National Principal of the Year Finalist Makes Sure to Find a Place for Music Programs

Brent Kline


A onetime music educator turned high school principal says his current role helps keep his passion for music alive.

In 2002 Brent Kline switched roles at Mariner High School in Everett, Washington. Kline was a music teacher when he was named dean of students prior to taking on the role of assistant principal. In 2003 was named principal. The Association of Washington School Principals selected him as 2014 High School Principal of the Year.

He was one of three finalists for national High School Principal of the Year honor. Each year the MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year program focuses attention on the outstanding work by principals do in middle level and high schools across the country. A middle school and a high school principal are chosen.

The selections are announced in October each year. NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have declared October 2013 as National Principals Month to honor the hard work and dedication of America’s principals.

Kline was a music teacher and as director of the band and orchestra program at Marine rat the 2,000-student school. In 10 years since he became principal, Kline said he’s focused particularly on improving his students’ reading and math skills. However, the former band director believes school music programs are important as well.

“Working with teachers from other disciplines was something I had to be intentional about.  I learned that it was all about teaching, about a building good classroom environment, it’s all about scaffolding an experience so that students feel comfortable learning. I learned all of that from being a band director and good teachers of all types share that,” Kline believes.

“Music programs are important at a school like mine, which is a high poverty school where kids don’t have that many opportunities to participate in music programs outside of school. They might participate in middle school or elementary level but for many of these students high school will be the last time that they participate in any kind of formal music education, Kline says.

“I need to provide them with as many opportunities as I can, whether it is a continual program that builds on what they learned in elementary school and middle school or it’s a program like our guitar classes where anyone who wants to learn an instrument can do that, he adds. “We want to give every kid a chance to participate in music.”

The men’s, women’s and chamber choirs at Mariner High School in south Everett earned first-place, gold medal awards at the Heritage Music Festival in Orlando in April 2013, and won the choir sweepstakes award.

Senior Hector Ruiz also was awarded an individual excellence award. Choral director Patty Schmidt is a member of NAfME.

Students also were invited to perform at the National Youth Choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2014. It will be the second time the group has received such an invitation.

In addition, the Mariner High School Marching Band is currently fundraising to take part in the 2014 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.

Students work in learning communities, which are smaller groups of students working with the same teachers every day over four years, which is thought to more individualized teaching and higher student motivation.

Before coming to the Mukilteo School District in 1996, he taught in the Everett School District and in Clovis, California.  He holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University at Hayward and a master’s degree from Western Washington University.

Kline was awarded the Western Association of Secondary Administrators Outstanding Achievement Award (2008), Western Scholastic Conference Distinguished Principal Award (2008, 2012), and the Washington State High School Principal of the Year (2013).

NAfME’s Give a Note Foundation also believes music education can play a critical role in a child’s overall development and success. Students in our society need to develop key 21st century skills, including critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity—all of which are developed and augmented through music study.

The Foundation will increase the knowledge base of educators and decision makers alike. This will help to effectively maintain high-quality music programs for the more than 20 million students already involved, expand and increase successful programs in communities in need, and educate all concerned about the importance of music as part of a well-rounded and balanced education. The areas of greatest need and importance as follows:

  • Research on the availability and accessibility of music education programs across the United States.
  • Training and support for teachers in the first five years of teaching.
  • Funding for expansion of programs in rural and urban areas.
  • Identification of best practices and what works in music education for purposes of enhancing and increasing programs for all students.


Give a Note Foundation


Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, October 14, 2013. © National Association for Music Education