An important aspect of leadership is listening to those you lead, finding out what their needs are and accommodating when possible.
Seeing the Need
Strong leaders find ways to motivate others and grow their cause. This is an example of two people who found ways to do that with their target audience… high school musicians.
Scott and Chris are band directors, each with over twenty years of experience. They have spent decades building strong, award-winning programs in their respective high schools. Friends since college, these gentlemen get to see each other at competitions and festivals where they can catch up and also work together and learn from each other.
In recent years, student interest in high school marching band has diminished. These two teachers watched as their programs, which had long histories of success, put fewer musicians on the halftime field show every year. After the trend went on long enough, they both realized a change was needed.
The teachers moved from the marching band program to the pep band only format. Pep bands have a long history at basketball games, but football halftime is known for field shows. Even with that as the case, it just wasn’t working with modern high school students. Both Chris and Scott wanted something that would get more kids involved and let them have fun.
Enter the Pep Band Model
They changed the uniform. Gone were the stuffy wool uniforms with goofy hats and plumes. Kids now got sweatshirts, hoodies and jackets with their names on them. Music? Totally different. Instead of the standard traditional marches, the kids now play Beyoncé, Michael Jackson and everything from 60s Motown and 80s rap to popular charts on the radio right now. The bands have full rhythm sections with drummers, electric guitars and basses, as well as the full marching style drumline and horns. The options for songs are endless. And the bands grew. These programs that had trouble filling a field with even 20 members now have that many just in their rhythm sections plus 30 or 40 (or more) horns blasting pop tunes. The players and cheerleaders dance, the students and parents in the stand love the music and the kids in the band are having the time of their life.
Leadership requires many traits. There are many ways to motivate, to bring out the best in people and to get things done. This is an example of a time when two teachers followed the lead of their students. You aren’t interested in this? Well what do you want to do instead? And as a result, their programs grew like wildfire.
Scott Pieczara is the band director at Arthur P. Schalick High School in Pittsgrove, NJ. Chris Tumminia is the band director at Highland High School in Blackwood, NJ.
This was written as a case study towards my MA in Leadership Studies at Northern Vermont University.