Steven Glover didn’t have much trouble explaining why Peabody-Burns High School regularly churns out honor band participants at three different levels: junior high, league honors, and Kansas Music Educators Association honors.
“There’s a tradition here that’s been going on for years,” he said. “Most of the kids know that and try to keep it up.”
It’s Glover’s task to keep his students focused and challenged, which starts with instrumentation in grade school.
Like most music programs in Marion County, the class is first offered to fifth-graders. He quickly differentiates his students from those that already know an instrument and those who play an instrument for the first time. He studies a student for a variety of physical traits, for example mouth shape, before recommending a specific instrument.
Glover said that most students usually follow his recommendations although he is willing to compromise balanced instrumentation to have more students in the band. Saxophone and percussion instruments are usually the students’ favorites and Glover puts a cap on the amount of saxophone players and drummers he will allow.
Currently, the Peabody-Burns band is flute heavy, featuring more flautists than trumpet players.
“I’d rather have them play an instrument that is bad for instrumentation than not play at all,” he said.
Although some instruments are more prevalent than others, the 36-member band has a fair assortment of brass, woodwind, and percussion players.
The band even features two French horns, an instrument Glover considers a difficult one. French horn player Taylor Ensminger is representing PBHS with the KMEA honor band.
Working with band members from the time they are in fifth grade is a huge advantage because he knows each musician’s talent level. It is easier for Glover to put his students in a position to excel with this larger sample size of class time.
A usually soft-spoken teacher, Glover floats evenly between a patient, easy going teacher to a disciplinarian. Glover scolded his rambunctious percussion section during Monday’s class and most of the extra-curricular talking ceased.
“Sometimes you just have to get them to listen,” he said. “Some days are more successful than others.”
But, the comfort level between band members is also a welcome sign of unity. One of the band’s lead flautists, Julie Wedel, said band members have become comfortable with one another. She attributes the band’s communication to its reasonable size. Remington High School, a school in Peabody-Burn’s league, has a band of nearly 80 members.
Band members have no problem helping one of their band mates, although Wedel said that diplomacy can be an issue. Wedel’s sister is also a flautist in the band and Wedel does have a tendency to tell her when she has messed up.
“When you miss the same note four times,” she said, “I’m not afraid to tell her.”
It is also imperative for Glover to switch up the music that the band plays among classical, band classics, and contemporary selections. He tries to vary music by the instruments emphasized.
For example, the band is practicing “Romanza” by Mozart, “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and selections from “The Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack.
“There are students who like music that we play for pep band; there are students who prefer serious classical music,” Glover said. “A lot of them like all of it.”
Glover’s efforts are legitimized by his students’ success and their enjoyment of the class.
“It’s my favorite subject,” flautist Bethany Loucks said. “I look forward to it every day.”