Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Keep Your Eyes Open, Huh?

Previously in this space, I have suggested that one good way of finding out whether you’ve made some kind of impact as a teacher is having a former student come back to your classroom to visit you.

Through my teaching life, I’ve been fortunate to occasionally look up from whatever I’ve been doing and experience an “Out-Of-Context-Theatre” moment: to see a face that is at once familiar and unexpected, a face that at one time was a fixture in the classroom or on the stage, but whose sudden appearance now produces a double-take and a “–hey!!”, followed by an hour-long conversation.

If those former students come back to visit you of their own free will … it’s a win, indeed.

On Thursday, I read a new blog post by the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy lead clinician whom I have been pleased to call a friend and colleague for close to thirty years, called “Generation After Generation: DMA Continues Making an Impact”. In it, she refers to her experiences of having taught students whose band directors had been her DMA students … students whose parents had been her DMA students … one student who is now a college professor colleague of hers … and a current DMA student whom she clearly remembers having first seen as a toddler watching a DMA clinic.

Reading this piece reminded me of my version of that experience – not quite the same, but equally curious. Not really a cautionary tale, but more like a “reminder tale”.

From time to time, I’ll get involved in one of those Facebook-status games that occasionally make the rounds. You know the ones – “It’s the Zombie Apocalypse! The first nine of your listed FB friends are your Zombie Defense Team!”, and the like. Well … a year or so ago, this game went viral: “Please leave a comment underneath this status which describes how you and I met.” What the heck, I thought, it’s mostly harmless.

So I invited people to leave their comments. Some replies to my request were funny, some were poignant; and several of them stopped me dead in my tracks.

I can remember very clearly my first meetings with certain people. Other people, well, I know we met in band, or in the Latin Club, or through the church, or in the third grade … but I don’t remember the exact precise moment, or even the particular circumstances. With some of my friends, I’m sure I remember where and when we met, but they remember it differently (which I find anywhere from curious to unnerving).

But these half-dozen or so people each wrote a version of this: you were my DMA TV room guy.

As in, when they were DMA students, their assigned conducting-video-critique classroom was the one with the spindly redheaded guy bouncing around at the front.

One reason why I was taken aback to read these comments was the obvious: the feeling of “wow, in spite of all that, you turned out good, kid.” (And, “boy, do I hope I said any remotely helpful things to you.”) But another reason was: my memories of these people being in my DMA TV room were kinda fuzzy, at best. We became Facebook- and real-life friends somehow, but I didn’t know we went back that far.

Over my fifteen fortunate fifteen summers on the DMA staff, I’d estimate that around 1,800 DMA students have come through my TV rooms. Usually, during a single clinic week, I have no more than three 40-minute sessions (rather than a whole semester or school year) with each of three groups of 18 to 20 students, critiquing video of their conducting patterns and working one-on-one with as many of them as possible. It can seem like a blur of future high school drum majors careening past. There are those that I recall very clearly, for various reasons; but that number is a tiny fraction of the whole.

There are lines of work wherein the people you deal with remember you far more readily than you remember them, strictly because there are a lot of them that you need to account for, and they only have one of you to memorize. DMA TV room guy (sorry… person) is definitely, unfortunately, one of those.

Social media, and the online-befriending process – which DMA types at least seem not to discourage, in the service of “keep in touch because we’d really like to know how your drum major experience is going, and please ask for further help if you need it, etc.” – have made it a bit easier to link names with faces again after the summer is over. Nonetheless, I find that the basic concept still holds true.

Back to “in spite of being in my TV room…” The people who reminded me that I’d made some smart remarks about their arm angles or rebound patterns, many years ago now, each had either pursued music as a college major or pursued the activity throughout their college lives. Each either has made a career out of teaching music, and specifically directing bands, or has been involved in school band instruction in some capacity.

And … some of them have become my DMA-staff colleagues.

And … I’ve seen each of those people run various activities within the DMA curriculum, such that I consciously studied what they did that made each of them that much better of a teacher than I am.

I’m not trying to suck up to anybody. That’s just the truth.

And the reminder part of the tale is this, I think: watch the students in those TV rooms carefully. You never know which one is going to be the next one to blaze a trail.


June 14, 2014 Posted by | band, DMA, Facebook, friends, marching band, social media, teachers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment