Program Health

On a muggy Texas evening in May 2020 during the height of the pandemic, I sat in the Diffee family’s driveway out in the country with a group of smiling new faces — the Forney (Texas) High School Band boosters.
Every fall, band director Joel Pohland starts fielding the same question — “When is jazz night?” — from excited members of his community in Pierz, Minnesota. Even though jazz night, which takes place in April, may be at least six months away, it’s still on everyone’s mind.
Every day, I feel blessed to go to work, excited to make music with my students. These kids are some of the most humble, diligent and talented young people from some of the most selfless and genuine families I have ever met. There is no group of students I would rather teach or no community in which I would rather serve … but my job is sometimes far from perfect.
I am the music education coordinator at Tennessee State University (TSU), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Nashville. I oversee the curricular development, instructional delivery, staffing, clinical placement and academic advising for our vocal and instrumental music education students. Annually, we prepare nearly 200 music majors for careers in music, and we offer a variety of degree pathways with several concentrations.
In 2018, Amanda Schoolland moved to the small community of Metlakatla, Alaska, to be the music director at Metlakatla High School. Although she was new to the area, she noticed that many of her students faced a similar issue as those at her former schools in Colorado — a lack of time or space to practice at home.
When Heather Taylor became the band director at Lakeshore Elementary School in Rochester, New York, in 2018, she had an $80 annual budget.
Hard work is an essential component of a thriving program, but your plan for how you strategically achieve it can make all the difference. As a doctoral student, I took some courses in human resource management, educational leadership, and policy studies and learned about the importance of a strategic plan.
When Vincent Vicchiariello began his transition to Director of Bands at Nutley High School in New Jersey in 2018, the program boomed. “We had our biggest [group] of 95 students in our marching band,” he says. “We were busting at the seams.”
Most music educators are adept at managing a heavy workload, but Michael Gamon, chair of the department of fine and creative arts at Harrisburg Academy in Wormleysburg, Pennsylvania, has mastered the art of juggling.
When V.R. Eaton High School in Haslet, Texas, opened its doors in 2015, director of percussion Matt Moore immediately started a percussion ensemble. In its inaugural year, the group of 11 went to the North Texas Percussion Festival and finished last.

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