Thursday, August 22, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Memory of a High School Teacher or Class

A majority of my high school career was spent in one hallway. The music hallway. My high school wasn't very big, so the band and choir rooms shared a hall where the band lockers were, and the backstage door for the auditorium opened into the hallway. I used to park my wheelchair by that backstage door. Being the music/theatre nerd that I am, I practically lived in that hallway. My senior year, I feel as though I rarely made it to my "real" locker because I kept everything in my band locker. My first semester senior year was as follows:

Zero Block - Jazz Band
First Block- Marching/Concert Band
Second Block- Drama
Third Block Part 1- Madrigals
Third Block Part 2-  Concert Choir
Fourth Block- English 4

When all of that was done I would stay after school for band sectionals, play rehearsals, voice lessons, club meetings... and other various nerdy activities. 

Seriously, I lived in that hallway. I had one friend who did more so than me. He was our main sound/light guy for plays and I swear during tech week he would just sleep at school because he was there so late every night.

Of course, this all means I spent most of my time with three of the same adults at my high school. My band director and his wife (he also directed the fall play, she led the color guard and directed the spring musical), and my choir director (who also taught drama and my voice lessons). When I look back, I realize how much I took those three for granted.

My band director... I'll admit that we high school students were awful to him. We were spoiled little brats and didn't act the way we should have. Not that we were this way all of the time... but I know we were brats. But now when I help out with bands and music students here in Missouri, I find myself saying the exact same things he would tell us. "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." "You should be looking at me more than your music." "If you want to play jazz well you need to actually listen to jazz music." "Work on your rhythm!"

Or even when he directed plays, I remember being his student director my senior year and how frustrated I would be with how unorganized his office was. I used to have to sit at his desk typing stuff up and losing my mind because everything was so cluttered.

But then I see other directors who are even more unorganized, and I realize I appreciate him so much more. He had a plan for rehearsals. He wanted us to learn how to get into characters. He wanted us to be proud of what we did.

On year we did this awful Christmas show. Like... the script wasn't very good. But our director was so excited because it was a show where everyone got a chance to shine. He loved to bring in people who simply wanted the chance to learn how to perform. He didn't care if they didn't know how to read music, or if they had any experience. He always wanted to give people a chance.

During the musicals, his wife was amazing. She was so patient and understanding. She was strict and made us work hard... but she rarely yelled at us and made us feel bad about ourselves. She made sure every single person in the cast felt important, even down to the chorus member in the back row. She reminded us that the difference between a good show and a bad show was the chorus. Anyone can have a great leading character. But if the chorus is just as awesome, that's what makes you great. 

Once, my junior year, we had an awful tech week practice one day. We had to leave rehearsal early, we all cried, and she yelled. It was awful. But then, the next day during second block every single cast member in the production got a card from her saying that things will get better and she believed in us.

My senior year, we did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. One rehearsal towards the end, she had the people playing the two leads (Joseph and the Narrator) not attend. She said it was because she wanted us to see how they weren't the most important people int he cast. The chorus was the most important.

It was my band director and his wife that got me to audition for musicals outside of my high school once I graduated and recommended which ones I should try out for because they knew how much I would love it.

Then my choir director. Most people thought she was crazy... and she probably was. She was tough and had a reputation for making people cry and get really angry. I remember being scared to join choir because she was so hard to work with.

I loved her. Even my mom, who was also nervous about my joining choir, has said that I had the best music education when I worked with her. She believed in me. Yes, she was hard. Yes, there were voice lessons I left crying. There were students who didn't like her.

It's because she called us out when we were stupid and knew we could do better. If she was mad at me, it was because I didn't practice that week and I sounded awful. But you bet that the next week I came back and sounded infinitely better. She helped me find my voice and encouraged me to keep going in theatre and music after high school.

She wanted us to be the best we could be. I remember during solo and ensemble competitions I would get so nervous because when you got to the madrigal level at our school it was expected to get 1's (the top scores) all of the time. It was rough. But guess what? I worked my tail off and did it.

Granted, I also would get stressed during that time because I had to do band performances the same day during those competitions. I was insane. 

I help out with a lot of music and theatre programs here in Missouri. There are some wonderfully gifted teachers and students here. It's awesome and I'm so glad they have such great opportunities. But when I think of my high school music and theatre experiences I realize how blessed I was, and not everyone has the same opportunities and challenges that I had. 

So, when I think of my high school days, those are the three people I think about the most. 


  1. I spent so much time in the music world. Of course that classroom got moved several times during my tenure and then they got a whole dang building built the year AFTER I graduated. Those were some of my favorite teachers too. They definitely expected a lot from me. I had been a founding member of our jazz band, but then I took the whole summer off from practicing and didn't prepare for the auditions my sophomore year. I waltzed in to the first rehearsal the first day of school and my director kindly told me that he hoped I would try again next year. I was totally floored. He also pulled me aside later and told me to focus my attention on my passion (which was vocal performance), because he could tell my heart just wasn't in woodwinds anymore. Great teacher.

  2. Why is it that choir directors are always so fierce? Mine was as well, but he was an amazing teacher, and really brought me out of my shell. X

  3. Omg! Those quotes from our band director were spot on!!! Lol. Remember he would also say "The bass of the band's sound needs to be one says hey man, turn up the treble" lol


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