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Balance and the Band Director

The focus of this issue’s article is to provide some techniques to help maintain a proper balance of work and “life”. Every year it seems we lose too many promising music teachers in this state. Often, the ones that choose to leave are successful or on the verge of reaching big pinnacles in their careers. The reasons for this phenomenon are varied, but frequently the underlying reason has to do with burnout or lack of personal satisfaction. Having a properly balanced lifestyle would probably help many to keep a healthier perspective on their teaching and give them more years in their chosen profession. I asked three highly regarded directors to share some thoughts with us and there were glad to give some great counsel.

Dr. David Spencer recently retired after serving as the Band Director of the highly accomplished Huntsville High School Band for thirty-four years. He also performs in the Huntsville Symphony and serves as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the acclaimed Brass Band of Huntsville. His advice to us is very simple, but sometimes hard for us in the profession to execute: “You have to learn to say NO and when to say it. When we first moved to Huntsville, I played with a big band and the symphony. With rehearsals for these groups plus my band obligations, it was not unusual for me to be away from home at least three evenings each week, leaving my wife alone at home with young children. This was not a very fair situation and fortunately things played out to where I was able to adjust the schedule of these outside activities and find more time for my family! You have to look at your priorities


and be sure to keep your values in order by not taking every opportunity that comes along.”

Dr. Mark Walker is the Director of Bands at Troy University where he oversees and plays a very active role in all areas of that dynamic band program. Previous to his work in higher education, he was a very successful teacher in the public schools of Texas, so he understands the demands of a high school and middle school teacher and the need for balance. He shares some very useful information: “While the job and your band is important, you have to put your family first. I struggled with that early in my career and only lately have I been able to find a better balance. You also have to have time for hobbies and other interests outside of your job. That way, you can recharge your batteries from time to time and remain fresh for your band. Finally, you can't get everything done in one day. If you don’t finish something up, it will be there tomorrow. Take time for yourself and your loved ones.”

David Raney is the Director of Bands at Sparkman High School in Madison County. This program is one of the largest and most active in the state and has outstanding achievements in both ensemble and individual assessments. David has been a District Chairman and has also served ABA as the web master of His wife, Regina, is the Band Director at Cedar Ridge Middle School and an outstanding teacher in her own right.

David speaks very candidly about his philosophy about maintaining proper balance and offers some specific suggestions to assist us: “The following three things are items I wish I had focused on early in my career but now feel are the foundation to my marriage with Regina. Note: Both Regina and I had failed first marriages for different reasons. The following items were not present in my first marriage:

1. Christ is at the center of our marriage. We know that when we work long hours and become frustrated with the circumstances concerning our jobs we have a foundation of trust and forgiveness that is rooted in our faith.

2. To not include your partner with your work, which is a large part of your life, can become toxic to a marriage. Most of our jobs require long hours and without including your spouse they soon become an outsider to your life.

3. Utilize time together when you are not working. Find a hobby you both can do like riding motorcycles or playing tennis and plan to do those things every moment you have available.

Allow yourself an opportunity to

enjoy your spouse as much as you enjoy teaching music.

I am very blessed to have married up to a person that is faithful enough to trust me during the long hours, forgiving enough during the stressful times of year, and smart enough to be a mentor to me in my own profession.”

These are very wise and powerful words from three music educators that have had a great deal of success in their careers. I hope we can all follow their example and strive for balance in building a career and our lives outside of teaching.

Rho Chapter of Phi Beta Mu International Bandmaster Fraternity is committed to the improvement of bands and band instruction in this state. Comments on this column and ideas for future columns are welcome! Please email:

October/November 2015

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