by M. Max McKee
Helping a Friend
In the spring of 1971 I was in my 4th year of
teaching at Southern Oregon University (then called Southern Oregon
College). A student of mine, who was also my age and had arrived
on campus the very day that I arrived in 1967, was about to graduate.
Gary Wiese had also become a close personal friend during that
time, so we always shared ideas and problems. In late May, Gary
walked into my office with tears in his eyes and said, "I've
tried and tried, but I just can't get a job as a band director."
By then most of the jobs were filled and Gary was getting nervous. So, I had him go to the college placement office and review his dosier to see if there were any problem letters. He did find a single negative comment that wasn't doing him any favors in getting interviews; he had the letter removed.
That same day, while he was so upset, I told Gary
to rethink what he might need to do in the coming months and suggested
that he return to school that Summer and Fall. The idea was to
take a full slate of seminar credits so that he and I could meet
4 nights a week to work on special projects in band conducting. "Gary,
this will help you develop a complete set of band director teaching
tools while you wait for that inevitable opening when someone gets
ill, pregnant or dies."
So, we did indeed start working: Listening to band literature, conducting band pieces, learning the overtone series (to master fingerings and pitch problems), marching band charting, tour planning and many other things. This went on throughout the summer and into mid-October when one day the phone rang and an adminstrator asked me if I knew anyone looking for a band job. Their director had committed suicide.
Gary immediately pulled up stakes and moved to Coquille, Oregon where he taught and had terrific middle school programs year after year until his retirement in 2002. The tools he had mastered served him well and little did I know at that time, but that action of having him study over 3 dozen areas of band directing would some 12 years later become the foundation of Band Director Prep and finally the American Band College master's degree program in 1992.
Meanwhile, Gary remains one of my closest friends and even serves on the adjudication faculty for oral exit exams with ABC master's candidates!
Next time: The Wind Ensemble craze.