I like it here……

I loved band directing back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Fresh out of college (University of Kentucky), I accepted a position in IN while fiancée Joan took a job in OH. Our plan was simple. We would both teach a year and then decide who was going to leave and go to the other’s location so we could get married.

At the end of our first year, there was a vocal opening at the school where I taught and Joan’s position was being RIF’ed (Reduction In Force) … so that took care of how to decide who was going where. She was hired as the vocal teacher for my school and we were THE Music Department for both vocal and instrumental in grades K-12.

Joan wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but going from two people on two incomes to three people on one was less than encouraging. So, our solution was for both of us to leave education and I would be a sales rep for a fundraising company.

After moving to Huntington and working a few years, I left the national company and Joan and I started our own business. Running that business eabled her to work from home while our children were in school and then move into a more full time office setting as they got into high school.

So I was literally “minding my own business” five years ago when I was approached with the prospect Asst Band Director. My fundraising office was only 5 miles away and the job was only going to be for a “couple hours a day’, so I went for it as someone would go to take up a new hobby.

In my original interview with a former (not the current) superintendent, I asked about the corporation’s short/long term intentions with the position and was encouraged (not promised):

“[Our director] won’t be here forever. If you come in, get to know our program, our culture and get to know our students, whenever he retires, you could represent a smooth transition.”


As my fisherman father would have said, I bought that “hook, line and sinker”.

So I took the job. Having been away from education and the schoolhouse for more than two decades, I had nearly forgotten how much fun teens could be. The hobby job became my priority. I was still making most of my income from my fundraising job so it mattered little that I was being paid a third of a teacher’s salary minus 1/3 of THAT for  insurance. Gradually, tho, I found that I was unintentionally sacrificing my fundraising business. That business, or any business, requires a lot of focus and my focus had shifted. I wasn’t too worried becuase I was holding out for that eventual possibility of moving into the top spot.

Only after our long time director announced his retirement did I learn how the system really works.

How the system works…..

Before a job is “posted” (advertised) publicly it is posted internally (within the school corporation). Qualified individuals wanting to “transfer” indicate that desire.  If there are properly licensed, then the decision is based completely and only on seniority; i.e. time in the system.

A person with seniority “cannot be denied”.

What if I am asked to remain the part time assistant?

I will NOT get the full-time head position but my part-time assistant position is still in place. I want to be clear to point out that at no time during this process has my current position been threatened or in jeapordy. I have gone through various stages of anger regarding the way I was hired vs reality, but then, I didn not elect to read the 40-page contract when they hired me so I have to accept some fault.

I have been described as the “stabilizing force” for the transition. I probably should take that as a compliment, even though I have indicated that is a gigantic assumption.

The reality is that if transfers are by seniority only, then it will NEVER BE LIKELY that I could be moved into the top spot because I will continue to be the lowest on the seniority list to others younger than me. I have to decide if I can remain happy (and financially stable) as someone else’s part-time assistant with no real prospect of ever moving up.

There are a lot of good reasons to stay here, mainly our students…..and also the fact that I’ve been working for five years to “Super-Size” this band and it finally looks like that is happening in a more significant way.

With the partial teacher pay, however, I have to find other ways to boost my slackening income, so I must rebuild my fundraising business. That will require I sacrifice some of the EXTRA things I have done here. I recently made a list of my “Initiatives”. These are things that I have started since I came. None of these were part of the original job as it was described to me. Truthfully, in addition to doing it all for the students, it was also to show that I can be an industrious, creative “leader of the band” so that when the time came, I would possibly have a shot at the job….. but alas…..no.

Following are some of MY initiatives:

  • Increased Communication: Band Web, Blog, Newsletter, E-Blast and classroom PowerPoint announcements. The web site had been dormant for two years prior to my arrival and has been returned to the state in which I found it.
  • ISSMA Practice Recital has become a nearly 3-hr event, due to popularity. I was doing that before I even came to HNHS.
  • Color Guard has grown from 13 to 24+ and has expanded from one season to two. I’ll do season one.
  • Winter Guard. For the first time ever, this off-season group competed in the IHSCGA (Indiana High School Color Guard Association) circuit. In their very first competition, they received a GOLD Rating, 3rd Place, and were promoted by the IHSCGA to a higher difficulty level class (AAA to AA). This involved hiring and overseeing a choreographer and rehearsal coach and travelling with them, adding five Saturdays to our overall schedule. We coordinated borrowing flags and uniforms to save the school and our Band Parents that expense. We had excellent coaches, but this required hours of rehearsal observation and several Saturdays for competitions.
  • Winter Percussion. I found, hired and worked with a percussion specialist to spend time with our students during the off season to raise our proficiency level with a goal of joining the winter competition circuit for the first time next spring.
  • Separate Student Seminars on Conducting and Leadership.  I took students to hear Dr. Tim Lautzenheizer, a nationally recognized motivation and training specialist in the music world, and secured his permission to copy training materials for use in my internal training. In 2009, over 23 students participated in a series of leadership training sessions.
  • Parent Seminars on College Prep from a music perspective.
  • Hosting Crossmen Drum & Bugle Corps inspired and made powerful impression on our students. I coordinated sleeping and showering facilities, three practice fields and space for four busses, a semi, a trailer, a van and over 150 mostly college age students for a 3-day weekend.
  • Organization of Band Policies in: “Marching Band 101″ and a more thorough “Band Handbook”. A new director should have an opportunity to organize his own policies. The draft handbook I wrote was from the perspective that I was the director, so no longer appropriate.
  • Expanded the marching rehearsal schedule. We only had two after school rehearsals when I arrived. I added Thursdays.
  • Expanded Band Banquet, creating several new highly sought after awards. Attendance has increased to nearly 100%. The next banquet should go a lot faster.
  • Extended Jazz Band ll to a longer season with additional performance/exposure opportunities.
  • As a result of my “Needs” list and promotion, we received a $5,000 donation, a scholarship for private lessons, donated instruments, a video camera, and a printer…so far.
  • Introduced SmartMusic® software as a practice, training and rehearsal recording tool. SmartMusic is up for renewal.
  • Organized an Alumni Group (currently 580+) with potential for future fundraising.
  • Organizing multiple retirement activities to honor Thaine Campbell…..one time activities, of course.
  • Added select 8th graders to our marching band (an area trend) with 100% retention to date. Middle School directors claim positives in their programs as a result. 

Job Description

I was asked to develop a list of what the head director job entails. I have done that and will decide soon if I want to post it. It has 60+ performances plus another 90+ outside of school rehearsals….. well over 150 times of involvement/activity outside of school hours.

Stay tuned….


4 thoughts on “I like it here……

  1. Mr. Gardner!!! I so omega love you!Don’t leave us!I’ll work at your fundraising company for you if that means you get to stay!

    TEAM GARDNER!!!!!!

  2. This pretty much tells the story. Too much of it I’m able to relate to. You could have told me you were blogging! Now I have all this catch up reading to do 🙂 Message coming through Facebook soon.

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