NAfME Member Spotlight
Chris Thomas talks about his time as a member of United States Army All-American Marching Band (USAAAMB), becoming a music educator, and one of his students joining the USAAAMB program.
Q: What encouraged you to become a music teacher?
Band was always my favorite subject in school. I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career after performing in the USAAAMB back in 2008, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do within music. I went into music education specifically because it gave me a well-rounded look into the music field. After my student teaching, I knew education is what I wanted to do as a career.
Q: During your first year of teaching, what was your biggest struggle as a band director, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest struggle of my first year was following a director who was so well-loved. He had been at the school for nine years, and I had to walk a fine line between changing established processes and bringing my own new ideas. It took a few years for the students to fully come around to my style of teaching. I overcame this through tremendous support from my administration and former teachers.
Q: What role do you believe your NAfME membership has played in your career development?
NAfME has provided many things for my teaching career. I am always reading the publications, and I value the information provided in their publications, finding new and innovative ways to teach new, or revise existing, curriculum or further my professional development. The tips provided for classroom management and rehearsal techniques have helped to make my teaching more efficient.
Q: What role does your music program play in the overall fabric of the school and your community?
Music is very important to the school and the community. They are always supportive of what the students have done. We play at football and basketball games as well as a few community events and parades around town. There is also a great turnout from the community every year for our annual “Preview in the Park.”
The number one thing I remember is to not underestimate the students. If students are faced with a challenge, they will rise to it.
Q: One of your students, Kylie Teter, was a part of the 2016 USAAAMB. What encouraged you to nominate her, and what was the experience like for her?
Kylie is the head drum major for our marching band and has shown great leadership and musical development within the community. She is an active soloist as well as a member of the local Youth Symphony. This demonstration of leadership led me to nominate her for the band. I also felt with her being around other very good musicians, she would get a better understanding of her potential both now, and as she considers her future options.
She had a phenomenal experience. She was able to make some good friends and also experience what it is like to play with other high-caliber musicians with the backing of a fantastic organization. Since her return from San Antonio she has shared her experiences with a number of students. My hope is her excitement and enthusiasm will encourage others to try out for the USAAAMB in the future.
Q: As an inaugural alumni member of the USAAAMB, what is it like to be on the other side now with your student in the program? How has the program grown since its inception?
The first year was very different from the current format. Like everything, the first year is going to have a few hitches, and there were a couple, but it was still an amazing experience. The format of spreading out the rehearsals and involving additional aspects has made this an even better experience than when I participated.
Seeing the program from the director’s side was nothing short of amazing. I could remember the emotions from my experience and felt proud to be a part of such a great program. It was almost surreal to think I had been a part of this program, and now I had helped another musician become a part of the same program.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your overall music teaching philosophy?
The number one thing I remember is to not underestimate the students. If students are faced with a challenge, they will rise to it. The most important thing a teacher can do is get the students mentally out of their own way. Most people would count out a student from a small town like Lawson, but when presented with the challenge, Kylie truly rose to the challenge. Kylie’s perseverance resulted in her having an experience she will remember and can share the rest of her life.
Nominations for the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band open now!
Click HERE to nominate a student!
Interested in applying?
Click HERE to learn how the application process works.
About NAfME Member Chris Thomas
Chris Thomas teaches grades 6-12 Instrumental Music for Lawson Schools. He is the director of the concert band, marching band, jazz band, and various other outside ensembles. Chris is an active trumpet performer in the Kansas City area and also enjoys playing golf in his “free” time. Through his playing career Chris has enjoyed many honors including selections into all-state ensembles, performing with various professional groups, and being a charter member of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band in 2008.
Chris attended Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. While attended MSU, he performed under Jerry Hoover, Dr. Belva Prather, and Dr. Robert Quebbeman, and studied trumpet under Dr. Grant Peters. Chris is currently working towards his Master’s Degree in Music Education through the University of Florida planning to graduate this spring.