Kathleen Dishion, band director at Adams Central Community Schools in Monroe, Indiana, shares her insight and experiences in the world of teaching with us. From her days in her high school marching band to teaching grades 5–12 now, she says she hopes she can give the world of music away.
Hobsons: What attracted you to your current occupation and how did you decide it was what you wanted to do?
Kathleen: Throughout high school, the activity I enjoyed the most was band, as well as anything else musical I could get my hands on. I decided to be a band director because that would enable me to make music every day, and also to give the world of music to other people.
Hobsons: What college activities or clubs did you participate to help achieve your goals?
Kathleen: I was a member of several university bands, as well as a music fraternity for women, Sigma Alpha Iota. The most important ensemble I participated in was the Ball State University Singers, which not only allowed me to perform different styles of music but also taught me leadership skills.
Hobsons: What courses/programs of study did you take in college to work toward your career?
Kathleen: I majored in instrumental/general music education, which enabled me to be certified to teach K–12 band, orchestra, or general music.
Hobsons: Did you participate in an internship/cooperative education program?
Kathleen: I student taught at Batesville Community Schools in Batesville, Indiana, where I helped teach all the bands from beginners to high school, and also helped with the musical. I was also the undergraduate production assistant for the University Singers, which taught me more about the administrative side of things.
Hobsons: What are the required skills in your field?
Kathleen: I need to be a superior musician, knowledgeable not only in performance skills on my instrument but also in music history and theory. In addition, I have to have a working knowledge of all orchestral instruments and know how to teach them. I have to be able to read and interpret scores and be able to read many lines of music at once. I have to have an ear for what the music should sound like and be able to pick out mistakes and fix them before I lose control of my classroom—generally only a few seconds.
As a teacher, I need to be able to deal with people, both young and old, in a professional manner. I need strong administrative skills to handle all the paperwork that comes my way—budgets, purchase orders, curriculum plans, grades, etc. I need to be creative in order to design and plan for a successful marching band show. I have to know the developmental level of my students so that I can choose music that teaches them a new concept, challenges them without frustrating them, and also pleases the audience.
As a band director, I am in a public position. I am constantly aware of how my public behavior and appearance can affect public perception of my program and the school district as a whole. I am also willing to give of my free time so that the students can experience jazz band, marching competitions, or solo and ensemble contests. It isn’t so much a required skill as it is a required attitude.
Hobsons: What are the three most important pieces of advice you would give someone who is interested in the field?
- Do as much as you can outside of the classes. Don’t get to student teaching and learn THEN that this isn’t what you want to do. While you’re at it, try hard in the classes. That is important stuff they’re teaching, even if it doesn’t seem like it. If you’re in high school, do all the musical stuff you can.
- Do more than they tell you to. I gained far more valuable experience in an ensemble that I was urged not to join than I did from any class or ensemble that I was required to take.
- Ask for help! I am constantly asking questions of not only the musical people in my school, but any teacher or administrator with more experience (which is all of them!). I’ve also been known to ask the students for help when I have no idea what should be going on.