Much like any other worldly role, many people measure themselves by their success. Success as a band teacher can be measured in many things; trophies, plaques, students who continue to study music beyond high school, and recognitions from colleagues, to name a few. While I'm sure being the best was never in their plan, band teachers who get such awards still leave big footprints behind. I don't expect to achieve those kinds of accomplishments. For a parent wanting their child to receive the best education possible, any band teacher who thinks they will not get awards is somewhat defeatist, but you must understand why I say so. These awards are given to band directors whose students perform the best, have advanced the most, or are the most skilled musicians. I learned this while in Anaheim both in 2008 as well as in 2011. I don't teach those students.
In Anaheim, the biggest trophy, nearly as tall as I, was given to a school that brought hundreds of students. It was an aggregate award, for having the most highly accomplished musicians. In 2008, with my paltry 20 students, that would have been impossible to expect that trophy. The next largest trophy was given to a school that produced the most polished performance. I met some of the students at that school as well as the band director, and to be polite, their demeanor and attitude was just as polished as their performance.
So I conclude that in order to receive such awards, I must teach at a very sizeable school, where the pool is much deeper from which to siphon talent. Either that, or I must teach at a school whose mission is to produce the best artists, where students must audition in the same format as professional orchestras do, knowing that if they do not exceed exceptional expectations, someone else will gladly sweep in. Such schools also set their schedules so that only the most academic (and therefore hardest working) students can take music classes. I am flanked by such schools in the Foothills, so of course the possibility for me to teach at those schools may come up. At this stage in my career, I find it difficult even considering teaching at such locations.
I don't want to teach the best to be better. Please don't misunderstand; it is an honorable task for some teachers out there, but not me. I don't believe my job to be to produce the most amazing musicians possible. I believe my job to be to teach people to love music.
So my Senior Concert Band ends up being a class of misfits in the musical world. I have an oboe player who loves music so much, she'll even play baritone in a jazz band that is comprised mostly of students three years her junior. I have a trumpet player who sings, plays piano, and would pick up a cello if I asked her to. I have a tuba player who, even though most of her friends couldn't wait for a spare study block, chose to play band in her Grade 12 year, and even tried out my audio class. I have a bass clarinet player who is now playing baritone saxophone simply because I asked him to in order to help the band be successful, and who without band may not have any other acceptable outlets. While not a single one of them is the best musician in High River at their age levels, I will put their passion up against any other students' in a heartbeat.
So I don't get the big awards with the glitz and sparkle. I don't have plaques lining my band room walls, and full trophy cases of mementos of Festivals Past. But if you look in my school, you will see an award mounted on the wall that is about 9 inches by 12 inches large, which is basically an etched brass plate. I was given it, along with fellow band teacher and friend Sarah Lyons, and our students who joined us on an unforgettable journey in May of 2011.
"'The Spirit of Anaheim Award' is given to the group who best exemplifies the spirit of music education, who best represents their community, and who is a model of passion for music and life."
Not awarded to Mr. Windsor. It was awarded to his students.
My students who received that award all agreed that none of those big trophies mattered. That little plaque meant way more to them than those lumbering towers. If I'm doing my job right, I will never get such an award. That award will always be given to my students.