Cleburne ISD middle school band directors Keith Davis and Matthew Hiller are also musicians in their own right as members of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra.
The teachers recently had the opportunity to mix business with pleasure as participants and performers at The Midwest Clinic music education conference, held Dec. 19-22 in Chicago.
The Midwest Clinic is considered the world’s largest music education conference, drawing thousands of students, teachers and musicians from across the U.S. and 40 countries. The purpose of the clinic is to raise the standards of music education and develop new teaching techniques and strategies through a series of clinics, lectures and concert performances.
As members of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, Hiller, who is a bassoonist, and Davis, who plays the clarinet, were among the featured performing groups which also included the United States Air Force Band, the University of Missouri’s St. Louis Jazz Ensemble and the University of Houston Moores School Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra — and keynote speaker and guest performer, jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Middle and high school and college honor bands, orchestras and jazz ensembles were also featured.
“It was a pretty big honor to be invited,” said Hiller, who directs the band program at Smith MS. “We were given an evening performance time as the last event of the night, which made it an extra special honor.”
“We had over 2,500 people in the audience and received three standing ovations — which is a lot from the caliber of audiences at this convention.”
As members of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, their concert appearance was taken to an even higher level as teachers and performers, with the opportunity to work with Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony. Slatkin served as the guest conductor for one of the pieces performed by the North Texas orchestra.
“For me, performing at The Midwest Clinic is one of my biggest musical experiences as an adult,” said Hiller, who first attended the annual conference as a member of a high school honor band. “My participation in the clinic as a student is what led me to music education.”
“Every year two or three middle school bands are invited to perform along with several high school and military service bands,” he said. “I always make the middle school band concerts because they often perform new music that has been approved for the same grade levels as the students I teach. It’s an opportunity to hear new music performed by middle school students.”
This was Davis’ first time to attend the Chicago music conference. And while he has visited some very interesting places as a musician, he says going to The Midwest Clinic has always been a goal.
“I went to Europe three times as a member of various performing ensembles when I was a student at UT Arlington,” Davis said. “But this is definitely up towards the top for me. In addition to performing, all I gained as a participant at the conference has opened a whole new door in staff development for me.”
Both Hiller and Davis believe their membership in the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, including their opportunity to perform at The Midwest Clinic, has a very positive influence on their roles as educators.
“I have always thought the best teachers are also the best practitioners,” Hiller said. “They practice what they preach. The things that I take away from our Lone Star Wind Orchestra rehearsals I bring back for use in my own band hall. And, being a member of the orchestra keeps me playing. Otherwise, I probably would never touch the bassoon.”
“Being able to work with professional musicians and seeing our conductor working with us — and the type of things he does with us — inspires me,” Davis said. “Even though the knowledge, experience and performing level of that group does not compare to a middle school band program, the way he describes the music to us models the way I want to describe music to my students.”
Their involvement in the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, in which they are both founding members, also provides some special learning opportunities for their Smith and Wheat students. Through the orchestra’s Lone Star Kids program, students from Title I schools can attend special performances and have the chance to visit with composers and meet leading musicians.
“I think that’s a unique thing that the Lone Star Wind Orchestra provides,” Hiller said. “That’s one of the big things that make us different. I’m proud of that. I know that music can change lives.”