K-State graduation year: 2008
Degree: Bachelors of Music Education
Other degree received: Masters in Music - Kansas State University, 2011
Current employer: USD 457; Garden City Public Schools
Position: Director of Bands
Only once. I started as a computer engineering major but during my fourth semester noticed how much time I was spending in McCain Auditorium. Honestly I was floundering a little as a student. Changing majors was a great move for me.
I entered KSU with a “Plan A” and a “Plan B.” Both my parents, along with the majority of my extended family worked in education at some level or another. I had seen their struggles as policy changed through the 80’s and was convinced I didn’t want to be a part of it. At the same time, I was highly involved in science and technology classes in high school. With that involvement paired with a “nerdy side” that loved studying space technology, I wanted to put hardware into space. My Plan B though revolved around music. I had performed with some of the top band organizations in the state. I was a fan of Frank Tracz. So I marched my first semester at KSU. By my fourth semester I was participating in more ensembles than classes for my engineering major, so I made the switch.
- The Pride of Wildcat Land KSU Marching Band
- KSU Concert Band
- KSU Symphonic Band
- KSU Wind Ensemble
- KSU Jazz 1
- Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia
- Kappa Kappa Psi
- Basketball Cat Band
- Volleyball Band
- Aggiveville Pub crawl band
As an education major, we are required a 16 week student teaching internship. For me, it was split between Washburn Rural High and Middle School (8 weeks) and Eisenhower Elementary School in Junction City (8 weeks).
My first job was not hard to come by. I interviewed for four positions and had all four offered. Unfortunately I was naïve and took the administrator interviewing me at their word. The current status of the program I had interviewed for had been mis-represented to me. My final deciding factor was salary. It was a good lesson to learn, money doesn’t always mean everything.
My current position is a different story. The current status of the program was accurate when I asked about it. The year I applied for this position, it was the only one I applied for. I’m not convinced anyone can take my experiences to heart though; I teach in a specialized area and I’ve been told I interview well.
My job as Director of Bands at Garden City High School is one of working with students to help them see their potential. I teach music because I love music. But I don’t just teach music. We teach life skills. All educators teach life skills, we just all do it through our own curriculum. Below is my schedule for next fall:
7:00--Open Band Room
7:40--Early Start Rehearsal
8:10--First Period (Marching Band in the fall, Wind Ensemble in the spring)
9:05--Symphonic Band (2nd Band)
10:00--Concert Band (Freshman Band)
2:30--AP Music Theory
While I have an assistant, we have no common plan time. She actually assists three of the seven periods with other educators. As a program that serves over 225 students, some multiple times a day, it is daunting.
Working with the students and having past students stop in to talk about what has made a difference 2, 3, 5 years after exiting the program. I still run into students from my first position. They talk about our classes. They’re also jealous of what my current students have. That first year we didn’t have the ability to perform as we do now.
I would say the most challenging aspect of my career is dealing with adults who don’t understand what we do or why. This at times can encompass administrators and parents. There is no great answer to this challenge. Every situation is different. Everyone plays the political game differently. Honestly, I don’t feel very versed in doing it well.
The biggest piece of advice I’d give anyone looking at a career in Music Education is to really strongly consider if it is right for you. It’s a hard profession. The time you’re asked to give is immense. I once thought I’d track my hours to see how many I was putting in every year. Honestly, I gave up because it was becoming depressing. I tell my students who are heading towards music education programs that they need to find a program and volunteer in it. Do paperwork. Help with lessons. Make coffee. Stack chairs. In short, do whatever the band director needs. It will show you if you want to be in the field.
Once you’ve decided “music education” is where you want to be, find the best possible grouping of professors you can find and learn from them. Sit in the front row (when applicable) and take notes. Never miss class. Never pick up a campus newspaper. Never surf the internet. What you learn in your 4-7 years on campus is what makes you who you are in that classroom. Stay exceptionally busy. It will prep you for this career. There are weeks in the fall with marching band that I don’t see my daughter awake. I’m not sure I would have been mentally strong enough to handle that had I not worked the 18+ hour days in the band office at KSU.
The biggest support I received was from the faculty and other friends at KSU. A card from Dr. Frank Tracz with an encouraging word goes a long way. It also goes without saying, I am not in the professional position I currently hold without the support and drive of my wife. Behind every solid band director is a ball of nerves being held together by something. For me, it is my wife. She’s another product of our band program at KSU. She gets the long hours and is willing to give whatever I might need when I do finally walk through the door.
This is my third teaching position. By far it has been the best fit. The program is huge and active. While we aren’t staffed properly, we can perform literature with top ensembles that a good number of schools that are comparable in size cannot approach.
The first major lifestyle change I had to adapt to was “being the boss.” No one told me what to do or how to do it. And in a specialized field such as music education, no one else in a small school (117 kids in the high school) is much help either. I spent many hours on the phone with mentors from around the state looking for better ways to do what I was doing.
I also was not prepared for the salary I was to receive. I’d spent the previous seven years of my life surviving for a calendar year on less than $10,000. All of a sudden, I was working, I was married, I had a mortgage, I had a car payment, etc. The money managing was almost impossible. I adapted by living paycheck to paycheck until I reigned myself in. While I still have that 47 inch television it may have not been the smartest purchase I made.
Without a doubt, the work I was allowed to do with the bands at Kansas State University is what had the most impact on my life. I met my wife there. I found friends who would support me there. Most importantly, I found a work ethic and many other life skills there. I can never repay the ensembles at KSU for what they truly taught me as a person. The best I can do now is urge others to experience those ensembles the same as I did.
My major impact in college was Dr. Frank Tracz. He showed me what it was to be a leader and motivator. He also showed me the enjoyment to be had in helping students succeed. I am lucky to be a product of his program.
For more information, Lyle can be reached at email@example.com