For a quarter of a century, Jim Stockmann and Todd Walker have been striking up the bands in Waynesville Schools.
Walker leads the Waynesville Middle School Advanced Band – one of the top performing bands in the state – and Stockmann leads Waynesville High School’s award-winning marching band that plays some of the most complex music available.
As they both start their 25th year of teaching music in the Waynesville R-VI School District, they took a moment to reflect back on the district’s band programs.
“In the last few years, we have been able to add our percussion ensemble. The marimba, synthesizers, keyboards, vibraphone and xylophones allow students to play more complex music,” Stockmann said. “It challenges them to be better musicians and better students. Having the equipment up front allows us to teach and expose all of our students to more complex music. They become more worldly by learning rhythms, articulations, releases and having so many things occurring at the same time.”
“Research shows that participating in music boosts performance in core subjects, especially in the reading and math areas,” Walker said. “Music rounds out their school days and enriches their lives. It also sets them up for success later in life. Every year at graduation, I recognize at least one of the valedictorians from their days in middle school band.”
Waynesville Middle School’s Advanced Band has scored the highest score – a 1 – in every competition since 1993.
“I am proud of our record and how well our students have done,” Walker said. “It takes hard work and commitment on the part of the students and their parents. I don’t want to sound like I am boasting too much, but our program is one of the best in the state. We consistently do very well. Students have gone on to be music majors in college and pursued careers in music.”
Waynesville Middle School offers Intermediate and Advanced Bands, which prepare students for success as they enter the high school level. “In addition, we’ve had enough interest that we are going to try and offer jazz band outside of the regular school day – either before or after school,” Walker said.
By offering jazz outside of the regular school day, Walker is hopeful that more students will become involved in a genre that he especially enjoys. Walker enjoys jazz music’s style. “Jazz provides students with an opportunity to interpret music and to have different articulations and fluctuations. It enhances their skill set,” Walker said.
About 285 students participate in middle and high school bands. The district provides uniforms and has available for check out many of the largest and/or more expensive instruments, such as the tuba, bass clarinet, baritones and tenor sax. Scale testing is done on computers and iPads so that students can perfect their skills. Middle school students pay for their instrument books and an annual $5 uniform cleaning fee. High school students pay a $50 participation fee, but scholarships are available to help those with financial need.
In addition to the high school’s marching band, concert band, jazz band, ensembles, pep band and guitar offerings, a music technology class has been added this year.
“We want students to experience music and all it has to offer,” Stockmann said. “It builds self-confidence and pride. Students learn that they can stand in front of people and play on a stage and be seen. Music helps students become more mature aesthetically.”
Getting 120 teenagers to play together as one can be a challenge, but thanks to nearby Fort Leonard Wood, team-building for the high school band has reached new heights, both literally and figuratively.
“We used to take our core band student leaders to the Lake of the Ozarks for a two to three-day summer camp, but it became expensive and only served a limited number of band members. When we looked for a new way to engage our students in team-building, Fort Leonard Wood’s obstacle course offered the perfect opportunity for all of our students to be engaged.”
“Learning to work together off the field is as important as learning to work together on the field,” Stockmann said. “When I watch our students who are from all over the world march together and perform as one, I am so proud of them and they are proud of themselves. And when they win a competition, they are living our motto: ‘The Waynesville High School Band achieves musical excellence, in and out of rehearsal, in order to evoke unity and pride.’”
For the winning record in competitions, Stockmann and Walker credit students for their hard work and commitment, but every band student knows that after 25 years of teaching, the finest tuned instruments in the classroom are Stockmann’s and Walker’s “ears.” With over 100 instruments all playing at once, the pair can easily pick out just the right note or the wrong one and eventually get everyone playing in the same key on the same sheet of music.