Evergreen High School, located in Seattle, is in the Highline School District and has been a participating school since 2019. Their band director, Jeffrey Steen, shares a few of his thoughts about the role of music education.
“Music school groups are where everyone belongs. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, we are all one musical family. Music helps students to feel like a team and their collective effort creates beautiful art together. It can also help students feel confident about themselves and open the door to having an aesthetic experience. Music teaches discipline and skill building. Practicing at something will make you better. Music instruction expands the mind and helps student with memory and other subject areas as well.”
Running a school music program isn’t without its challenges. “When I first came to Evergreen my biggest challenge was a very neglected music room, instruments, music library and just overall program. We had only seven returning music students from the previous program. All the percussion instruments needed replacing. I spent every day of my summer break before I started that year in the music room just cleaning out everything and going through all the music. Now that we have established the program again, our biggest challenge is the budget. Our budget was slashed again this year, and we were not able to buy basic materials and equipment to keep our program going.”
Music is my passion; I love to play and share what I know with my students.
COVID had changed many aspects of music classrooms, and Jeff most misses live performances. “Concerts are the highlights of the year, putting everything together after the students have worked really hard toward a common goal. I love the live experience for students, making something special on stage that is really musical. In my opinion every performance should be a little unique based on the students and the audience. I change up my conducting on purpose to create a unique artistic performance each time. There is something special about that conductor and musician bond, something that really transcends into a wondrous place when everything is lined up and the musicians are right there with the conductor. I also enjoy those ‘a-ha’ moments for students. I love when the light goes on and they get a challenging concept for the first time.”
Northwest Music Mentors has made a difference for Jeff and his students, especially with the shift to remote classrooms. “We have really enjoyed having our mentors working with us and during this difficult time, they have been so professional and supportive of our students and families. I think that skill wise, time will tell, especially when we get back in the classroom. I like to see how the students seem pushed to get better by their mentors. They have been telling me that they have assignments each week from their mentor, which is great to hold them accountable to what they are learning. The mentors seem friendly and approachable for the students as well, and are great role models for our young people.”
“Music is my passion; I love to play and share what I know with my students. I was just in tears (of joy) playing my instrument earlier today and so happy to be doing what I do. I feel blessed to have had such a great career. Students should always find their passion and make that their career!”