Middle & Upper School Music
Why do I choose to teach at BT?
While teaching music at one of the larger metro area high schools might afford me larger ensembles and a wider array of musical opportunities, I am quite happy to stay where I am at BT. There are perks here that simply can’t be beaten, the first and foremost being the people we serve. BT students and parents are, by and large, the type of eager-to-please students and happy-to-be-involved parents that teachers dream of. The school climate and student body are so pleasant and positive, and my co-workers are very supportive of music and arts in school. We have administrators who always try to find a way to say “yes,” and resources that I was told in college I would have to fundraise year after year to acquire. I also like being my own “feeder program,” meaning that I know that my high school students are adequately prepared for my 9-12 program, because I taught them myself in grades 5-8!
What do I most enjoy about teaching?
In the movie “School of Rock,” which is about a fake substitute teacher who secretly converts an entire 6th grade class into a rock band, there is a great scene that illustrates my favorite moment in the teaching process. The main character, written for and played brilliantly by Jack Black, is leading the band through an arrangement of a song written by one of the students, and as he sees that they are singing and playing confidently without his aid, he simply stops playing his guitar and backs away from the ensemble. He observes his students after weeks of hard work, playing instruments he taught them, using style gleaned from their own personal tastes, singing a song written by one of them, and enjoying themselves all the while. He relishes the moment, marveling at what kids can do when given the tools and the inspiration. That’s me, every day.
What life lesson do I want students to take from my class?
Music is probably the only curriculum area in school where an entire group of people succeeds or fails together as a group, not as individuals. Very rarely in the adult world are we accountable only to ourselves; band, orchestra, or choir class is a great place to begin learning how to deal with that. This is a very foreign concept to most adolescents, because their success in every other class has never hinged on their ability to work with and depend on the people around them, but it is crucial to their success beyond school.
What do I want students to get from knowing me?
From knowing me, I hope kids can learn that teachers are people too. We are not some alien race out to get them, bound and determined to ruin their weekends with homework and detentions. I teach not because I like handing out punishments and telling kids they are wrong, but because I like handing out rewards and telling kids they got it right. As a student, I always had the most respect for the teachers who let their own personality out. I make no attempt to cover the fact that I love the same video games and comedic movies that they do, and I believe students relate to me better for it. We must establish a partnership, though not necessarily an equal or democratic one, if we are to make good music together.
My degrees, credentials, years of experience, professional memberships, awards/honors:
My teaching career officially began in the fall of 2002, at Brownell-Talbot. However, I knew when I was a sophomore in high school that I wanted to be a music teacher, and started teaching at the age of 16 when I took on four elementary-age trumpet students for a summer of lessons.
While pursuing my Bachelor of Music Education degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I became a member of the National Association for Music Education, and as a member of the University Singers I had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City. As a member of the Cornhusker Marching Band during Tom Osborne’s final football season, I had the honor of performing at the Alamo Dome and the Orange Bowl. As a competitor for the UNL speech and debate team I won numerous state titles and national honors, including placing second at the 2000 American Forensic Association's national tournament and leading the Husker team to a fifth-place team trophy.
I have been fortunate to experience some professional success in the last few years. In the fall of 2011, I was chosen to serve as a clinician at the Nebraska Music Educators Association's 75th Annual Conference/Clinic, presenting BT's unique jazz combo band curriculum as a solution for small band programs like ours. In November 2012 I will serve as the clinician for the Lewis and Clark Conference Choir Festival.
My activities in the community:
In June 2012 I performed the National Anthem in front of 16,000 people for the USA Olympic Swimming Trials at Omaha's CenturyLink Center. In the fall of 2010, I appeared in a principal soloist role in the Omaha Community Playhouse's production of "Footloose, the Musical."
I have been active in choral and contemporary worship music, having sung at Lincoln's First Plymouth Church, conducted the choir at Omaha's West Hills Church, and played trumpet and keyboard for Fort Street Christian Church, Stonebridge Church, Heartland Community Church, and West Hills Church. For a year, I was the worship leader at Pathway Church, which my wife and I also helped to start.
I enjoy performing rock and roll; I have recorded as a studio musician with a number of Omaha artists, and performed in a rock cover band called Small Town Heroes. I am also an arranger, and have written band, vocal jazz, and choral arrangements of popular songs for schools and professional ensembles in Omaha, Lincoln, and Chicago. My most recent arranging gig was writing charts of '40s & '50s era songs for a Chicago girls' trio and jazz band called The Pinups.
My wife Steph is the Director of Human Resources and Organizational Improvement for OneWorld Community Health Centers in South Omaha. She is by far the smartest person I know and I want to be like her when I grow up. My oldest daughter is in B-T's class of 2019; she enjoys performing on her dance team and practicing saxophone, and loves musical theater. She is the nicest and most conciencious person I know, and I want her to be like my wife when she grows up. Our youngest daughter, is in B-T's class of 2023 and also enjoys competitive dance, as well as swimming, math, and especially reading. She is already a lot like my wife, but I don't ever want her to grow up.