Strike up the bands
Miller: ‘Forty years of teaching wasn’t enough’
As Tim Miller, the retired band director from the Humboldt Middle School, was directing the Fort Dodge Middle School Seventh- and Eighth-Grade Band Friday afternoon at the North Central Iowa Bandmasters Association Middle School Band Clinic, it was pretty obvious that he was enjoying himself.
He wore a smile the size of tuba and proved the adage that while you might be able to take the band director out of the school, you can’t take the band out of the director.
“Forty years of teaching wasn’t enough,” he said, “I came back for more.”
With bands from Algona, Southeast Valley, St. Edmond and Fort Dodge on hand, Miller got to see a lot of talent.
“I’m working with some great kids,” he said.
For each group, Miller would listen to them perform under their own director, then he would take the podium and work with them on individual parts of the music.
A new voice can sometimes make something click into place for the students.
“You might say something their own director already said,” Miller said. “But when you say it, it’s like they heard it for the first time.”
Miller keeps the pressure low.
“They’re all trying to grow and improve,” he said.
Students range from fifth grade to eighth grade.
“They can make huge leaps in those years,” he said. “I tell them, a 14-year-old was the first person to earn a perfect score in the Olympics. Anything is possible at your age.”
He said that learning to play an instrument is both a physical and mental process. It is simply hard work, practice and dedication.
“There is no shortcut in music,” he said. “It’s difficult to get a strange piece of foreign equipment to do what you want it to do.”
Brooke Hansen, 13, an eighth-grade student at Fort Dodge Middle School, had a good experience at the band clinic. She plays flute and began playing in fifth grade.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “I like to learn new things. It’s good to get another opinion other than just our director.”
Connor Koch, 14, also an eighth-grader at the Fort Dodge Middle School, plays trumpet. He too began playing in fifth grade.
“It was pretty exciting to me,” he said of his band clinic experience.
He liked some of Miller’s suggestions for the band and hoped that they would be included in the future.
Tara Smith, the fifth- and sixth-grade band director at the middle school, said that the experience of working with a new director for a session is a good one.
“It’s great for the students to get another perspective,” she said. “It’s good to know that there’s other ways to look at a piece of music and that there are multiple ways to approach it.”
She agrees with something that Miller often tells the students when he works with them.
“He’ll hold up a sheet of music,” she said. “Then he’ll ask them, ‘Is this the music?”
“No, he will tell them, ‘This is just the directions.” she said.