hope to give our students the opportunities, skills, and knowledge they need to be successful, and it is humbling to see the direction they take.

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

Our role as music educators includes enabling the development of student skills like  leadership, grit, problem-solving, teamwork… the list seems endless. We as music educators are in a unique position to build on these important characteristics as we prepare students for performances.

I strive to be a positive influence in my music students’ lives, whether that be musically or otherwise. Our profession is called on to do more than just teach our subject matter, and I hope to be one of the many that contributes in some way to my students becoming happy and contributing members of this global society. Ultimately, I want to convey that the power of music can be traced to every culture of the world, and it can serve to improve and unify us.

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

Giving 100% to whatever they choose to do is important. I try to model the importance of focusing on the present every time I am working with them. Also, understanding how music can be the vehicle for them to live happier lives is vital. My hope for my students is that they realize the value of music throughout their entire lives as they continue to play after high school, support the arts at local concerts, and otherwise find themselves through music.


Oklahoma

Dr. Marty Marks

Melissa Marks

Midwest City High School

Midwest City, Oklahoma

Total Years Teaching:  41

Carl Albert High School

Midwest City, Oklahoma  

Total Years Teaching:  27

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Marty: Seeing former students become lifelong musicians, music educators, or even just deeper listeners.

Melissa: One of the great aspects of being a band director is working with students for up to seven years. Seeing them mature as both musicians and humans is something very special, and it makes me proud to see a person’s progress over the years from a beginner player to an adult making their own musical decisions. 

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

Marty: Three ways: First, by guiding them toward happier lives by being fully engaged in the band culture of interdependence, which is the best way for humans to live. Second, through my own imperfect example, showing that how you respond to a mistake is most often more important than the mistake. Third, teaching that the journey (rehearsal) is often more significant than the destination (performance).

Melissa: I want my students to grow as musicians by exposing them to as much great music as I can. I want to help shape them into awesome young adults by giving them responsibility, treating them with grace and respect (especially when they make mistakes) and by encouraging them in both their musical and outside the band room endeavors.

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

Marty: Music (especially music they make) reflects our universal humanity, impacting the whole world with its power to unite and heal.

Melissa:  Be kind – sometimes it is hard when we are trying to meet performance deadlines, or when things are not going our way, but we should always strive to be kind to ourselves and one another.


Oregon

Lewis Norfleet

Grants Pass High School

Grants Pass, OR

Total Years Teaching: 26

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Proud moments occur daily when we commit ourselves fully to enabling the dreams of others. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the sense of accomplishment students experience as they strive for and reach their goals, whether they be musical, personal, or professional. As a music educator we are lucky to work with most students over the course of many years and get to share, discover, struggle, make mistakes, love, learn, grow, and ultimately experience the richness of a life every day together. What an amazing thing! The magic of creating life-changing experiences through music is something we are all so fortunate to do every day!

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

We make a difference when we get to know and care for each of our students. This foundational relationship piece opens the door, making an impact when teaching. Then, when we work passionately, earnestly, and humbly for them, all our lives are changed for the better.

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

Perseverance, collaboration, and celebration! Keep showing up…do the work, do it together…and we will reap the fruits of our labor. It’s okay to show our humanity. Every person is beautiful in so many ways. If we can learn to accept each other and work together, we can achieve incredible things. Hit it hard and wish it well, my friends!


Pennsylvania

Amy Flyte

Bethlehem Catholic High School

Bethlehem, PA

Total Years Teaching: 3

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer as it is hard to pinpoint one exact speck of time as my “proudest moment.” It is absolutely magical seeing an incredibly shy student form new friendships, seeing students develop a new love for music, and witnessing students have their “aha” moments with new material. However, I think the proudest moment has been seeing students leave a performance with the biggest smiles on their faces because they know they have done something amazing. What seems miraculous about these moments is the overwhelming amount of confidence the students have in themselves and the ensemble. These are moments of sheer amazement, and I wouldn’t trade these for anything.

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

I hope to create a place where students feel safe to explore who they are and develop as not only musicians, but as people in general. I believe the best part of teaching band is that you can help students learn beyond the content area. My hope is to help students be unapologetically themselves while utilizing band and other music classes as a platform. In our band, we establish a sense of family and pride in not only the organization, but pride in each student as well.

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 they can accomplish any goal if they are determined, disciplined, and committed. I try to model the behavior that I want from the students always. With each rehearsal, we strive to get better and better, and I ask the students if that was our best. If the answer is no, I ask them to think of how we can do it better and we try again. I want to instill resilience in the students and the ability to always get back up and try again.


Rhode Island

Brendan Carniaux

East Greenwich High School

East Greenwich, RI

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

I have the unique opportunity of having students through their four years at East Greenwich High School. My proudest moments are watching the growth of the students during their time here and being there when they eventually have that “aha” moment. Seeing the lightbulb go off when everything “clicks” for a student should be every teacher’s favorite moment. Also having several former students win Grammy awards is pretty cool too.

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

I hope to make a difference by offering students a safe space for the creative process that allows them to make mistakes and grow as a musician.

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

There are two lessons 

1) Out of many failures comes great success

2) Never stop learning


South Carolina

Dylan Sims

York Middle School

York, SC

Total Years Teaching: 8

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

My proudest moment as an educator changes almost daily. I am filled with excitement every time I see a student accomplish something that they don’t think they’re able to accomplish. The rush of joy on a performer’s face each time they perform, whether it be concert band, jazz band, percussion ensemble, marching band, winter guard, or in a chamber or solo performance. It makes me proud to play a small part in the education of my students and to be able to provide memories that they will carry forever. 

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

First and foremost, it is imperative my students understand that regardless of their backgrounds, they are loved and accepted each time they come into the band room. Music is for everyone to enjoy and despite anything else going on in their lives, they have someone that they can count on to be there for them. For middle and high school students, just being there for them can make a huge difference in their lives. 

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

I love teaching band and I love making music with my ensembles. What I love most about teaching music and band is that I’m able to teach life skills outside of the content area. The most important lesson that I try to teach my students is acceptance and compassion. Band and any other performing ensembles are this magical place where students of all backgrounds can come together and create something magical. I hope that all my students can take this idea of coming together regardless of differences to create something and apply it into their daily lives.


South Dakota

Ron Stary

Watertown Intermediate

Watertown, South Dakota

Total Years Teaching: 33

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Over a 33-year teaching career, there’s one pivotal, one professional, and one personal moment among many. Pivotal in my long-term development was that moment in those first years of teaching when I faced that hypocritical feeling, should I continue to play and practice my instrument as I ask of my students? The decision I made continues to reap the rewards. Professionally, I stepped up in the most challenging situation leading my students through the unexplainable loss of a fellow band student by suicide. The trust between us in class discussions, being present through the entire process, and performing at the funeral was beyond my capabilities and exhausting. Still, we got through it by being together and experiencing the power of music. Personally, I cherished sharing moments with my two sons as students playing in my HS bands.

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

The same difference that all my personal heroes made in my life with their patience and

encouragement. These men and women teachers gave me many second chances and opportunities. I’m listening to the same wrong notes, repeated mistakes, and forgiving the same things they did for me years ago. Through them, I started to gain a small insight intomusic and it changed my life. I want to do the same. These mentors took their time and energy for me, and that’s what I hope to do for my students.

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

We teach Music. We teach Life. This idea of what we really teach in ensemble music has with me for years and was confirmed when I had the honor of marching with the Saluting America’s Band Directors inaugural Rose Parade Band Directors band. I teach taking risks outside your comfort zone and investing in your musical bank account. The confidence gained through trying multiple times yields many discoveries through persistence. We want students to think of practicing as making “deposits.” Any investment of time anyone puts into music pays back big lifelong dividends. Beginning band is critical in building those skills early so withdrawals in future performances can be made successfully for years to come.


Tennessee

Benjamin Easley

Nolensville High School

Nolensville, TN

Total Years Teaching: 11

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

Despite their youthfulness as a newer band program, my students were invited to perform live onstage with KB (Reach Records hip-hop recording artist) at the 49th annual GMA Dove Awards. As the lights and stage shifted to reveal them in uniform, I will never forget seeing their faces! They lit up the arena and engaged in an unforgettable performance, playing and moving like pros in front of the cameras and an audience of stars. I stood backstage in tears, overwhelmed with pride and gratitude for those young people who risked, represented, and enjoyed such a rare experience!

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

Frank Troyka taught me that “hope is not an instructional strategy,” and I work carefully to facilitate and secure effective growth and change in my students’ lives. Each Nolensville Band student member realizes their unique potential over the course of their high school band experience, a realization promoted by a vibrant culture and community of young people pursuing musical excellence and quality artistic experiences. Such a pursuit is rewarding for all, as we enjoy the fruits of young people making smart choices, engaging in significant risk-taking, and developing their unique voices as artists and leaders. Nolensville Band students thrive on change, expect to succeed, embrace adversity, celebrate integrity, and advance the mission for the benefit of all.

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

I regard the Nolensville Band culture as a direct reflection of my own attitudes toward music, learning, and life: in short, there is more to life than “band,” music, etc.; still, we can learn and grow through band and music. I work to intentionally pursue a calm, confident, competent approach that sets my students up for success and helps them experience true feelings of significance through satisfying music experiences which engage our campus and local community. I impact my students’ perspectives by strategically facilitating a band culture that reflects safety, inclusiveness, appropriate challenges, satisfying rewards, and diverse, quality experiences and interactions with music.


Texas

Aldo Morales

Del Rio High School

Del Rio, Texas

Total Years Teaching: 10

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

In the fall of 2016, the Del Rio High School Marching Band advanced to the Texas UIL Area Marching Finals for the first time in school history. It felt incredible to see all our students cheering and enjoying success at that level. Our finals performance was immensely passionate and many of our students were incredibly emotional at the end of it. That achievement ended up being the catalyst for our continued success to this present day. Ultimately, the 2016 marching season turned our students, staff, and parents into a dedicated and proud organization. 

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

Every student, or any person for that matter, deserves a teacher/mentor that will believe in them and never give up on them. Many students have their moments where they stumble or fall working towards a worthwhile endeavor. In times like these, it is extremely important for me to be that person that reminds and encourages them to never give up and to continue to move forward no matter how bleak things may seem. 

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

I teach my students that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Whether that means to practice a part they told me they would practice or to conduct themselves in an honorable manner in public or online. I believe that when my students conduct themselves with integrity in band, during school and in their personal lives, their world will be filled with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. When students live with integrity, they become a beacon of hope and possibility for other students and for us adults alike.


Utah

Dr. David Fullmer 

Snow College 

Ephraim, Utah 

Total Years Teaching: 37

What is your proudest moment as an educator?  

Every performance represents a culminating effort by a unique combination of musicians and remains memorable for me. In addition to performances with my college, high school, and elementary ensembles, I treasure memories with All-State Bands, Honor Bands and other guest conducting opportunities. It was also special to use music to honor veterans during specials projects (Pearl Harbor, 2001, 2011; Normandy 2004; Washington, D.C./Gettysburg 2008). I am grateful for all these many musical memories and for all the musicians who allowed me to serve them as their conductor. 

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

i encourage my students to show up, work hard, be musical (with instruments and relationships), and have fun. 

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

I remind them to be humble and to remember much was accomplished before they were born; That, with one exception, the entire universe is comprised of others; And that the most beautiful thing on earth is a grateful young person.


Vermont

Eric Bushey

Bellows Free Academy

St. Albans, Vermont

Total Years Teaching: 30

What is your proudest moment as an educator? 

During the early days of the pandemic a group of fellow Vermont music educators and I worked together with Dr. James Weaver from NFHS in lobbying our Education Department, Health Department, and Office of the Governor to adopt the NFHS Aerosol Study recommendations for music education. Prior to early March of 2021 no winds or singing had been allowed indoors for almost 12 months. After we successfully lobbied to adopt the guidelines deemed safe by the NFHS Aerosol study it was a powerful experience to see students begin engaging with music together again that late Winter. We were in a hybrid schedule, masked, and meeting with only half of our band at a time but the joy students took in music making then and have continued to do so since has been a very proud moment in my teaching career. 

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

I want all my students to feel there is at least one place they can come to every day where there is a teacher and another group of students who value them for who they are and the musical and personal presence they bring to class. Students quickly learn this is how we always should feel when playing music with others. I think that is the reason why so many of our students go on to continue playing and singing in college, in community bands, rock bands, and on their own long after they graduate. 

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

How it feels to have a great experience making music with others. Regardless of the grade level of music we’re playing I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of my student have more fun playing music together than they do now.


Virginia

Amy Sprague Moir

Woodson High School

Fairfax, VA

Total Years Teaching: 23

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

One of the proudest moments was most recently when one of the choirs performed at the VMEA state conference. The students gave a stunning performance. They stretched themselves vocally and dynamically. They were vulnerable and expressive with the music which led to an impactful experience for the audience. Most importantly, they had a great time onstage and grew in the process. 

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

Music encompasses all subjects. My goal is to provide a connecting point for our students. We interpret poetry, discuss history, learn about religions and cultures, apply ratios, discuss the impacts of science on our craft, talk about applications to our health – the list goes on. All of this is done intuitively in each rehearsal because it is music. Students can apply all this knowledge to then be happier, kinder, and more productive human beings. 

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

We are humans first and musicians second. The human element is what sets our discipline apart from others. Anyone can create notes and rhythms. A true musician will add the elements of humanity into their performance so their audience has an impactful experience. In performance, it is always about the audience. Helping craft good humans that make music well is the ultimate objective.


Washington

Gillian Malacari

Maplewood K-8 and Edmonds Woodway High School

Seattle/Edmonds, Washington

Total Years Teaching: 20

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

The moment when a student not only has an “aha” moment, but an instant after, you see it generating a whole set of new ideas in their mind. I love using composition activities in the classroom for this reason. When students play with the musical concepts themselves it becomes so much more a part of them, and they become more knowledgeable, confident and creative musicians. Nothing makes me prouder than when my students come up with better suggestions than my own (for example, bowing, phrasing, fingering suggestions and musical interpretation) using solid musical reasoning and vocabulary.

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

I hope every student leaves my classes knowing they are musicians and there are many ways to be a musician. I hope in my classes that students can be so deeply engaged in our group music making they can forget all else for a little while, know what it is to “be in the zone” and feel the sense of awe that comes when we are united in ensemble. I hope students can recall the pleasure of making music together and the joy and support that comes with being in a musical family. 

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

One lesson – that is tricky! I have a couple I like to weave into any suitable learning moment. I like to remind my students we all have very different musical journeys, and we never know where music will take us. I like to remind them that if music piques their curiosity and feeds their soul then they need to find ways to keep it in their lives. Finally, I like to remind them that tuning is so important – it is a time to settle and focus and set the standard of listening in their work to come. Keep their feet on the ground and feel the vibrations!


West Virginia

Greg James

Richwood High School/Richwood Middle School

Richwood, West Virginia

Total Years Teaching: 47

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

In the summer of 2016, my community was destroyed by a torrential flood. Our bandroom, our uniforms, our instruments—not to mention the homes of many students and colleagues—were devastated. As recovery efforts began, it was heartwarming to see the multitudes of band alumni, parents, relatives, and friends who rallied to ensure our band program would “bounce back” from the disaster. During the recovery efforts, multiple generations of band alumni united to raise money, clean instruments and uniforms, and share fond memories from past years. Many credited their successes in life to skills that were learned and developed during their time as band members. Several spoke of performing at parades and sporting events across the country such as the Gator Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the Indianapolis 500 as highlights of their lives. Others recalled performing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, and other professional sporting events as their fondest memories. As a director, it was gratifying to see these former students who had moved on to great successes come together to support and give back to the organization that had made such an impact on their lives.

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

My school is in a rural, low-income area. Economic and social opportunities are extremely limited. My overarching goal is for my students to experience being part of something successful. I want to open doors that are often closed to students from small schools in isolated rural areas. My students understand there are exciting opportunities available to them regardless of their environmental limitations. We work to build relationships through teamwork and perseverance. I want them to develop leadership skills, responsibility, tolerance, and financial management skills so that they can achieve success after graduating. Band is SO much more than merely making music together!

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

I want my students to learn that successes in life are the result of hard work, perseverance, and determination. There will be opposition and failure at times, but we must learn from our mistakes and move forward. The members of our band family have faced multiple obstacles, but my students and community have always stood together and supported each other. We realize our true strength lies in our love for music and our love for each other. In small schools, everyone knows everybody. Even though we are a small school, we have worked collaboratively to build one of the largest band programs in our state.


Wisconsin

Jesika Cane

Hurley School District

Hurley, WI

Total Years Teaching: 18

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

We all have so many moments to be proud for our students. I once took my Junior high band to a festival in Wisconsin. Not only did they play wonderfully, but they behaved well, were respectful and grateful to have the experience. We had a lot of fun on that trip. 

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

Often, we spend a lot of time on students’ individual and group achievements. However, I always hope my students remember to enjoy the process, and no matter what the result of a situation looks like, “it’s never so bad that it can’t get worse and it’s never so good that it can’t get better. “This quote hung above my grandfather’s desk. He used to say it often. It applies perfectly to music, and I hope my students are able to apply it to other real-life situations as well. 

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

Periodically, I try to sneak in little ideas about how music is life. Not to say, “music is so powerful that you must love it as much as I,” but metaphorically, living your life is exactly like learning music. Music is a mirror for life as human beings. It’s beautiful and tender; it’s scary and dissonant; it’s cluttered and crazy. We make mistakes sometimes, and things get frustrating sometimes, but that is no reason to quit or give up. We take mental notes to correct the mistakes and push through when the times get tough. We enjoy the beautiful moments and embrace the joyful ones. There are so many life lessons that are similar to learning to play an instrument. I really hope my students walk away from my class with this sense of connection.


Wyoming

Chad Rose

Sheridan High School

Sheridan, Wyoming

Total Years Teaching: 24

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

This is a difficult question, because each year has a unique group of students with unique challenges, advantages, and experiences. I’ve been blessed with many extraordinary experiences with my students, each with great pride for their growth and accomplishments. For instance, this year fielded a competitive band at our state festival for the first time in over 30 years. With over 120 students who have never marched before, the students had a steep learning curve. Despite the odds being stacked against them, they each rose to the occasion and were able to achieve a division one rating.

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

The teachers I remember the most are those who built our time together on the cornerstone of

relationships. I want each of my students to feel safe in my room, to feel comfortable with taking criticism, and to be ready to push past the small failures that we occasionally encounter to find the greater success. Finally, I want each of them to know that they are loved.

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

The beautiful and great things we create together, whether created as a country, a community, a family, a team, or a band, simply cannot be created alone.

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