Over a Half-Century of Music Education
A teacher in Louisiana looks back and continues to forge ahead.
By Lisa Ferber
This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Teaching Music magazine.
New Orleans native Guy C. Wood is starting his 51st year in music education. The director of bands and fine arts department head at Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana, he joined NAfME (then MENC) in 1968, the same year he started teaching. “My membership number only has four digits!” he remarks.
Wood notes that his grandfather and uncle both practiced music recreationally, and that he started trumpet lessons in fourth grade because his friends did. “They all quit very soon after they started. I loved it, and still do.” Inspiration came to him via his high school band director, Peter Dombourian, at the former Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans. “‘Prof’ looked like he was having as much fun as we were. I figured it was a pretty enjoyable way to make a living.”
Wood’s longevity in the field provides him with perspective on how music education has changed over the years, including how technology affects the field. He calls it both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side: “Professional musicians have put [up] videos of themselves performing All-State audition music, and students can find most of the music we’re playing to play along with. It’s like having a private tutor 24/7.” His band even uses a drone at marching rehearsals to ensure that the forms are accurate. But he notes that the downside is that there are no shortcuts to improve one’s skills in playing. “You still have to practice like you’ve had to for the past 50 years. This is where today’s kids have problems. They’re so used to instant gratification from video games and computers that they expect to instantly perform like a professional. Not as many kids want to pay their dues like those did years ago. It’s a shame, really, because they’re missing so much.”
Wood recommends that new teachers take a moment to decide if this is truly their path. After the first year or so, he notes that they should get a sense of whether this is what they want to do with their life. “If it’s not, you owe it to yourself and your students to find another occupation.”
I was teaching the kids a difficult rhythmic passage, they were getting it, and I thought to myself, ‘This is still so much fun!’”
While there are many joys that come with music education, Wood says that what he loves most about being a band director is the look on the students’ faces when they know they’ve just made beautiful music. “I love a quote by Albert Einstein: ‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’ I love to see that joy in their eyes and know I helped put it there.” And he says that the joy keeps coming. “I recently started year 51 as a Band Director. We were rehearsing the new music at band camp last week. I was teaching the kids a difficult rhythmic passage, they were getting it, and I thought to myself, ‘This is still so much fun!’”
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