Marching to Success
Myra Rhoden Is NAfME’s Band Director of the Year
By Lisa Ferber
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Teaching Music Magazine.
Myra Rhoden knows how to put it all together! Rhoden, NAfME’s Band Director of the Year, is the director of the Fayette County High School Band in Fayetteville, Georgia, as well as the school’s fine arts chairperson. For this award, NAfME partnered with the All-American Marching Band, which led to exciting meetings for Rhoden and her family.
“We attended a lot of sessions and met a lot of two-, three-, and four-star generals,” she says. The sessions were part of the Band Directors’ Academy she attended that week. She learned about the award when it was announced during the All-American Awards Ceremony held during Bowl Week in San Antonio, Texas. “My family was told that I was receiving the award so that we could have proper seats that would make it easier for me to walk to the stage. They did a good job keeping the secret,” she said.
The NAfME member and Tuskegee native graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa with a B.S and an M.A. in music education; she then earned her D.M.A. from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
Participating in a marching band encompasses a variety of skills, and Rhoden adds these in when the students are ready. “There is definitely a physical component,” she says. “In the beginning, when we are training the kids, we separate the music and the marching, and we need to make sure they know how to move and how to hold their instruments, and have good posture. We have fundamentals in marching and in music as well, and we merge them together and create the show.”
Her path started early. As a child, Rhoden studied piano as well as clarinet. “And we had to learn how to be graceful, and we had to have music and gymnastics. My high school band director was very influential and encouraged me to do things outside the house.” This led to Rhoden meeting more people, which had an impact on her. “I thought it would be nice to give back by doing that for my students as well, to explore the world through music.”
“Kids all the time will come back and say, ‘I’m glad you didn’t let me quit. I’m glad you encouraged me. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.’”
She notes that being part of a marching band offers skills and areas of satisfaction beyond performing. “It’s how to work together as a team and take the ups and the downs, and take disappointment, and learn how to be gracious winners, too. You learn how to be people and good citizens.”
While she has had students who have wanted to quit—or not wanted to join—because they fear that they can’t play well or handle the time commitment, Rhoden has had plenty of success convincing them otherwise. “Kids all the time will come back and say, ‘I’m glad you didn’t let me quit. I’m glad you encouraged me. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.’”
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